Transit Talk with the General Manager

June 04, 2021
Henry Li, General Manager/CEO
General Transit Questions
Archived
Opening Remarks:
Welcome to the June 2021 edition of Transit Talk with the General Manager.

June is shaping up to be a very busy month at SacRT so there is a lot to share with you this month!

As restrictions begin to loosen, and California expected to "reopen" this month, and more people get back to work and other activities, I would like to remind everyone that SacRT is ready to safely welcome riders on board with the launch of our "SacRT is Ready - Get on Board" campaign.

SacRT has been vital to supporting the Sacramento region's recovery, providing over 10 million passenger trips since the pandemic began, underscoring the essential lifeline services that SacRT provides to the Sacramento community.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, SacRT has further enhanced an already robust cleaning regimen of its stations and vehicles. Each vehicle is cleaned before going into service and throughout the day, in addition to routine deep cleanings.

Although state and local restrictions are expected to loosen on Tuesday, June 15, the federal mandate to wear a mask onboard public transportation will still be in place. SacRT is providing free masks at the Customer Service and Sales Center, and onboard most buses and trains.

For added convenience to our customers, the SacRT Customer Service and Sales Center will expand their hours on Monday, June 7, from the current 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Customer Service and Sales Center is located at 1225 R Street adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station and is open Monday through Friday.

For more information about customer-focused initiatives that SacRT has taken to provide the cleanest, safest, and most convenient travel experience possible, please visit sacrt.com/getonboard.

SacRT has extended free transit rides for everyone who needs to get to a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointment location through Saturday, July 31. This includes all vaccination sites in Sacramento County within SacRT's service area, including hospitals, pharmacies, and other immunization locations. For more information on vaccinations, eligibility, and appointments, visit Sacramento County's Coronavirus vaccine website at saccounty.net/COVID-19. For trip planning assistance visit sacrt.com
or call 916-321-BUSS (2877).

Local businesses are starting to bring back and hire staff to handle the increase in customers, and SacRT wants to make it easier for jobseekers to get to their interview in the Central City. If this includes you, you're in luck - Every Wednesday through June 16, SacRT is offering free rides on bus, light rail and SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit to help candidates connect with job opportunities in the Downtown, Midtown, R Street and Broadway business districts. Visit sacrt.com for details.

As a reminder, SacRT is hiring too! Check out all current SacRT job opportunities at sacrt.com/careers. You can sign up for job notifications and receive emails when new job opportunities become available. For additional information, contact Human Resources at 916-556-0298.

Before we get started, similar to years past, I want to remind you that we will not host a GM Chat in the month of July due to low participation with the Fourth of July holiday so close. With that said, I would also like to update you on a couple of service related projects happening next month.

As you know, SacRT has been operating e-tran and e-van services under a service contract with Elk Grove since July 2019; however, SacRT and the City of Elk Grove recently formalized a transit service annexation agreement, which will officially bring the City of Elk Grove transit services into SacRT as a member entity effective Thursday, July 1. Under the annexation agreement, SacRT will provide fixed-route local, commuter and paratransit services and maintenance operations for e-tran. Please know that SacRT is committed to a seamless transition with no impact to current riders. To learn more about the transition visitsacrt.com/elkgrovetransit.

Also on Thursday, July 1, to better serve residents in south Sacramento and Elk Grove, SacRT's SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit service will expand. The Gerber-Calvine zone is expanding to serve more of southeast Sacramento, as far north as Fruitridge Road. The new Elk Grove zone coincides with Elk Grove's bus and e-van service joining the SacRT district. Learn more about the new service zones at sacrt.com/smartride.

Lastly, you may have heard about the Caltrans construction project, FixSac99, which will close a section of Highway 99 in south Sacramento. To help ease the congestion, SacRT is offering FREE rides on light rail from Saturday, June 12 through Tuesday, June 15. Visit sacrt.com/fixsac99 to learn more.

Now let's get to your questions!


Sacramento , CA:  I’ve seen in other cities and states, that they have in-house security at every major train and connection bus station. You’ve said before RT has won all these safety awards but I’ve been at CRC when a homeless person was following me. When will RT have an actual security team at all the major stations around the clock that actually look after passengers and drivers well being? Because the current state of the out source security team is not always there when needed.

