Transit Talk with the General Manager

October 02, 2015
Mike Wiley, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Public transit is a valuable resource to everyone in the Sacramento region whether they are frequent riders, occasional users, or have never stepped foot on a light rail train or bus.

RT and our many transit partners in the region offer a great alternative to driving that not only helps to relieve congestion on the roads and highways, but reduces air pollution and, of course, gets many of us to where we need to go on a daily basis. These are all excellent reasons for the public to participate in RT's annual Ride Transit October promotion that officially kicks off today with this chat!

For the fifth straight year, RT will conduct month-long outreach activities to show appreciation for our current riders and to encourage new riders to discover the benefits of taking transit. A complete list of Ride Transit October activities can be found at

In what has become one of my favorite activities, I will once again be conducting my "Ride with the GM" promotion, traveling on buses and light rail trains throughout October to interact personally with passengers and receive feedback directly. I encourage you to check the schedule for my published rides, including October 7, 16, 23 and 28.

In the spirit of collaboration during Ride Transit October, RT and the City of Elk Grove are also partnering to promote the newly-opened Blue Line to Cosumnes River College (CRC) light rail extension. The partnership is aimed at improving mobility and public transit options for Elk Grove residents by offering a free ride day on Thursday, October 29.

Elk Grove residents will just need to show a DMV Driver's License or photo identification card with a city of Elk Grove address to ride RT for free on Elk Grove Free Ride day. More information about Elk Grove Free Ride Day can also be found at

Finally, RT is also receiving frequent inquiries into when the updated RT Bus & Light Rail Timetable Book will be released. We are in the process of finalizing the book now and it will be available for purchase at the Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street by the end of the month.

Let's begin today's session.

Sacramento, CA:  How is the Connect Card final system testing going?

Reply:  There is a great deal of work on the remaining open issues. The plan is to begin testing all of the software fixes over the next month or so. When the system passes its tests, there will be a schedule to go live.

Sacramento, CA:  Will the smartphone app mentioned last month for buying electronic single ride and day passes (eTickets) be supportable by employers who sell subsidized RT tickets to their employees? Or will subsidized eTickets have to wait until the Connect Card rollout?

Reply:  No. The Connect card is designed to support the employer subsidized passes. The initial version of the phone ticketing application is being limited to full price and discount day passes and full price and discount single ride tickets. After the first 6 months (a pilot period), we plan to release a permanent version with additional features.

Sacramento, CA:  I have three questions/concerns. I ride the Gold Line from Watt/Manlove to County Center and back every day for my work. My vehicle has been vandalized in the parking lot. I see security only very occasionally in this lot. Will there be added security in the future? Also a concern regarding cleanliness; the windows are filthy and most cloth seats have spills, I, and others, dress for business and don’t appreciate soiling our clothes on the way to work. And finally the homeless riders, they seem to be the cause of most confrontations, take extra seats and block exits with their belongings as well as being very unclean. We doubt they have transit passes. Is there any way to address this concern?

Reply:  There are no immediate plans to add a guard at Watt and Manlove. At this time we do not have additional funding to add more guard coverage at all our park and ride stations. However, given your car being vandalized we will patrol the lot more to see if we can prevent any further incidents. We are working on plans to add fare inspection on the system which will hopefully deal with those riding without fare. We also are close to adding a Navigator and dedicate a sworn officer to deal with all transient related issues on our system, but in a way that partners with the region on trying to get services and housing for the homeless. We are approximately half-way through the process of replacing all of the seats on our fleet of 76 Siemens and CAF light rail cars. We are replacing the cloth seats with vinyl seats, which will make them easier to keep clean. The entire project should be complete in approximately six months.

Sacramento, CA:  With the recent changes to route 72, it is more difficult to connect with the Gold Line. On weekdays, I have to plan at least a half hour in advance to make sure I connect with Gold Line to the 72 or I will miss my connection. On weekends, the 72 misses the scheduled Gold Line train to Sunrise by 2 minutes, ensuring a half hour wait at the Mather/Mills station that never occurred prior to the change (which would not be an issue if weekend light rail was every 15 minutes as it was in the past.) Will there be any improvements to this situation?

Reply:  I am sorry you are having this problem. We are currently evaluating this issue and we will make modifications to the schedule, if it can be done without disrupting other connections along the route.

SACRAMENTO, CA:  With flu season upon us, what is RT doing to better maintain the sanitary conditions of the light Right? RT cars are the unclean, disgusting to touch or sit anywhere on the light rail cars. The worst I have seen since living in Chicago and riding CTA. Scaramento has the unsanitary cars I have experienced.

