Comments from Mike Wiley:
The Fix 50 construction project has been underway for nearly two weeks and it appears that the public has reacted well to altering their commuting habits.
Light rail is the best option for commuters to avoid traffic congestion and make their way into downtown during construction. During the first week of the project, light rail ridership increased significantly as people turned to RT as a commute option. Park-and-ride lot usage across RT's system also increased the first week of the project, with park-and-ride lots on the Highway 50 corridor seeing the strongest gains.
However, ridership and park-and-ride lot usage for the second week of Fix 50 have dipped slightly from the initial highs. Some commuters may be noticing that the impacts from the project have not been as drastic as feared, and are returning to business as usual.
I encourage everyone to continue taking advantage of transit as the traffic impacts are expected to get progressively worse. The Fix 50 project moved into Phase 2 of the eastbound construction last night, which steps up closures to on-ramps and highway connectors. During this phase, construction activities include the closure of the 16th Street on-ramp, the connector ramp from eastbound Highway 50 to Highway 99, and the connector ramp from eastbound Highway 50 to eastbound Business 80.
For information about RT's Fix 50 supplemental bus and light rail service, visit sacrt.com. Click on the Fix 50 - A Guide for New Riders link, for bus and light rail commute options and tips for new riders. The how-to guide includes schedules, maps, fares and recommended park-and-ride lots for each corridor.
Follow RT on Twitter @RideSacRT for real-time updates and park-and-ride lot usage.
Download the RT Mobile Web App on your smart phone or tablet to check real-time bus arrivals and scheduled train arrivals, and to plan your trip. Enter m.sacrt.com in your web browser and save the link to your home screen.
You can also download the "Ride RT During Fix 50 Construction" flyer for a summary of commuter tips and information.
Let's begin the chat.
I wanted to believe that patrons would truly be accommodated when Fix 50 caused an increase in ridership, however, it is not the case. All Blue line trips have been overcrowded and uncomfortable in the past two weeks or longer. The schedule is good but the number of cars is insufficient. Should I ever believe the hype??? Can we expect service to improve????
Reply: The rated capacity for a four car train is actually 800 passengers and we are not approaching that number. The light rail vehicles are designed to carry as many as 140 standing passengers in addition to the 60 seated passengers. In order to try to maximize comfort for our riders, we have actually deployed an extra train on the Blue Line which leaves Meadowview at 6:51 a.m. In the afternoon, a special train leaves I-80 at 4:43 p.m. Both these trips are viewable on our regular schedules online (although they are subject to change):
We have been monitoring loads on the trains, and we've actually seen a lot more of an increase on the Gold Line than the Blue Line. There can be a lot of variation from day to day, but we generally only see all the seats being taken on a few trips during the peak-of-the-peak, which actually means we're making good use of our capacity.
How soon after the Connect Card public go-live do you anticipate that employers who sell discounted passes onsite to employees will be able to offer Connect Cards? For example, County, State departments.
Reply: Our plan is to transition them as we go live with the system. We've created a corporate account management component to the system, so that the transit coordinators will be able to easily manage the transit riders for their agency. We are using the same tool for colleges and other groups that provide transit passes. Their transition is likely to take a bit longer and require more effort initially but it becomes very easy for transit coordinators after it is all set up.
We are currently working with these groups as part of the pilot test which is underway for the month of May.
Will Connect Card bus passengers have to tap their cards when exiting or only when entering? What happens if a passenger forgets to tap when exiting?
Reply: Bus passengers using the Connect Card will be required to tap their cards when boarding and alighting the bus. If a passenger does not tap their card when exiting, there will be no direct consequence when the program launches. In the future, RT may move to a distance-based fare, which would allow passengers to be charged less if they board and alight within a certain distance. This discount will only be available by tapping the card when exiting the bus. Otherwise, full fare would be charged.
For light rail use, will passengers tap their Connect Card at the station or upon boarding, or at all?
Reply: All Connect Card holders will be required to tap their card at the tap devices located on the light rail platforms before boarding light rail trains. A minimum of two tap devices will be located at each station, with many of the busier stations equipped with six. Passengers will also tap their card after they exit the train.
North Highlands, CA:
Why is route 84 consistently late Monday thru Friday in the afternoons? I catch the 5:27 from the light rail stateion and maybe once every 2 to 3 weeks is it on time. Usually it's 10-20 minutes late.
