Comments from Mike Wiley:
Hello and welcome to today's session of Transit Talk. The chat is usually held on the first Friday of every month, but the July 4 holiday prompted RT to postpone it a week.
I would like to take the opportunity to introduce many of you to the SacramentoGO project, recently launched by the Sacramento Transportation Authority. The project aims to illustrate the success of Measure A-funded transportation projects and determine the future transportation priorities in our region.
Measure A is the transportation sales tax in Sacramento County that was approved most recently in 2004 by 75 percent of county voters. That measure extended the initial 20-year transportation sales tax approved in 1988 by 30 years. The current program continues until 2039 and provides about $100 million per year to help our region maintain and develop transportation infrastructure needed to support our economy. For transit users, Measure A has played a large role in the development and operation of nearly all of RT's light rail projects, has improved bus services and provides nearly 20 percent of RT's operating budget.
Unfortunately, while that's a lot of money, it's not enough to pay for all that we need in Sacramento, whether that's to keep our current infrastructure well-maintained or to develop needed new projects. That's due to a number of factors, including a decline in funding from the state and federal governments, reduced state and federal gas tax revenue, an aging population and increasingly old infrastructure.
SacramentoGO is an effort that RT is supporting to solicit community feedback about future transportation priorities and how they should be paid for.
Please visit the project website at SacramentoGO.com, fill out the survey and take part in developing future transportation options in our region.
Let's begin the chat.
When will RT reinstate Route 8? How many times do people have to confront the Board before our needs are met?
Reply: Our situation with Route 8 has not changed. It is one of our top priorities in terms of bus service, but unlike the Federal government, we cannot run a budget deficit, and we simply do not have the money right now to restore it. Even our highest ridership routes, fares only cover 25 to 30 percent of costs. The rest has to be subsidized from our state and local support. Our light rail extension to CRC is also paid for with federal dollars and local matching funds that can only go to capital projects. In other words, it's not competing with Route 8 for money. It is using money that otherwise would not come to the region for transit. Our recently adopted operating budget is a status-quo budget with no planned service improvements.
I read something a few months ago about Butte County seeking RT permission to run a bus into Sacramento from Chico on a regular basis with several daily trips.
Is this something you have any info on?
Reply: Sorry, this is news to me. We haven't seen a request here at RT.
Why can San Diego provide better, more frequent service, over more square miles, and more hours per day, for lower fares?
Reply: San Diego, like most other major metropolitan areas in California receives a higher level of local sales tax to operate their system than RT receives here in Sacramento. Their local leaders and general public has placed a higher priority on funding transit service compared to Sacramento.
Sacramento , CA:
I would like to know why you have almost all your buses at your garage near N street running at night in the parking lot. What is your reason?
Reply: As our bus operators end their shift they park their bus in the lot under the freeway between Capitol and P streets. The buses are turned off at that point. Later during the evening each bus is restarted and driven through our maintenance service center where it is fueled, cleaned, has its fluid levels checked, and periodically has its brakes checked. The bus is then returned to the lot and parked and turned off. Eventually it is restarted by an operator in the morning to begin a new day. Buses are not left running through the night.
Update: After being driven through our maintenance service area and returned to the lot, buses are running while they are checked for mechanical/electrical issues.
Sacramento , CA:
Why is it necessary to wash every single bus? Especially when we have a drought, you have water being tracked out into the street for two blocks.
Reply: Due to the drought we only wash our buses one to two days per week. We also have a water reclamation program. Unfortunately some excess water does end up dripping from the buses as they are returned to the parking lot for the night. Fortunately we keep that to a minimum.
With the Connect card implementation in the near future, will RT be eventually increasing or eliminating staff in any way? If jobs are lost due to the implementation of the Connect card, will the displaced employees be given other opportunities within RT?
