Transit Talk with the General Manager

August 07, 2015
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Opening Remarks:
Transit Talk will be live today from noon to 1 p.m. and the system will accept questions now through the end of the chat.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Today, I'm excited to invite all of the Transit Talk participants to join RT as the blue carpet is rolled out to celebrate the historic opening of the new Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) light rail extension on Monday, August 24, 2015.

To commemorate the grand opening, RT has planned two public celebrations. On Sunday, August 23, RT will host a pre-opening community celebration at Cosumnes River College (east entrance at Bruceville Road) from noon to 5 p.m. Attendees will be treated to live entertainment, food trucks, community booths, kids' activities, prize drawings and giveaways. RT will offer attendees preview train rides to tour the new light rail stations.

On Monday, August 24, new service will start at approximately 5 a.m., and RT will host the official grand opening ceremony at Cosumnes River College (east entrance at Bruceville Road) from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to welcome the arrival of the celebratory train. Attendees will be treated to refreshments and giveaways.

The much-anticipated 4.3-mile Blue Line to CRC extension - opening ahead of schedule and under budget - will extend light rail from the current terminus at Meadowview Road to Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento, and will feature four new stations (Morrison Creek, Franklin, Center Parkway and Cosumnes River College); over 2,700 park-and-ride spaces; two pedestrian bridges connecting neighborhoods to light rail; and a bus/light rail transit center at CRC. The Morrison Creek light rail station will open in 2017 when future development occurs in the area.

This $270 million project provided much-needed jobs to the Sacramento region over the past three years during construction, and will allow an attractive alternative to driving the busy Highway 99 corridor. Also significant to note is that when the new Blue Line to CRC opens for service, it will seamlessly connect students attending Cosumnes River College and Sacramento City College. The new extension will add 2,880 additional trips on the Blue Line.

It is important to recognize and thank our many community and regional partners who made a project of this magnitude a reality. It's also important to thank the residents and businesses along the alignment, and motorists for their patience during construction as RT pressed forward to complete the project early.

I look forward to seeing you at the grand opening festivities! For more information, visit

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Will the Ex VTA trams be running by the opening on August 24th and are trains still being tested on the blue line?

Reply:  We currently have a number of the cars operating on the system in test mode. They will be operating as part of the light rail fleet very soon. Watch for these cars. They look very fresh and new.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  I have been reading that the Blue Line will extend to Cosumnes River College on Monday the 24th. Does this mean that the September 6th service and schedule changes association with both the Blue Line and the Gold Line will take effect on August 24th, but bus routes will not change until September 6th? How will this all work as to what changes on August 24th versus September 6th?

Reply:  On August 24th, the only thing that will change is that the Blue Line will begin going all the way to Cosumnes River College. None of the time points at any of the other existing stations will change nor will any of the bus routes or schedules change. September 6th will be the day when all bus and light rail schedule changes will take effect. On September 6th, both the Blue Line and the Gold Line schedule will change, so all the connecting buses will change, and the routes we are restructuring (Routes 61, 65, and 84) will also change. The other thing to be aware of, if you currently catch a bus at Cosumnes River College, we will be moving the transfer point back from the south end of campus to the east entrance, where the new light rail station is. This date is not locked in yet, but we'll post information at the station when the date is certain. All the new routes and schedules for September 6th are posted online at The schedule for the new stations for August 24th to September 5th are not online, but we will be posting one soon.

Galt, CA:  With the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College coming on the 24th, will Regional Transit accept South County Transit Links transfers at the Cosumnes River College Station, and similarly, will South County Transit begin accepting Sacramento Regional Transit Monthly Passes, Day Passes and single ride rail tickets as a transfer at Cosumnes for continuing travel to Galt and Lodi?

Reply:  No, at this point, neither party has pursued integration of RT and South County Transit fares.

Sacramento, CA:  What is the latest status on switching from paper fare media to electronic fare smart cards? This topic has been very quiet lately. What is the hold up or the progress to date? Could riders be using "Connect Cards" as I hear they will be called, beginning on Friday, January 1, 2016? I hope there is now some good news to report on this front.

Reply:  We are beginning the final system testing on the Connect Card in the next four weeks. If the vendor passes the system testing, we plan on going into operations a few months after the successful testing. We also plan to roll out a smart phone application soon for purchasing and using transit fares on our system. This application could be available for single ride tickets and day passes in October or November of this year. The implementation date will be set later this month.