Reply:  Since viruses cause the flu, and are spread by all kinds of contact, it would be impossible to keep a light rail vehicle "virus free" for any length of time. With respect to unclean conditions on the train, RT has taken several steps to improve the situation. First, we are in the process of replacing cloth seats with vinyl seats -- we are close to being halfway through the conversion. Second, RT is in the process of selecting a vendor to provide a phone app that will allow passengers to immediately report unclean conditions and receive some follow-up when the condition has been corrected. Finally, with our increased security activity, we expect that unclean conditions will be more promptly reported. RT is extremely focused on improving our service and we appreciate you bringing matters such as this to our attention.

South Sacramento , CA:  Any news on pending service changes for January 2016? Any fare changes?

Reply:  There are no major services changes planned for January of 2016. Los Rios students will be subject to an increase in the student fare beginning with the semester starting January 2016. There are no other planned fare changes, however we are working on a mobile phone fare payment application in addition to the Connect Card which should make it easier for riders to pay for fares.

Rancho Cordova, CA:  Will the UTDC cars be runing on the Gold Line to Sunrise at least in the future? I heard the Historic Folsom station needs a lot of improvements before they go to that station. I rode them on the Blue Line and they are very smooth and comfortable.

Reply:  Yes. The boarding ramp at Historic Folsom needs modification, so that the new UTDC cars have enough clearance. The modifications are pretty extensive, but the design is complete and the bid documents are being reviewed. It is expected to go out to bid in the next 30 to 45 days. Once that is complete we plan on utilizing the UTDC cars on the entire system.

Laguna, CA:  I've noticed that there have been fewer Siemens trains running. Are you finally starting to decommission those trains?

Reply:  No. Though many of the cars are more than 25 years old, the Siemens light rail vehicles remain reliable and are a significant part of our fleet. We expect to continue to use these LRVs until we are able replace the fleet with low-floor vehicles.

Sacramento, CA:  I have used YoloBus many times to get to and from flights at Sacramento International Airport. I am not too thrilled that the service is just once an hour. While I recognize that RT has long term plans for a light rail line there, as long as the public passes a funding source measure at the ballot, what, if anything is being proposed by both RT and its partners for more frequent bus service to the airport to resolve short-term frequency issues, say, like in addition to YoloBus, perhaps RT operating a route to the airport once an hour for combined twice an hour service to the airport?

Reply:  We have evaluated this possibility several times. Providing bus service to the Airport will be very expensive and, in light of other systemwide needs, not generating the numbers of riders to make the investment worthwhile.

Laguna, CA:  On Wednesday, I rode one of the newly refurbished UTDC cars and really enjoyed it. However, I have to ask: do those things put out some serious EM fields? I noticed my bicycle computer (which uses a magnet) was going haywire while on the train (especially when close to the "rear" drivers cab) saying I was riding over 60 MPH!

Reply:  Nice. I haven't been quite that fast on my bicycle. My top speed this year was 42 mph. This is the 1st report of an electro magnetic field interference. I will ask our maintenance staff to check into your issue. Thanks.

Folsom, CA:  Is RT and the City of Folsom in discussions to bring any resolution soon to our city being shut down from using the Gold Line after 7pm? I have heard that once the Golden One Center opens, we will have later night service on an event basis only. Many of my fellow riders and I feel that having late and/or later night service on a consistent daily basis is better to remember than just trying to remember when events are occurring. Would you be able to bring us some good news on this situation?

Reply:  RT and the City of Folsom operate under an Operating and Maintenance agreement. The agreement allows the City of Folsom to pay for hours of operation based on an approved cost model. The total hours of service and costs are then compared to the revenues the City of Folsom receives to fund transit needs. The City of Folsom uses TDA funds to pay for this service, so funding can be a limitation. Folsom is considering extra service, however the final details have yet to be worked out. That being said, the RT and the City of Folsom have also been working on a cooperative agreement whereby the City would allow RT to manage and run all transit service into and within Folsom. Under this arrangement, RT would likely increase the service levels, including later night service seven days a week.

Citrus Heights, CA:  I use Route 21, but early weekday mornings and mornings in general on weekends it is a challenge using Route 21 for stops north of the Sunrise Mall Transit Center. At your next opportunity of service changes, will this matter be addressed so that we can take advantage of earlier service on Route 21 that travels to the Louis/Orlando Transfer Point?

Reply:  We will evaluate your request to determine if there is any opportunity to adjust the existing schedule to provide earlier trips. If we can make this change without adding additional trips, we will look toward an adjustment. We will also consider your request as additional funding becomes available.

Sacramento, CA:  I like the fact that refurbished cars are now being used on the Blue and Gold Lines. What is the schedule for adding more of these cars onto the lines from the work they are currently undergoing?