Reply: That's an interesting question. The purpose of the Connect Card is two-fold, to improve fare payment options for riders and to streamline processes for participating transit agencies. RT has another role and that is to manage the "back-end" for the entire Connect Card system. This may require the addition of staff to manage the program over-time. The current plan is to add temporary staff during the roll out of the Connect Card to assist customers during the initial implementation. These employees are not expected to continue once the system is fully implemented. The areas that may see an eventual reduction would be in the area of cash and media handling. However, we do not anticipate any immediate reductions in force or job eliminations as it will take some time for the Connect Card to become widely used. If employees are regular, full time employees, they will be able to apply for any opportunities open for which they are qualified.
In your July Edition of "NextStop" News, there are descriptions of six routes that will be shifting from L Street to Capitol Mall in August. The report did not give a specific date. Do you know the August date at this time, or will those changes be put off until September 7th with other district wide service changes you are contemplating at this time?
Reply: The changes planned to Routes 11, 30, 38, 62, 86 and 88 to accommodate the construction activities for the future downtown Sacramento Entertainment Center (ESC) are contingent upon the completion of a new bus stop on Capitol Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. Once the work is done, which is being managed by the City of Sacramento, the service changes will be scheduled.
If the timeframe for the changes related to the ESC closely coincides with September service changes, RT may implement them all simultaneously.
Citrus Heights, CA:
I work with individuals with disabilities who ride closed transportation services like MV and MedStar in the Sacramento area. Through their support team, they receive packets of pre-paid Bus & Light Rail tickets for using public transit over the weekends. It has been brought to my attention that these tickets will expire on September 30th, and the new Connect Transit Card will eliminate the need to carry pre-paid tickets. With this in mind, will the Connect Card take effect either on September 1st or October 1st? I ask this question very specifically so that I am clear as to what folks with disabilities need to do with their soon to be expired tickets.
Reply: The Connect Card go live date remains uncertain as we work through the bugs found during the pilot. When they are resolved, we will pick a go live date that gives us sufficient time to market and train people on how to use the system. In the meantime, we are planning our traditional ticket exchange. You should see the notices, as we have done in the past, following our historic exchange process.
Is Regional Transit considering adding or cutting service in the next several weeks? I heard that Regional Transit was mentioned on Capitol Public Radio recently, and it was not good. They called out the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and that if Congress can not come to terms and agree on a new highway bill really soon, that RT will be faced with an operating budget deficit of $35 million dollars, give or take $5 million dollars. Our community in Folsom recognizes the benefits that a Downtown Sacramento Entertainment Sports Complex will bring, not only for Downtown Sacramento, but for Folsom in terms of later night light rail service that will operate between the hours of 7pm and 12am. Folks can use this service into the night and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. As far as Folsom is concerned, now is the time to be adding service and service hours to existing routes, not cutting service.
Reply: Let's start with the first question. RT's recently adopted budget calls for the same number of service hours in the new budget year as last year and no service cuts or additions are under consideration at this time.
This assumes, of course, that projected revenues come in at the budgeted level. Your reference to the Federal Highway Trust Fund is a good one. RT's budgeted Federal revenue is based on the expectation that Congress will act to fully fund and reauthorize MAP-21, the legislation covering transit funding. If, for any reason, one of RT's major revenue streams were to disappear, it is likely that RT would have to consider both service cuts and layoffs, much as it was forced to do in 2010 when the economy declined.
Regarding service to Folsom, increasing service to Folsom is one of RT's most frequent questions. The answer is always the same. RT will increase service to the City of Folsom when the City is able and willing to pay for increased service. One other way that service to Folsom could be increased is if the City of Folsom were to "activate" into the RT system instead of contracting for service as they do now. RT is discussing these options with the City of Folsom.
We agree that adding service and service hours is preferable to cutting service. At the end of the day, it's all about available funding.
So I hear the bus that used to run in antelope(route 100) has been discontinued of service as of may 2010. This is kind of a problem because then I would have to walk about two miles to catch 84. Got any plans for restoring bus service in antelope?
Reply: We do not currently have any plans to restore Route 100, due simply to low ridership when it used to run and lots of other unmet needs.
Now that commuter rail is moving north, will RT ever extend into Roseville or Rocklin?