Sacramento, CA:  I have a form of your agency that allows me to order pocket timetables for my workplace. When is the best date to turn in these completed forms to ensure I receive new schedules and not current schedules?

Reply:  Please send the order form now and include a note that you would only like the new schedules. We have them in stock and they can be sent out upon request.

Sacramento, CA:  On numerous occasions, the public has been told that RT will have more of a security presence at the stations and on the trains. Since the last time that was said, I have yet to see any more security on any of the trains or at any of the stations, and I can't remember the last time I was checked to see if I had a ticket. The only increase I have seen is the rise of vagrants and fights on the trains.

Reply:  RT has implemented a number of programs recently to improve safety and security on the system. This includes granting our security guards the authority to check fare in RT stations and assigning guards to every train during the evening hours. We are also working to implement "fare-paid" zones in stations and are pursuing changes to legislation to allow RT to oversee the administrative process for fare evasion, unburdening the courts and allowing a higher level of enforcement through RT. Through these efforts and more, we are striving to increase the percent of passengers inspected from approximately 12.5 percent today to over 20 percent. We also recently conducted a pilot program on the Gold Line, where an officer was assigned to each train during the later evening hours to deter possible issues. Finally, our proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, that began July 1, 2015, includes a $900,000 increase for security.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Thank you for opening the Blue Line to CRC segment ahead of schedule. I work at CRC and live in Citrus Heights, this means a much better commute for me. Great work!

Reply:  Thank you for the positive feedback! We are excited about the opening and look forward to celebrating with the community!

South Sacramento , CA:  When you have the new app available, will it include reporting maintenance issues?

Reply:  We expect to award the contract in the next two months. We hope that we will see multiple vendors bidding. Once we select a vendor and have them vendor under contract, we will set up the application and schedule a roll out. Our plan is to have the application available at the app store in the October time frame. The application will enable customers to use their smart phones to report security, cleaning and maintenance issues. The customer report is forwarded to the appropriate department and taken care of by staff. The customer receives feedback on the issue reported via the application as part of the program. The application includes the ability to send photos and GPS data as well as select the type of concern observed. We hope this will be a new helpful way for customers report problems easily.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Are their more details available about the proposal to extend the Blue Line to American River College? Does extending the Green Line have the higher priority? Thank you.

Reply:  We are currently working on delivering the new River Front Streetcar project. Green Line to the Airport is the next priority is the next priority following the streetcar. We do have plans to extend to American River College from Watt/I-80, but the alignment is very challenging, and the funding partnerships are not in place. We are also exploring the extension of the Blue Line further south to Elk Grove.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I have noticed fare inspection has decreased on the Blue Line in the last month--why? Will RT implement a pay per distance and only allow boarding and entrance into stations with valid fare?--Like BART.

Reply:  To answer your last question first, RT has no current plans to install turnstiles at stations. The design of RT's light rail system is much different from the design of BART. As a result, installation of physical barriers to control access to the stations would be economically and practically infeasible. RT may consider distance-based fares, but this would be done to streamline the fare structure, not to assist with fare inspection. As to Blue Line fare inspection, we have not intentionally decreased our efforts in this regard. We do routinely change our inspection patterns to make sure that we don't become predictable to those who may try and evade the fare.

Folsom, CA:  I watched a replay of your last board meeting. A speaker recommended using "METRO" to reference rail, like Metro Gold Line out here in Folsom as one example. What will you and your agency actually be doing regarding this?

Reply:  In anticipation of opening the light rail system in 1987, RT held a "naming contest" and "METRO" was selected as the name of the light rail system. However, the name did not catch on and, as a result, over time the name has been generally abandoned although we still refer to our light rail control center as "Metro Control." We have no current plans to begin using METRO as the official name of the system (our primary concern would be causing confusion to riders), however, perhaps a grass-roots movement to return to the name METRO will gain momentum and the name will "stick."

sac, CA:  I noticed ac transit starting to restote 14 percent of bus service cut during recison what's happening with our bus servicw

Reply:  Immediately following our 24% service cut in June 2010 we began the process of developing and adopting a plan to expand service as resources became available. We did increase service by approximately 12% in September 2012. Since that time we have implemented additional minor adjustments. We will continue to look for the opportunity to increase service as resources become available.