Reply:  The first 14 cars should be in-service by the end of November. The last 7 will be in service at the end of the summer of 2016.

Sacramento, CA:  Why are you ticketing RT employees that are trying to park in the PQ lot when they have no other alternative to park?

Reply:  Employees who park in unsafe and undesignated parking spaces are ticketed instead of being towed. With the increased city on street construction, the interloper usage of the lot has risen. Staff is spending more time monitoring the lot to keep all of the parking spaces available to employees. I have also asked staff to evaluate all of our lots to see if we can increase the number of parking stalls.

Elk Grove, CA:  I had to watch your last Board Meeting on television due to the fact that my Monday Nights are occupied. You touched upon legislation to your Board, and the one piece that raised my eyebrows a bit was a bill by Assembly Member Gaines that would make annexations, if I recall correctly, easier to become a member of the district beginning on and after January 1, 2016. Could you elaborate a bit on this bill, if my assertion is correct, and what impacts it has on the cities that serve on your board today, but are technically not district members?

Reply:  The Bill you refer to, AB 738 by Assembly Member Gaines, does allow jurisdictions that have not "activated" their membership in the District to do so through a negotiated process. We currently provide service to the cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, and Elk Grove through contracts. With this legislation these jurisdictions will be able to join the RT District and retain some level of local transit policy decision making through a negotiated process. This opportunity is also available to other jurisdictions in our surrounding counties.

CA:  I have taken light rail for 6 years all the way from Folsom to 8th & O Street, at rush hour. Last month I experienced many problems - only having three cars instead of four at rush hour morning and evening, one day the 5:30 8th & O St train to Folsom just didn't show up and there was no message on the board, the once the Folsom train arrived at Sunrise they make us all get off the last two cars and squeeze into the first two cars and when the train operator makes an announcement on the train the sound system is so bad you can not hear what he is saying. Is there any kind of Quality Assurance representative for Regional Transit that instead of giving reasons why things happen would give what action plans for improvement? Sacramento, CA

Reply:  As you stated above, RT has been experiencing a shortage in cars during peak hours. We are in the process of refurbishing 21 additional light rail vehicles that, when finished, will significantly boost our inventory of light rail car. Three of the vehicles went online in September and we expect a total of 14 to be complete by December of 2015. Funding to refurbish the remaining seven was recently secured and will be used to complete the project by summer of 2016. Our main contact for customers with concerns about RT service or future plans is the Customer Advocacy department. Their number is 916-557-4545. You can also fill out an online form at and you will be contacted.

Folsom, CA:  In regards to the earlier question someone asked about better bus service to the airport - how can RT keep a straight face in saying that an extension of light rail to the airport, through miles and miles of rural, sparsely populated, farmland is a sounds investment, when you say you don't even have enough transit riders to the airport justify a regular RT bus service, which has a much lower capital and operating costs than rail.

Reply:  The route of the future Green Line will be designed to connect many destinations other than the Airport. It will connect all the activities in downtown, the River District, the growing and bustling Natomas area and many activating centers in between. It will serve as a major commuter route generating many thousands of riders. Also, operating rail is more cost effective than bus. On the RT rail network, one driver can operate up to four light rail vehicles carrying up to 150 passengers per vehicle. One bus carries approximately 40 seated passengers with one driver.

Sacramento, CA:  I asked Fix My Ride 916 about why is it acceptable for a train to leave a station 3 minutes early and a RT employee responded with their personal account that it was not a time point station and arrival times are approximate. Why is a train allowed to leave a station early? Is he right?

Reply:  I was unable to locate the response you mention but read your FixMyRide916 question and your explanation is generally correct. RT holds operators to the time points posted on the main website and the pocket timetables. They are not allowed to leave those points early. However, the mobile app does list approximate arrival times for trains at all the stations, but operators can leave early from many of those stops to make up time on their trip. We are looking into how this issue should be addressed.

Sacramento, CA:  I have noticed a difference in the amount of smoking at the LR statios but have not noticed a change at bus stops.Does RT enforce this policy at bus stops?Also at bus stops and light rail stations ther seems to be a lot of trash spilling over especially at Watt there adquent staffing to address this issue?How many employess are involved with the cleanliness of LR stations??Kudos on the extra security by the way!

Reply:  Our team is pressing hard on the no smoking enforcement at our light rail stations. At bus stops with a shelter we've installed no smoking signs. Enforcement at bus stops is much more difficult because of the number of stops (over 3,500). We enforce the policy, when we observe smoking. Watt I-80 is cleaned multiple times each day. It is cleaned more than any other station in the system and it, frankly, isn't enough. We are partnering with P-BIDs across the system to supplement our cleaning. The new Watt Ave P-BID will be adding cleaning at Watt I-80 to supplement our work. We expect that to begin in January. We have contractors, staff and partners working on stations cleaning across the system. Thanks for the comment on our security improvements.