Reply: Over the last 20 years, we've discussed an extension to Roseville and Rocklin. In our long range plan an extension east to Roseville is a goal. The real problem is funding and a willingness to provide money and support from Placer County, the City of Roseville and the City of Rocklin. Without the support of the local governments, the extension east along I-80 cannot become a reality.
Sacramento , CA:
By the way I have read in full detail something on the website called transit renewal and I have noticed you are going to reroute bus 80 and 84 so they no longer serve parts of la riviera drive and just go straight down watt and bus route 19 will no longer serve parts of watt avenue as of this September. Is this for real?
Reply: The plan, regarding Route 19, was to cut back or eliminate the service on Watt Avenue so we could put the money towards doubling the frequency of Routes 80 and 84 (which are mostly on Watt). Straightening the route out is also part of this. We won't be changing any of these routes in September, but we do anticipate early next year changing Routes 80 and 84 so they run straight north/south on Watt from La Riviera to the Manlove light rail station, bypassing La Riviera Drive. This will provide a faster trip to the light rail station for the riders already on the bus. For the riders on La Riviera, we are evaluating options right now for shuttle service to fill in the gap.
South Sacramento, CA:
Regarding the situation w/ Transit Renewal study back in 2012, do you have a sense of any future service changes, or any increased revenue that will result in those changes? Are you waiting until the CRC light rail extension to make those changes?
Reply: If you are familiar with Transit Renewal, you know it was phased to be implemented over time. RT's financial forecasting model originally anticipated that service would gradually come back with service hour additions equaling 1 - 6% over six years, starting in 2012, to approximate the 20.1% of service that RT was forced to cut during the economic downturn in 2010.
RT has been able to increase service 9.4% since 2012-2014. Staff annually assesses the likelihood of additional sustainable revenues that can be dedicated to service increases during the budget planning process, separate from the capital budget which includes the CRC light rail extension. Unfortunately, due to increases in operating costs, revenues that can be dedicated to service increases are not projected for the next few years. This is not to say that some other source of funding could be found that could be directed to service. RT is exploring the availability of funding through the recently adopted "Cap and Trade" State legislation for service increases that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are hopeful that some of that funding will be made available to expand our service.
I heard that you recently hired a new head for the RT legal team. Who is it and where is he from?
Reply: Yes we did. We are pleased to have Tim Spangler serving as RT's Chief Counsel. Tim has been with RT for 16 years and was most recently a Senior Attorney responsible for litigation, among other issues. He lives in Davis with his family and is excited to be heading up RT's exemplary legal team.
The directional signs at the 7th & L light rail station have never been updated to reflect newer destinations. Still only refer to Mather field and meadowview. No mention of Sunrise or Folsom.
Reply: Good eye! We are in the process of updating all of our signage district wide with the extension of the Blue Line to CRC. The 7th and L station sign will be among those updated.
North Sacramento, CA:
My question is over a concern of a lack of morning service on some routes in achieving connectivity with other routes. For example, I need to ride Route 23 on Saturday to Route 82 and go to a destination within walking distance of Northrop and Morse. I need to arrive at my transit destination with enough time to walk over to my real destination at 8am on Saturdays. Route 82 allows for this, but Eastbound Route 23 does not allow for this. Would you and your staff consider operating Route 23 earlier so that folks like me could transfer to existing trips available on Route 82?
Reply: This may be something we can work into the schedule in the future. I will relay this suggestion to our Planning Department. If there appears to be enough ridership demand and if we can add it at a fairly marginal cost, we may be able to make this happen. Schedule adjustments like this can sometimes be done at fairly low cost, but not always, depending on when driver shifts begin and end. Thanks for the suggestion.
I am wondering about the times when drivers are starting their day, taking over for another driver. There is a driver for the 72 route who arrives on the train a few minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave Watt/Manlove. He then stops to chat with drivers, "sets up" the bus, and uses the restroom, causing the bus to leave 5 minutes late. Is there a rule for this? Shouldn't he be planning his arrival for an earlier train?