North Highlands, CA:  I like the idea and concept of renaming the 7th & K "Saint Rose of Lima" Station, the 7th & K "Golden One Center" Station. Someone told me about this and that this was suggested in late July. Will Regional Transit be doing this, going forward? Again, I like where this is going.

Reply:  We are open to selling "naming rights" to the stations, and I think it would make a lot of sense; however, we would not just give away free advertising like that! If Golden 1 or the Kings are interested in getting a station name, we'd like to get a little money out of it to help our riders. This is actually something we've shared with the Kings and that we've seen in other cities. In Phoenix, for example, the Suns NBA team participates in an "Adopt-a-Station" program with the transit agency there where they handle day-to-day cleaning of the station, in return for their logo being featured prominently.

South Sacramento , CA:  Will be there more of a police force on trains on weekends, as well as weekdays?

Reply:  We have added one more police officer and we continue to balance police officer staffing on trains and handling police service calls throughout the system. We recently finished a test project that included adding police officers on trains on overtime which proved beneficial. With the opening of south line you will see added presence on trains on south Blue Line.

Laguna, CA:  Will the smart phone app be an iOS app, android app or both? Would we also be able to report and send photos of security issues?

Reply:  The app will indeed be available on OS and Android. You will be able to report and attach photos related to Security and Maintenance concerns (in addition to an audio feature that would allow you to voice record your incident report through the app). We look forward to launching this exciting and helpful app!

sacramento, CA:  I take the blue line and exit at 16th & R, on my way home the train is almost 95% of the time late while the Gold line shows up on time 95% of the time. What is the issue that the Blue line can't do the same? Some of us end up missing our connecting bus.

Reply:  Statistically speaking, over the entirety of the day, both the Blue Line and the Gold Line are usually over 97 percent on-time, but at busy times, keeping the train on-time can be something we constantly have to work at. Compared to a lot of our peers, one thing that makes it challenging for us is delay from ramp boardings. That's why we try to limit use of the ramp to persons who really need it and discourage persons from using it just for convenience. For this same reason, we have a long-term plan to transition to low-floor vehicles. This makes it quicker to board for riders who currently have to ascend the stairs, and it allows wheelchair-bound riders to board from any door--not just the front of the train. The vehicles in use on the system now are approaching 30 years old, which means a huge project for us is replacing them. That replacement will be a great thing because not only will we have fresh new vehicles, but that will be the time to roll out the low floors. One thing that should help a lot of riders, beginning on September 6th, when we adjust light rail schedules, is the connection times from Blue to Gold Line, and vice versa, will be improved. A couple of tight connections that are currently at 5-6 minutes will become easier 7 minute connections. Another connection that is currently a little longer at 12 minutes will also be trimmed down to 8 minutes. We've also made some improvements to the Blue/Gold connections at night, when we go to 30 minute headways, to reduce some of the wait times there which are sometimes over 20 minutes. The new schedule will have them more like the weekend connections, in the single digits.

Roseville, CA:  I read today, through this chat, that you will not have fare and transfer agreements with South County Transit Links at the Cosumnes River College Station. That's too bad for them, and perhaps a bit unfair. For a few years now, I have been using the Blue Line to the Watt/I-80 Station and then handing over a single ride ticket to a Placer County Transit driver with no issues in successfully transferring whatsoever. It works quite well at Watt/I-80 in the relationship between Regional Transit and Placer County Transit. Many of my fellow riders show their monthly passes and day passes without any negative issues at all. Why couldn't something similar be in place at the Cosumnes River College Station for riders transferring from rail to their bus heading for destinations further south than Cosumnes River College? For us at Watt/I-80, we are able to successfully ride beyond the station to Roseville, Sierra College, and the Auburn Amtrak Station. I don't know how your feelings are on this, but to me, Regional Transit and Placer County Transit work quite well together, and for that, I want to say thank you for the great customer service at Watt/I-80 Station. It is much appreciated.

Reply:  I appreciate your observation and positive comments regarding our connectivity with Placer Transit. I am very supportive of making the our transit system more seamless. I would welcome the development of a transfer agreement with South County Transit.

Laguna, CA:  How would the "fare-paid" zones work?

