Comments from Mike Wiley:
As the Sunday, June 20 service changes date approaches, RT employees and customers have been preparing for the impact that it will have on the Sacramento region. In recognition of this, I would like to make the June 2010 service changes the focus of today's chat.
Over the past several months, staff has been busy working to update service information and educate riders concerned about their routes and schedules. Information about the service changes has been posted on RT's website, in all bus and light rail vehicles, and at all light rail stations and key bus stops.
Updated pocket timetables have been delivered and are available by request (please make note that there are now two different light rail pocket timetables - one for the Blue Line and one for the Gold Line). RT's website lists the affected routes with links to the new timetables, and the online trip planner reflects new schedule information when dates from June 20 and beyond are entered. RT's bus and light rail timetable book and system map, effective June 20, 2010, has been updated to reflect the service changes and will be available for purchase beginning on June 15.
From the front lines of bus and light rail operators to administrative staff, RT employees are doing their best to be knowledgeable of the changes and ready to answer questions.
The June 2010 service changes were a last resort for RT, but are a necessary step to financial stability after cost cutting and revenue generating measures could not compensate for falling tax revenues. As the economy recovers and revenues stabilize, a comprehensive recovery plan will be implemented to restore service levels.
In addition to the service changes, RT is also in the process of conducting ticket and pass exchanges for pre-paid fare media with a June 30, 2010 expiration date. Exchanges can be made through August 31 at the RT Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street (adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station).
Let's get started.
Why cant the machines be modified to take debit cards? At least at certain high traffic locations.
Your machines dont always take bills and believe it or not alot of us dont carry ten (10!!!) quarters on us all the time
Reply: The expense of adding credit and debit card processing to the ticket vending machines is prohibitive. Consequently, we looked for another way to provide support for these payment options. We will be implementing a "smart card." These new cards will allow a rider to pay with credit, debit or through a direct tie to your checking account. The rider will have the option of selecting which method to use. The project is in the final design stages and will be going out for vendor selection later this year. Many of the larger transit systems in the country have been moving to this new media over the last four or five years. The card will work on RT and the seven smaller transit systems in the SACOG region. Customers can reload the card or set it up to auto reload using credit, debit, checking account or with cash. These transactions can be executed online, at a sales outlet or at light rail stations. Another convenient aspect of the card is how quickly boarding buses can become. Riders just tap the card on the card reader on the farebox on the bus and the driver hears a good tone and sees a green light indicating that the passenger has valid fare.
Light rail passses should be distance and NOT time based. It shouldnt cost me $5 a day to ride from midtown to work downtown and back.
Reply: I absolutely agree. Our current fare system is not capable of supporting distance based fares. We will be replacing the current system with a "smart card" fare system late next year. After we move to smart card, we will be able to implement distance based fares. Riders with the smart card will tap on and tap off to take advantage of distance based fares. Watch for press releases and marketing materials as we progress toward system roll out.
I've noticed the train operators announcing the 16th St station closure next week when approaching the station. I appreciate these on board announcements.
Reply: We are trying to get the word out through as many channels as possible -- on-board announcements, signs at the stations, signage inside all of our rail vehicles and buses, information on our website, and mailings to owners, offices and residents within a block of the 16th Street Station and also of the 13th Street Station. We hope that this advance notice will minimize the inconvenience to patrons and the public.
Any progress in the past month on the funding for the planned line down to CRC?
Reply: Thanks for that timely question. In fact, I met with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials in April and presented the first stages of our plan to achieve a balanced budget by June 30, 2011. This is the first stage in a long process, by which RT will demonstrate to FTA that the recently adopted service reduction can be reversed, and that the RT budget can remain in balance over the next 20 years. These are the conditions that the federal government regulations require before we can proceed with the light rail extension to CRC. I hope to receive federal approval to move to the next step of the federal process, Final Design, by the end of 2010, and start construction by the summer of 2011. Our current schedule calls for service to begin by the end of 2014.
Any plans for a direct stop at Raley Field?
Reply: Right now there are no plans to provide direct service to Raley Field. However, it is an important stop in transit services that will link Sacramento and West Sacramento in the coming years. It figures in current West Sacramento streetcar plans, and will be an important consideration in the Comprehensive Operational Analysis that RT is starting in the next couple of months.
Does RT have any partnerships with local businesses like restaurants, where I can show my LR ticket and get a discount?
Reply: At the current time we do not have these type of partnerships in place. However, we have provided these in past years and we are in the early development stages of a similar program to provide discounts through local vendors.