Reply: Route 84 is a long route, and operators are not allowed to leave their time points early for obvious reasons, so it is inevitable that it will run late from time to time. Over the past several months, Route 84 has had more difficulty staying on time because of construction at the US-50 interchange. The time you're reporting is a little unusual to run consistently late, however, so we'll take a look at that and see if there are any unusual problems. Once the construction is complete and we reroute the service to utilize the improvements the reliability should improve significantly.
I have a comment/question on the upcoming Connect Transit Card. I have been reading about this on a couple of websites and see that Regional Transit will go first, followed by approximately one transit agency per month after SacRT. What happens, if an individual rides at least two or more transit systems in the first month, but one or more of the other transit systems is not "online" to allow the tagging of the Connect Card, even though SacRT is? Will the Connect Card user, during some upcoming months be allowed to board Regional Transit, but be denied boarding their other transit provider in the Sacramento Region? I'm quite curious about this and what one is to do when they are confronted with this particular situation. In something like the Connect Card, it is always better to be prepared for situations like what has been described here, than to be caught unprepared when the particular situation actually arises. Thank you.
Reply: Great question. We are working with each of the other transit providers and have processes for customers who ride multiple systems during the transition period. Customers who ride RT and Elk Grove for example will use their connect card on RT and have a monthly pass sticker (if they are a monthly pass holder) to ride the Elk Grove system. Once Elk Grove transit goes live, the connect card with be the pass on both system. Remember this only applies to the passes. Riders who pay as they board, may have a different process on RT than they follow on the other systems until the other system are live. Flyers and customer information packages are being prepared to share the details of the transition plan. They will be distributed when we are a bit closer to the go live dates.
North Natomas, CA:
When is the next update your board is getting on the Entertainment Sports Complex? I currently walk to Sleep Train Arena Events now, but will need to resort to using Route 11 along Truxel Road once the Entertainment Sports Complex opens. Is late night and daily service proposed for Route 11 once the change in building locations occurs, or will folks in North Natomas be left out in the cold without any transit considerations come October of 2016?
Reply: The next update on the ESC is scheduled for May 12, 2014. We do have plans to add Sunday/Holiday service to Route 11 and to increase the frequency.
I work at Franchise Tax Board. I currently buy a monthly pass. With the Connect Card, I was informed by your RT representative from your connect bus, that I would have to tap my connect card before boarding the train, twice a day. Your employee claims that this is a small inconvenience. What is the point to tap the connect card before boarding the train when you didn’t have to before with a monthly pass? And will I receive a citation for not tapping the connect card with a monthly pass?
Reply: The process with the Connect Card is to tap before boarding. We are also asking customers to tap when they end their ride. This is equivalent to having your ticket punched in a manual system. Tapping is a key component of tracking the riders use of the system and the data will in the future be used to consider adjustments to RT's fare structure, including distance based fares.
I think you may be overly concerned about the requirement. It is super easy and as simple as walking by one of the 6 tap devices that are located at or near the entrances to the light rail stations. After we go live with the system, give it a try and let me know how it is working.
Sacramento , CA:
Does RT have a policy on electronic cigarettes? Are they allowed on buses, trains or at light rail stations?
Reply: RT policy does not allow the use of electronic cigarettes at stops, stations or on vehicles. The adopted policy bans all smoking!
Citrus Heights , CA:
What is going on with stop 1148 at Greenback and Arcadia? The drivers are inconsistent and do not always drop us at the stop but at the layover point behind the shopping center. This causes me to miss my connection to another bus because it's quite a walk for me. I am disabled and cannot move as fast.
Reply: Operators have been instructed to drop passengers off at stop 1148 and not stop short at the layover point. If you are not taken to the stop in the future, please let us know by calling our Customer Advocacy department at 916-557-4545 or online at http://iportal.sacrt.com/webapps/csfeedback/default.asp
Sacramento , CA:
Will there be a period of leniency for citations once the connect card is implemented and people are still learning how to use it?
Reply: Riders who need additional assistance with their Connect Cards will receive extra help in using the new system. Fraud and failure to pay are much different than customers learning to work with the new Connect Card. We will endeavor to help make the transition as easy as possible for riders transitioning to the Connect Card.
Why not call the lines what their destination point is, such as BART and MUNI do. Blue Line, Green line has no relevance to the new rider and is confusing.