Reply: State law and our union contract both have a number of provisions protecting our employees' rights to reasonable rest and meal breaks. That means our schedules for our operators have to build in breaks. Without knowing the specifics, in general, the schedule is going to be built so the operator has time for a break at some point. Prior to that break, he should be making sure he is ready to work without needing a restroom break, etc. Time is also budgeted at the beginning of the shift to prepare the bus for service. If you can provide specifics, including date, time, location, and bus number, we can investigate this. Please call Customer Advocacy at 557-4545 to relay any specifics or go to www.sacrt.com.
At what point do drivers need to let passengers on early at the light rail stations? I have been in pouring rain and 100 degree heat and the driver does not pull up to the stop until the departure time.
Reply: When this happens please contact our Customer Advocacy Department at 557-4545 with the specific information regarding bus route number, time of day, and location. This will allow us to follow up with the driver in question and correct their behavior.
What is going on with the non-smoking policy supposedly changed 5 months ago? I do not see signs at most light rail stations and have even seen drivers smoking by their buses. Also, the security personnel just seems to ignore any smokers.
Reply: We are installing the signs as time allows. The staff who are installing the signs, also clean and maintain the stations. We plan to complete the installation by the end of the summer. The security staff is enforcing the new policy at stations that have the new signs. They (the security staff) are also telling smokers about the new policy and politely asking them to stop or leave the station in locations where the signs are not installed. Most times the smoking customer does cooperate. In the instance when they do not, our security staff seeks the assistance of our dedicated law enforcement officers.
As the economy gets better in the future will you consider restoring some bus routes that were cut including the ones that used to run in antelope?
Reply: As RT's revenues increase and on-going, sustainable revenues are identified that are above operating expenses to maintain the current level of service, consideration will be given to adding service using Transit Renewal recommendations as the plan. If the routes that were cut are identified in Transit Renewal, consideration will be given to bringing them back. The purpose of Transit Renewal was to identify service needs throughout the system and develop a plan to increase service hours through the addition of productive service and not just restore what was cut whether it was productive or not. I hope this answers your question.
Regarding Route 8. I was at the board meeting when Route 34 on weekends was slated to be cut, but the board of directors changed the list to include the 8 and save Route 8 even though Route 34 performed more poorly. Has anyone looked at the current Route 34 ridership? If it is still performing poorly, maybe you could ask the board to reconsider?
Reply: Route 34 weekend service was eliminated in June 2010. Back in 2010, prior to elimination, Route 8 averaged 480 boardings per day, whereas Route 34 averaged 690 boardings per day. Although ridership is an important consideration, it's not the only factor we look at when we change service. You are correct that it is ultimately up to our Board of Directors what we do with the routes. We try to provide the Board with a balanced perspective from which they can make an informed decision, but these decisions are never easy.
Any plans to restore bus service in antelope soon? I heard route 100 used to serve there.
Reply: Please see the previous response on this route.
A "Transit Talk" participant earlier today asked a question about the new Connect Transit Card. You mentioned that several bugs were discovered during the pilot project. What were the bugs and how extensive were they? Does is appear, based upon how extensive the bugs were that the Connect Transit Card will not become real at least until sometime until Calendar Year 2015? Personally, I hope it is launched sooner rather than later. I hear many times over and over again community college students who enroll and then drop out and in turn, ride transit for free the remainder of an academic term. My belief is that if the Connect Transit Card launches in time for when school starts, you will eliminate much of what I have described above. Thank you.
Reply: There were 54 issues identified during the pilot. Many of the issues were minor and others were major. The issues included problems with the monthly pass functionality. This problem was recently corrected. Our goal is to finish the system and confirm that it works properly, before picking a go live date. Every day we are resolving and retesting elements of the new system. Our goal remains, to have a complete working system when we go live.
Over the last few years, our team has worked with the Los Rios Community College system to resolve the transit issues with people who drop classes. We believe that the work has greatly diminished this problem.
Are drivers supposed to leave buses with passengers on them? One driver got off at McDonalds on Bradshaw Road to get an ice cream cone which she then ate as she continued on. Another driver has stopped more than once at an ATM right next to a bus stop.