Reply:  The concept of the Fare Paid Zone is to designate an area in the station within which a person would have to either have fare, or be in the process of purchasing fare, in order to remain in the area. RT police and personnel would have the ability to cite individuals for lack of fare who are inappropriately in the Zone. It is RT's hope that the Zone will result in reducing the number of individuals without a transit purpose who loiter in stations. A reduction in loitering will, in turn, reduce crime and improve the efficiency of boarding and deboarding the trains. It is not RT's intent to increase the number of citations -- individuals without a transit purpose in the Zone will be asked to leave the area before a citation is issued.

Laguna, CA:  Perhaps instead of trying to be more "BART-like" you can try being more "MUNI-like." For example, you could replace your aging fleet of vehicles with train sets similar to what Muni runs (with their above ground trains) where you can pass between cars. That way you can require all paper fare users to board at the front where the driver sits while only Connect Card fare users can board at other points.

Reply:  Our goal is to replace all of our light rail vehicles with "low floor" cars. This will provide universal accessibility for all of our customers through level boarding at all stations. This is being accomplished at light rail systems all over the country and throughout Europe. It enhances boarding for elderly and disabled riders, people using bicycles, passengers with children in strollers and others.

Sacramento (Rosemont), CA:  In September the schedule for 72 "will be adjusted to connect with light rail (Gold Line) at the Mather Field/Mills and Watt/Manlove light rail stations." Yet when I look at the new schedule for 72 AND Gold going toward Sac Valley Station, the 72 is still showing up at Watt/Manlove AFTER Gold has already gone by. In fact, it seems 72's schedule is such that it ONLY helps people going toward Sunrise/Folsom regardless if whether you take 72 to Watt/Manlove OR Mather/Mills. Why hasn't the westbound schedule for 72 been made such that it shows up at Watt/Manlove before the westbound Gold train?

Reply:  The schedule for Route 72 has always been tough because of all the different rail connections. On top of that, there are connections to other buses at both ends. I agree that the connection to inbound trains is one of, if not the single most important connections. Thanks for raising this issue as there are always a lot of connections to check when we have large changes like this. It is a lot for us to check, but we know that to our riders it means a lot.

Folsom, CA:  FYI, the formula you use to track on time for the train is not the same as the buses... Statistically you can't compare the two.

Reply:  You are more or less correct that our on-time stats between bus and light rail are a little different. This is basically a function of technology, or lack of it. On the buses, we have a very modern system that monitors the location of the bus at all time, so we get schedule adherence stats at every time point. On the trains, believe it or not, we are fairly "low-tech" in that respect, but the good news is we are working right now on a similar system for the trains. Right now, we depend on old-fashioned reporting by the operators and supervisors for schedule adherence stats on light rail. When we get the new system rolled out, not only will have more detailed stats, but our riders will get the benefit of all the real-time capabilities we have on bus. That means the electronic signs at the stations will begin showing the actual times instead of the schedule and the same for our mobile app.

Laguna, CA:  "We are currently working on delivering the new River Front Streetcar project. Green Line to the Airport is the next priority following the streetcar." Is there a reason why you can't tackle these projects concurrently? Is it funding, manpower, or both? Also, in the project pecking order, what comes after the Green Line: ARC or Blue Line into EG?

Reply:  I think there was a similar question earlier. It depends on a number of variables. Funding is a big one. Manpower matters too, but when the funding is lined up, we can always augment our staff, either with new positions, or contractors. If you are a big proponent of one of these projects, I'd encourage you to let your local elected officials know! We are a project delivery organization, which means we don't give out the money, but we are always ready to make it happen when it needs to be done.

Citrus Heights, CA:  How is the street car project coming along? Haven't heard much after the measure was voted down.

Reply:  The vote was a bit of a setback, but our role has always been to provide technical support and expertise on the funding options. We have been continuing in this capacity. There are still lots of ways this project could be brought to reality, so we are helping the project steering committee explore other funding options and continue a lot of the planning and engineering work which has already been funded and which is a necessary input into the next stages of grant requests. All of the Streetcar partners are fully committed to deliver the project.

Citrus Heights, CA:  Several riders and I have been recently listening to "Insight" on Capital Public Radio, and have been hearing coverage of the legislative special extraordinary session on transportation. There are some bills that have come to our attention on transit funding. If the bills are signed by Governor Brown, what can that mean for Regional Transit? For example, could Regional Transit implement Phase 2 and Phase 3 of "Transit Renewal" more quickly, which without this potential funding would otherwise not be able to on a much sooner basis?