Are closures planned for any other light rail stations in addition to 16th st in the near future? I see work being done at 13th street too.
Reply: Yes, we do have a closure planned for 12th & I Station, for about three weeks in order to replace the vertical in-ground lift with a ramp (similar to the work being done at 16th Street Station) and add a new shelter. The 12th & I Station closure has not yet been scheduled but will probably occur this summer or early fall.
The work at 13th Street Station is being done without any closure of the station during light rail service hours, although there will be some work at night when light rail does not operate.
When putting your bike on the bus, is it recommended you lock the tire to the frame so people will have a harder time running off with it?
Reply: No, we do not recommend that you lock your bike to the bike rack. I have personally used the bike racks many times and have experienced no problems. I do recommend that you sit in a seat or stand on the bus where you can keep an eye on your bike.
Why is the 16th Street station being totally closed? Couldn’t it be kept open on a limited basis?
Reply: The work at the 16th Street Station next week includes removing the vertical in-ground lift at the inbound mini-high platform and replacing it with a ramp, and installing shelters on the mini-high platforms at each end of the station. These are tasks that cannot be done while the station is open to the public. Some of this is being done as night work, but the construction of the ramp will take about a week, during which the mini-high platform (for the mobility-impaired) will not be accessible. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) we must close the station to complete this work.
Is there a study in place for more effective Light Rail Routes that will lower the need for buss routes ultimately saving RT money???
Reply: The Regional Transit Board of Directors adopted our TransitAction Plan last August that envisions a significant expansion of rail service to many areas of Sacramento. Rail is planned to be developed in areas where ridership will be most productive. In addition TransitAction calls for major growth in bus service.
RT is currently initiating a Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA). The COA is intended to help RT to re-design its service in a way that reflects how Sacramento has grown over the last 20 years.
With furloughs hopefully ending in July, does RT expect to see an increase in monthly pass sales from state workers who will be heading back to work on Fridays?
Reply: Yes, the economics of the monthly pass make it a "good deal" for state employees who are able to work 20 to 22 days per month. The last few months state employees have found it more economical to buy ticket books, using only the tickets that they needed. The cost difference is $15 per month, and if the employees take any additional days for sick leave or vacation, the cost difference is even greater. Without furlough Fridays, the monthly ticket saves the state workers $10 over the cost of individual fares.
Is RT trying to do anything about the long lines that develop during the beginning of each month at the customer service center?
Reply: Yes. We added online sales for monthly passes last month. Next year, with the roll out of the "smart card" customers will have an array of ways to pay; including online by credit, debit and direct account and at light rail stations and other sales outlets. We also have increased the number of customer service representatives in the sales center during the peak sales times of the month. Finally, we now begin to sell monthly passes on the 20th of the month.
Did Folsom ever decide if they were going to reduce their service due to city budget problems?
Reply: That is a very current subject under discussion between Folsom and RT. We are looking at a wide variety of options to try to reduce the cost of transit service to Folsom. We'll keep you apprised as the discussions progress.
Did RT calculate the tax credit refund to public transportation systems of 50 cents per gallon equivalent of natural gas passed by the House of Representatives in May?
Reply: Yes. RT planned on this passing and assumed these funds would be part of the upcoming budget. We also assumed that the legislation would be retroactive to January 2010. I have been very active in supporting and lobbying for this legislation.
Are new pocket time tables available at the sales center yet?
Reply: The new timetables are available online and by request prior to the service changes. Call 321-BUSS (2877) and speak to a call center representative and they will send you timetables, if you are unable to download them.
SS JUST GOT ON WHY DO YOU NOT SELL TICKET BOOKS TO THE REST OF US I DONT USE RT ENOUGH TO WARRENT A 100 DOLLAR PASS
Reply: We do sell ticket books and have for about thirty years. You can purchase them at many sales outlet locations including the RT Customer Service and Sales Center, most major state agencies, and supermarkets. A complete list is available online.
THANKS FOR THE ONLINE OPTION ITS MUCH EASIER
Reply: You're welcome.
How do you see high speed rail affecting the funding of regular public transit like RT in California?
Reply: In the short range, Proposition 1D (which provided state bond funding for high speed rail) also included money, approximately $800 million, for local rail transit that connects to proposed high speed rail stations. Because of RT's light rail connection to the Sacramento Valley Station, we will be in line for some of that funding. In the long range, high speed rail will encourage more people and businesses to locate in downtown Sacramento, and the ridership on light rail and bus connections provided by RT and other regional transit agencies can only benefit. There may be adverse impacts if high speed rail competes for the same public funding that RT does, but that does not appear to presently be the case.