Reply:  We are proud of our achievements in making our system clean, safe and secure over the last few years. During the pandemic we reduced our security guards by 50%, but we are ramping up our security team as ridership increases. If you do have specific situations like the one you outline, please use the Alert SacRT app or call our Security Operations Center (916-556-0150) so that security can be dispatched to the scene. We have over 1500 cameras and live feed on trains that allow seamless monitoring while resources respond.


North Natomas, CA:  I would like to know if the Natomas/North Sac Smart Ride service zone will be altered/adjusted in the next quarter? I would like to suggest adding the Del Paso or Globe light rail station as part of the map/zone. The current and only light rail station that is part of the designated service zone is Marconi/Arcade. This (often desolate) station will be an asset to the North Sac community/residents, but not necessarily for the (South/North) Natomas residents. The average wait time for pick up is 20-30 minutes with a drive time of 20 (plus) minutes to any destination furthest of the map/zone Duckhorn/Arena in North Natomas (which has no access to public transportation besides the Smart Ride) or Garden Highway in South Natomas. Will RT consider including (destination hub) Del Paso light rail station or (less populated, easily accessible) Globe light rail station? These two stations appear to possibly be more cost effective with fewer miles traveled for Sac RT and Natomas residents to easily access downtown (via light rail). Thank you, Angela

Reply:  Thank you for your comment. We have been discussing and evaluating the performance of the new Natomas/North Sac Smart Ride and appreciate your feedback on how we might be able to make the service more efficient. Stay tuned for additional updates and SmaRT Ride launches.


Sacramento , CA:  I’ve seen numerous buses stops with broken out glass and homeless people sleeping and sheltering at the benches. This has been a on-going issue and has been worse since the pandemic. What’s RTs approach to making sure this is prevented because my child does not feel safe when there’s always broken out bus stop glass and homeless people sleep in the bus stops.

Reply:  Thank you for reaching out. SacRT's Facilities Department along with our contractor clean and maintain thousands bus stops throughout our system. We could always use the communities help, and I hope you will download our AlertSacRT reporting app, so that you can notify us of any issues. SacRT has staff 24/7 at our Security Operations Center who can dispatch a police officer and notify facility staff. SacRT also has an MSW on staff that we deploy to help connect individuals with social services.


Citrus Heights, CA:  SacRT every so often announces flyers for free rides. Recent ones include the May 30 Dining Al Fresco and the Wednesday trips for job hunters going to Midtown & R Street. These are really exciting, intriguing ways to explore using SacRT for different types of activities, and I thank you. ***** I am concerned about one thing, however. Sometimes when using these I've encountered bus operators and light rail fare inspectors who aren't familiar with them. It's a little uneasy when boarding doesn't go smoothly. Or they're not 100% sure a flyer was actually composed by SacRT. ***** Therefore, I wonder if a procedure could be put in place to inform operators and inspectors of these promotions close to or on their actual dates. We do have that 99 Freeway one coming soon. ***** Making sure SacRT personnel knows about and happily welcomes these can lead to friendly interactions. Also people will use SacRT more regularly for similar future events. What do you think?

Reply:  I’m happy to hear that you are taking advantage of some of our free ride opportunities. We do have a procedure in place to notify frontline employees of upcoming promotions; however, with that said, with approximately 1,300 employees and over 80% working on the operations side there are rare occasions when operators and transit ambassadors are not aware. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and we will work with management and supervisors to help improve internal communications about such events.


CA:  Can we get more trash cans at the light rail station, as at some not a single trash can exists.

Reply:  Yes we can place trash cans at stations that are missing or don’t have one. Please let us know what station you are referring to.


East Sacramento, CA:  I read in the June NextStop Newsletter about the upcoming July 2021 closure of the Brighton Light Rail Bridge. What is causing the closure to Occur? Is the light rail bridge in need of major Repair? What will the contractors be doing over the two July weekends?