Sacramento, CA, CA:  Bicycles riders are a big problem and dangerous to other riders. Often times 2-3 bicycles are blocking the doorways and/or falling over and striking people. How can this be addressed?

Reply:  Thank you for your question and it raises it a good issue. Given that bicycles, like RT, is an environmentally friendly way to travel, we want to encourage the bicycling public to use our system. On the other hand, we recognize that too many bikes on board can be inconvenient to other passengers. We continue to review our policies regarding Bikes on Board and will certainly take your comments under consideration as we do so. Ultimately the conversion to low-floor light rail cars will help with this problem.

Sacramento, CA:  This isn't really a question but more of a suggestion. The addition of your crime tip line is a great resource to us riders but many casual riders (not daily commuters familiar with system) don't even know it exists. I would like to suggest posting the information on board the actual train cars as opposed to just the stations. This way, when a situation occurs on board the train (which is where rule violations occur the most) customers could just look to the posting and report it to security. I believe that by displaying your rules and who to contact when violations occur would get riders more involved with keeping the train safe. Thank you.

Reply:  There are mini posters on light rail cars and car cards on buses. As you said in your comment, it is important to make sure customers know about the new system. We are also working on a new mobile app that will allow customers and others to provide information directly to us instantly. The new app should be available by the end of December.

Sacramento, CA:  I take a class on Monday Evenings, but was curious, after watching your last public meeting on television, about facility and aesthetic improvements to the 7th and Capitol Station. Currently, I use it to transfer between bus, (as well as YoloBus) and light rail. What could riders like myself potentially see being done to this station? Since I have to resort to watching meeting replays, could you please elaborate a bit here in the transit chat? Thank you.

Reply:  The 7th and Capitol station dates back to March of 1987, and has not been upgraded in 28 years. We are planning on a full refurbishment including, a new canopy, new benches, upgraded lighting, new signage, repainting, and expanding the platform area. All of this work should be complete by October 2016.

Folsom, CA:  When the operator on the light rail makes an announcement it is very hard to hear them. Is there any improvement planned for that?

Reply:  RT is aware of the issue and will advise our employees to speak into the microphone more clearly. Please let us know if there have been improvements over the next few months.

Sac, CA:  When will the new bus book reflecting the September service changes be available? My elderly father prefers to use the book because he doesn't have a cell phone to use your new RT Tracker (which I love by the way!)

Reply:  RT is receiving frequent inquiries into when the updated RT Bus & Light Rail Timetable Book will be released. We are in the process of finalizing the book now and it will be available for purchase at the Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street by the end of the October.

Sacramento, CA:  Your website posted a notice in which several bus lines that had been detoured in downtown due to the 7th Street replacement project, will be returning to their normal route alignment starting on Sunday the 11th of this month? Which lines, specifically, will no longer stop in front of 721 Capitol Mall? That stop is very convenient for rail riders exiting on 7th at Capitol to just wind and/or hook around the corner of that block to a bus stop without crossing any traffic lights. Now, with the route alignments being changed for several of these routes, many of us feel that we will not have to cross the street/intersection once, but twice, effective with the date of October 11th, whereas now, we don't have to cross any lights at all.

Reply:  The website is correct. The buses will return to their original route. This will benefit many passengers, however, some will experience minor inconveniences as you have described. We are essentially returning the service to the streets they operated on prior to the lengthy detour caused by the sewer relocation project. This transition will help our bus service to operate on time, reduce the bus congestion we experience on 9th street, and provide improved access to the west end of the K street mall.

West Sacramento, CA:  I am concerned that the Kings Arena is only a year from being completed and I am hearing nothing from the Kings or the city about collaborative ways of improving access and tickets for light rail riders. I ride MUNI to Giants games regularly when staying in SF, and I remember well before that stadium was built, the city touting the new light rail station and how they were integrating the light rail into the traffic flow and movement of fans after a game. They even sell MUNI passes at the stadium ticket windows! I get the sense that the city and Kings are hoping RT magically makes that all happen without helping you or paying for any of it and anticipating that things will be very dysfunctional come arena opening.

Reply:  RT, the City and the Kings have been working cooperatively for over a year to plan a very effective, customer friendly service to events at the Golden 1 Center. As the plans are finalized, you will see much more information on the kind of innovations that will be applied to serving the all events, including Kings games.

Comments from Mike Wiley: 

Thank you for your participation in today's chat. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager will be held on Friday, November 6.