What’s the latest from Washington D.C. with regards to the nationwide struggling transit industry?
Reply: The federal government has been trying valiantly to come up with new programs and initiatives in support of public transit, but it faces a philosophical hurdle - it is primarily focused on capital programs. So, funds have been cobbled together for TIGER II, TIGGER II, State of Good Repair, Clean Fuels, and similar capital grant proposals. These all provide a chance for transit agencies to receive capital funding, which they then must find local fund to match with. That is the big issue - very few transit agencies have ready sources of funds for local match. Most of them are struggling to come up with operating funds.
The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has proposed a bill to authorize up to $2 billion in operating assistance for transit agencies nationwide. However, that bill would have to pass the full Senate, then the House, and because it is an authorizing act, it would still need both houses to appropriate the funds to pay for the bill. In the current election year, this is a very long shot. In spite of that, I sent a letter to both our state senators urging them to support this legislation.
After June, does RT anticipate further reductions in service and/or staff? If so, to what extent?
Reply: At this point I am not planning any further service reductions. There are three phases of staff reductions. The first phase is complete. The second phase is occurring with the service reduction later this month and the third is scheduled at the end of the summer. As we move through the next budget year, we will make adjustments based upon the actual revenues and costs. We expect the coming year to be full of challenges. The stark realities of the budget year and the measures we've put in place are prudent and balanced.
When will RT have enough funds to begin adding the bus/train service that was recently cut?
Reply: Our hope is to begin restoring service in fiscal year 2012. Our current financial capacity analysis indicates that we will fully restore the service levels within five years. A full presentation of this analysis is scheduled for the June 14th Regional Transit Board of Directors meeting.
How will people be able to differentiate between the updated and old pocket timetables?
Reply: The new pocket timetables are white and they have a June 20, 2010 date on them.
When do you envision completing the Comprehensive Operational Analysis and presenting the findings to the public?
Reply: Actually, we will be reaching out to the public to complete the Comprehensive Operational Analysis (COA), so the findings will be known as they unfold. A significant part of the COA is public outreach and input. We are hoping to present the results to the RT Board for adoption by June of 2011.
I am with a state agency. Who do we speak with to find out how the Smart Card will be set up? We sell merchandise at subsidized cost. I'm concerned we may need to reprogram our system and we'll need lead time.
Reply: Contact Mike Mattos at 556-0300 or via e-mail at email@example.com and he can assist you.
Does RT plan to continue to staff contract security on its vehicles and/or around the stations. I believe it's a vital to public safety. Just their presence acts as a deterrent.
Reply: I agree that security is very important and we plan on maintaining this vital service.
What is the current financial state of RT? And, will RT be absorbed by a government agency due to their financial crisis?
Reply: The current financial state of RT is dire, but not hopeless. We have just presented our preliminary budget to the RT Board, and will be holding a public hearing on June 14. The budget we have developed indicates that we can return to balance by June 30, 2011. That estimate is based on very conservative projections of revenue growth. There are no plans for RT to be absorbed by another agency.
where are ticket books avalible for purchese
Reply: The timetable book lists three pages of outlets where you can purchase tickets. This is available online at www.sacrt.com as well. If you don't have a timetable book or Internet access, please call 321-BUSS (2877) and speak to a call center representative. They can guide you to an outlet close to your location.
How are you planning to cross the river for the Green Line?
Reply: The portion of the Green Line that would cross the American River is still in early planning. However, the "Locally Preferred Alternative" takes the tracks north on Sequoia Pacific Boulevard toward the river, and a light rail-bicycle-pedestrian bridge carries the tracks across the river to touch down at Truxel Road. The actual form and construction method for the bridge remains very much in discussion.
When will RT begin laying tracks on 7th St? I use this street a few times a week to get over to Richards and would like to know when I need to make other plans, if at all.
Reply: Construction is just getting underway, but laying tracks will begin by the end of summer. Contact Jo Noble at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our project update list. This will provide you with frequent updates on the project.
Comments from Mike Wiley:
Thank you for your participation in the chat today. Please revisit past editions to view previous RT question and answer sessions. We'll be back next month on Friday, July 2, from noon to 1 p.m. just before the Independence Day holiday weekend.