Reply:  These new funding bills would significantly increase RT's State funding. It would generate additional funding that could be used for either capital investment or operating cost. If these measures pass the RT Board of Directors would need to provide direction regarding priorities. It is important to know that often times additional State funding comes with restrictions.

Elk Grove, CA:  What are the plans to extend the Blue Line beyond CRC into Elk Grove? any projected time frame? Would the extension into Elk Grove link up with the proposed Amtrak Station? Thank you.

Reply:  This is another project that depends a lot on interest and funding from our partners, e.g., the City of Elk Grove. Lately, there has actually been a lot of interest from Elk Grove in this project, which is in our long-range plans; however, this is more of a recent phenomenon. The extension to Cosumnes River College, which is opening on August 24th, has been ten years in the making, and probably would have taken even longer, or never even happened, were it not for the persistence of a few very dedicated and very committed local elected officials, especially Congresswoman Doris Matsui, as well as former City Councilmember Bonnie Pannell. A phase III Blue Line to Elk Grove could also be constructed in phases. A number of studies and environmental studies will need to be completed first, along with design and engineering. Elk Grove's adopted alignment anticipates this extension terminating at the future Amtrak station.

Laguna, CA:  What measure was voted down? I must have missed something.

Reply:  There was an election back in June for an assessment district to partially fund the proposed Downtown Riverfront Streetcar. This election was limited to registered voters within a few blocks of the streetcar line, so unless you live downtown, you probably were not part of the election, which was done by mail. If the election had passed, an assessment would have been put on the affected properties, which would generate matching funds to secure additional funding from the Federal Transit Administration. This has been a bit of a setback for the streetcar project, but it doesn't mean the project has to be scrapped, as there are a number of other ways to get the project fully funded through other local sources or potentially from other grant sources.

Sacramento, CA:  How will you combat multiple bus cancelations in a day? Is there a back up plan? As this happens quite frequently.

Reply:  First, let me apologize for the missed service and the inconvenience that you may have experienced as a result. The cancellations are a result of not having a sufficient number of bus drivers to cover all of the service on recent day(s). There are two reasons that we did not have enough drivers. The first reason is that we experienced a significantly higher level of absenteeism in the month of July then we normally experience in a month, approximately double the level of absenteeism from July, 2014. When we look at the reasons for the increased absenteeism, nothing specific stands out, there was just a very high and unexpected level of absence. The second reason for the missed service is that we have had a difficult time fully staffing our bus driver ranks. The good news in this area is that we do have a full class of 16 drivers currently in training, and another class of a least 12 scheduled to start in September. When they have completed their training we will be in a better position to address unanticipated spikes in absenteeism as we experienced last month. With respect to the spike in absence, we are reviewing our attendance control program and other procedures to see if there is any more that we can do to address this problem and further our efforts to improve operator attendance. This is more of a longer term effort, but I wanted you to know that we were working on it. If you have any further questions for me, or I can help in any other way, please let me know.

Laguna, CA:  I apologize if I wasn't clear enough, but when I was suggesting that you try and be more "MUNI-like," I was referring to how you would address fare evasion, not accessibility. Muni requires you to "tap" your clipper card upon boarding the train. If you don't have a clipper card, you have to board at the front and get a paper fare from the driver (on their above ground lines).

Reply:  MUNI is a bit of an interesting choice for comparison. MUNI has had such widespread problems with fare evasion on their bus system, that they have actually experimented with moving away from traditional pay-at-the-front fare collection on their bus system. They were actually having so many people boarding illegally from the back door of the bus, that they decided just to "decriminalize" it. Their new program allows people to board from the rear door, if they already have valid fare, and they do the enforcement through random inspection. In other words, they've basically changed their bus fare collection to be more like a light rail system. One of the benefits they've observed is that the buses move faster, because there's less dwell time at the stops for boarding and fare payment. I don't know what the effect has been on fare payment, however. The point of the story is that it is pretty time-consuming to have all your riders pay at the front. For a typical bus route, it's not such a big deal, but for light rail, where there are hundreds of people on the train and dozens boarding at each stop, it is more efficient to do the fare payment in advance, through a machine at the station.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, September 4 and once again, I look forward to seeing you at the Blue Line to CRC grand opening festivities.