Reply: No, our operators are provided time for rest and meal breaks as part of their normal shifts. If they need to exit the bus while in route, they are instructed to first seek permission from our radio control. Permission is only granted on very rare occasions. If this happens in the future please contact us with detailed information about the bus and route number, time and location.
I wonder, do you have any plans for Antelope High School like most other high schools in the region to have a bus go by it? Also I'm curious if the city of Galt will possibly have light rail as part of south line phase 3 in the near future.
Reply: We have scouted out the Antelope HS area for potential transit service, but at this time, it's not on our list, due to there being a number of other areas with significant unmet needs. The potential route in and out of the area also has a lot of area with no development, sound walls, etc. which make transit unproductive. We used to run Route 100 to this general area, but this was a small peak-only route strictly for getting commuters to light rail, and ridership was fairly limited. As the area continues to grow and the infrastructure is improved, transit may be more feasible here, but we are still very limited by operating funds as well.
Also I was curious about the devices on board some buses that have a display that say "please tap to connect" or something like that. How do they work?
Reply: The devices you are describing have been installed as part of the upcoming Connect Transit Card project that you will soon be hearing quite a bit about. The Connect Card is a fare payment card that you will be able to use to buy media such as a monthly pass or store value on so that you can tap the card on the device and the amount of a single ride or daily pass will be deducted or it will recognize the pass you purchased. You will be able to buy media or load value either in person at RT's customer service center, retail locations or online through a website. Look for more information on the Connect Transit Card online at www.connecttransitcard.com More information will be added to the website as it becomes available.
When will light rail stations start showing real time train arrival time?
Reply: Later this year, we expect to have the real-time train arrival system in place and operational. As part of the move to real-time, we plan to change the way the signs present the arrival time from a time of day to the number of minutes before the train arrives.
Is there any chance of more trains or at least longer trains on weekends? There is a big problem with bicycles. I was on a train with 5 bicycles at the second half of one car, including 2 in the main aisles.
Reply: Thank you for your question - as you probably know, RT prides itself on being "bicycle friendly." Currently, we do not have the funds necessary to allow us to increase service frequency or train length on the weekends. However, when our current fleet is changed over to low-floor vehicles, additional bicycle spaces will be available. In the meantime we are modifying the oldest vehicles in the RT fleet to accommodate more wheelchairs and more bicycles.
You said that officers are telling smokers about the rules, but my daughter pointed a smoker out to a security officer; he thanked her and never even approached the smoker.
Reply: If you provide a time of day, date and location we can identify the security staff assigned and make sure that they are trained on the appropriate protocols as we implement the new policy. For these types of issues, please contact Customer Advocacy and they assign RT staff with responding to and correcting problems. They can be reached at 916 557-4545.
What about non-service animals on the trains? There was a passenger with her dog and bike at the back of the train. The dog started barking loudly, frightening children. Why do we see so few security officers on the weekend?
Reply: Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, RT is required to allow animals on board if the owner indicates that the animal is a service animal. No form of "identification" is required to establish service animal status. Therefore, the dog you described may, in fact, have been a service animal. However, the dog's behavior, as you describe it, is inappropriate and can subject the animal to removal. The security guard deployment is dictated by ridership and, given lower ridership on the weekends, there are fewer guards. If the behavior you observed occurs again, please advise any security personnel that you encounter on your trip and they can report the incident to RT.
The website seriously needs an update. It's not user friendly. Are there any plans to do this soon?
Reply: Our website is getting a bit dated. We are looking for additional funding to make improvement. I agree, it needs a major refresh.
There is no way to tell which bus is which at Arden del paso? Is RT doing anything to remedy?
Reply: At that location, we're somewhat limited. Because we're operating in a narrow curb lane on a busy street, we don't have the luxury of having designated berths, and we would have to go all the way around the block to shuffle buses around from the front to the back of the line. We do have plans to relocate transferring to Swanston, which may be the site of a future Capitol Corridor stop. This would solve the problem.
Comments from Mike Wiley:
The next session of Transit Talk is scheduled for Friday, August 1, 2014. Thank you for your questions and don't forget to take the SacramentoGO survey at SacramentoGO.com.