Reply: Much like a lot of systems, we actually use a combination of identifiers. So while we use the line's color in a lot of contexts (like Boston, Washington DC, San Diego, and LA, and many systems all over the world), we also use the destination for the vehicle head signs for audible announcements, and for our electronic signs, and the signs on the trains. There are obviously some pros and cons to each way of doing it, e.g., riders may not know where Meadowview is, or that that's the direction they want to go, at least not without consulting a map.
I have learned about the Connect Transit Card two days ago and it was too late for me to sign up for the pilot program. Was this announced before the cards were issued last month?
Reply: The Sacramento Area Council of Government (SACOG) posted the announcement early last month. We were only looking for 200 people to help test the system. This kept the size to a manageable number and one of the key factors was to have a diverse group. As we move through the month, we will be providing updates on the RT website and at www.connecttransitcard.com.
I'm thinking this would be the perfect time to deploy an extra Green Line train during the morning and evening commute times now that more commuters are rethinking their options during the Fix 50 construction (especially when the westbound construction begins). Thank you
Reply: With the service additions that we have implemented for the Fix50 project we have utilized all available light rail cars. At this point we have a significant amount of excess capacity on the Green Line trains, even though we operate single car trains. The next improvement to the Green Line will be to increase the frequency and to operate on Saturday and Sunday.
Can you give an update on the Connect Card?
Reply: Sure. On May 1st, RT began a pilot program for the Connect Card. By beginning with a pilot program, RT will be able to test the operational aspects of the system as well as determine what additional steps will need to be taken to improve the program. After the pilot is complete, RT will review the results and evaluate all the feedback. Once this is completed, RT will set a go live date. When setting to the go live date, RT will be considering how much time is needed to do an expansive marketing campaign and outreach to get connect cards to users. We suggest that you check our website during the month of June as we should have a better idea on when RT will go live with the new cards.
For buses that arrive and depart from Cosumnes River College which is 54, 55, and 56. Could they wait to depart from CRC for passengers that need to transfer from any of the eTran buses to route 54, 55, and 56.
Reply: At a busy terminal like this with lots of buses arriving each hour, at some point, buses can't wait and have to leave, especially if the bus is getting full with a lot of riders and has a difficult schedule to keep, like Route 56. There can be a communication gap between operating personnel because e-Tran buses are run entirely separately from RT by the City of Elk Grove, with their own operators, their own dispatching facility, their own radios, etc. That being said, we've observed that out on the street we usually have good teamwork and cooperation between RT and e-Tran drivers and road supervisors to coordinate operations as best as possible.
I have a couple 10-packs of Basic Single Fare tickets that expire 9/30/14 but no longer ride RT regularly. My understanding is that these can be transferred to a Connect Card when it goes live. Once the value of the 20 Single Fare tickets is added to the Connect Card, will the cash value ever expire?
Reply: If you put cash on a Connect Card, the cash stays on the card as long as the card doesn't go dormant for a long period of time. We are working on how the ticket exchange will work. Usually the exchange starts a month before the expiration and runs a month or two after the expiration. We have not made a decision to transfer the value of the tickets to the Connect Card.
You stated that you use a combination of identifiers. (like Boston, Washington DC, San Diego, and LA, and many systems all over the world) Why wouldn't you use identifiers like our closest major transit in SF. Most riders are familiar with this.
Reply: The system has been working very well for many years, as it has in the other systems I identified. The system you suggest has proven to be much more confusing. Consequently, we are maintaining our color system.
South Sacramento, CA:
Do you have any early numbers on ridership since "Fix 50" started? Revenue?
Reply: We've seen a noticeable increase in Gold Line ridership, especially on peak-hour Folsom trains. On the Blue Line and the bus system it's been less noticeable. Overall, it's probably giving us a percent increase around 5 percent on light rail.
South Sacramento, CA:
Are you planning to increase frequency on light rail service to possibly every 15 or 20 minutes on Saturdays?
Reply: Increasing the frequency of weekend light rail service to 15 minute headways is currently in the TransitRenewal Plan. However, it is behind several other priorities including restoration of key bus routes and improving headways/span of service on others. Additionally, all TraisitRenewal improvements are contingent on sustainable funding.
Comments from Mike Wiley:
The next session of Transit Talk is scheduled for Friday, June 6, 2014. Thank you for your participation today.