Reply:  Thank you for the question. CalTrans is modifying bridge decks as part of the U.S. Highway 50 Multimodal Corridor Enhancement and Rehabilitation Project to accommodate HOV lanes. CalTrans contractors need to remove traction power to replace certain parts of the light rail overhead contact system to accommodate changes to the bridge structure(s). Both tracks will be inaccessible during this work creating the need for a bus bridge. The major service impact includes splitting the Gold line into two segments and closing multiple stations, over the course of the two weekends. The work is not to repair or make changes to the light rail system. SacRT must remove power and stop service as a safety precaution while CalTrans performs their construction work.


Rancho Cordova, CA:  Are there any plans to restore fixed route bus service along Folsom Blvd between Coloma Rd and Sunrise Station, or Route 78 running east down Folsom Blvd, returns to Mather Field LRT via Mills Park/Mills Tower Dr and Mills Station Rd, then goes to Butterfield LRT? Thanks! Donald C.

Reply:  Thank you for the question Donald. Depending on where one is coming from, we would recommend taking light rail to reach destinations on Folsom Blvd east of Coloma Road, i.e., at Zinfandel, Cordova Town Centre, or Sunrise station. Although a bus would allow more stops, closer to certain destinations, it’s difficult for us to justify a bus on this segment of Folsom Blvd when we already run frequent, seven day service with the Gold Line.


Elk Grove, CA:  With the expansion to Elk Grove, are there any plans for a light rail station for the Elk Grove area to downtown in the near future?

Reply:  SacRT and the City of Elk Grove are both interested in extending the Blue Line into Elk Grove. The extension costs and on going operating costs are contingent upon identifying additional local funding.


Sacramento, CA:  Hi Mr.Li, Thanks to you and everyone at SacRT for continuing this essential service with diligence and care. Light rail delays seem to be occurring much more frequently the past few months. Are there reasons other than the age/mechanical issues ? What steps are you taking to address this ? It seems like the state, city and county are doing well financially. What steps have you taken to secure funding for the light rail extension to Natomas ? When can the public expect actionable improvement/implementation ? With more development/congestion expected in Natomas and towards Airport, light rail extension would immensely benefit many. Have you increased your advocacy towards this long delayed project ? What are your plans ? Thanks again for your time.

Reply:  Thank you for reaching out and we are proud of how provide our essential service to frontline workers during the pandemic. Our average monthly systemwide on-time-performance for light rail in 2021 is 98.6%. May was slightly higher than average at 98.9%. Most of our train delays are as a result of equipment malfunctions, exacerbated by high heat, which we are being addressed by our Maintenance departments. Our staff works diligently to maintain our vehicles and infrastructure, and we are looking forward to the delivery of new low floor vehicles next year that will further improve system reliability. Regarding the Green Line to Natomas and the Airport. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement / Environmental Impact Report (DEIS/DEIR) is complete and was provided to the FTA in 2019. SacRT has pursued various avenues to secure additional funding for the project. In order to obtain the federal funding necessary for a major public transit capital investment, the region must provide local dollars for approximately 50% of the project. The next phase of the project was included in the expenditure plan for the Sacramento County 2020 Measure A. Unfortunately due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the ballot measure was not placed on the November 2020 ballot. We are hopeful that a future local effort along with state funding will provide the necessary funding to move forward with the project and obtain federal matching funding.


Sac, CA:  How is new Natomis Micro Transist working out ?

Reply:  We expanded the Natomas-North Sacramento zone boundaries in April. We are pleased to see new riders on the system through the expanded coverage.


Citrus Heights, CA:  There has been numerous buses breaking down due to the heat and other out dated issues. When will RT have a new fleet of buses due to the ones they have now that where suppose to be replaced?

Reply:  SacRT's Bus Maintenance Team is monitoring trends in vehicle breakdowns and will continue to address maintenance to provide safe and reliable buses in-service. The Team prepares for weather changes due to heat or extreme cold conditions throughout the year. SacRT has a bus replacement plan established and funding available to replace a significant portion of the buses that have reached the end of their service life. The first group of replacement buses are scheduled to be built and delivered in the 2nd quarter of 2022.


sacramento, CA:  Why is there such a shortage of and such long waits for rapidRT in midtown?

Reply:  I believe you may be referring to SmaRT Ride? Wait times can vary depending on the zone, time of day. The downtown zone has tremendous demand that can sometime lead to longer wait times.


Sacramento, CA:  Good afternoon Henry.,, With the tragic events that unfolded last week at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), I was curious as to what kind of safety precautions and protocols that Regional Transit has in place to ensure the safety of our local transit system. I’m curious as to what has been done to restrict access to RT’s light rail yard as it is easily accessible fight of the Blue line and anybody can get off at that stop and enter the premises unnoticed. From reading online VTA’s operators and employees don’t feel that they are being fully supported by District management in regard to their overall workplace safety. How is RT supporting its employees during this time as this event took place so close to home. RT truly has some of the hardest working employees in the transit industry and with the stress of dealing with the pandemic over the last year I know has put great concerns on your operators and their safety so I feel that it’s important that your operators feel confident in Regional Transit’s to mitigate an event like this from happening in Sacramento. Is RT beefing up security at the Academy Wy facility and reducing access to the yard. I’m also curious as to what precautions are in place to prevent something like this from happening at the 29th St. Facility as the bus bays are in front and be easily accessed as are the bus storage areas across the street. In the event that something of this magnitude happened here does RT have any contingency plans with neighboring districts to provide assistance such as employees and buses in the event service should be interrupted for an extended period as is happening in San Jose with the suspension of light rail and the recent cancelation of the bus bridges. I’ll perfectly honest Henry since the pandemic occurred, I don’t truly feel safe riding light rail, this recent episode heightens my concerns. I don’t feel safe riding light rail as in the past it’s been a moving home for the homeless. Henry as you I know I hold you in high regard in your ability to lead RT through any storm and come out on top as you have consistently demonstrated during your tenure as GM. I appreciate the emphasis that you place on ensuring that passengers voices are heard at Regional Transit by making yourself available through forums like this. I truly would like to thank both your administrative staff and the trendmous efforts and sacrifices put forth by your bus operators on a daily basis in ensuring that our region keeps moving...RT’s operators truly personify the word “HERO” in every aspect and RT can be proud of having some of the hardest working employees in the transit industry! Regards... Justin Mendoza

Reply:  Hello Justin, I agree with you that in light of the tragedy at VTA we at SacRT need to look inward and assess our security. As the information from VTA was unfolding the SacRT management team held an emergency meeting to establish what needs to be done to harden our facilities as well as improve security. We have just finalized a visitor access policy which will be going to the July Board Meeting. This policy was already drafted even before the VTA shooting occurred. We recently changed out and upgraded our badge access readers and badges greatly improving upon security and preventing the potential for fraud. We have created an Active Shooter Task Force that will hold their first meeting next week. The union representatives were included in this process and are recommending personnel that want to effect change and improve security. The goal of the task force will be to give front line employees an active role in making recommendations such as you listed in improving security. Regional Transit Police Services (RTPS) will be rolling out agency wide 2 hour training that will cover active shooter scenarios. I truly appreciate your feedback and will evaluate your security suggestions.


Sacramento, CA:  How will the low floor LRV's be rolled out? Will stations have to be closed to modify them to accommodate the new trains? I'm excited for the new trains! :)

Reply:  We are excited to receive the new low-floor trains as well. Siemens in Sacramento is building the first 20 vehicles for us that will be delivered at the fall of next year. To accommodate the stations, we will be performing station modifications and upgrades. Please stay tuned for further details.


Sacramento, CA:  Are there any updates on light rail expansion? West Sac, Airport, American River College, Elk Grove, etc?? Thanks :)

Reply:  The extension to West Sacramento is moving through final design and environmental. It was listed in the President's budget. We continue to plan for additional expansions such as the Green Line to Natomas and the Airport and the Blue Line to Elk Grove.


Sac, CA:  What is going on at SVS station and how long will SVS be down for bus pickups?

Reply:  The city is doing utility work. We are working to minimize the impact to our riders and we are hopefully the work will be done by the end of the month.


Closing Remarks:

Thank you for your questions. The next session of Transit Talk with the General Manager/CEO will be held on Friday, August 6, 2021.

I hope you have a safe and happy Fourth of July holiday!