Green Line to the airport?

SacRT, and many local politicians, want the Green Line to the Airport to be the next big transit project in the region. I have doubts, and have written about them before (Green Line to the AirportOpen houses on Green Line to the Airportlinking the colleges?SacRT light rail extensions). Jarrett Walker, my favorite writer on transit, has posted Keys to Great Airport Transit, a great analysis of rail and bus transit to airports.

  1. Total travel time matters, not just in-vehicle time: Not sure how the Green Line measures up, but it is indicative that the Green Line to Township 9 (the current destination) runs on an infrequent schedule (60 minutes) during a small part of the day, because it is beyond the area where most people travel. The airport would also be beyond where most people travel, so is likely to have infrequent and short hours service.
  2. Combine air travelers and airport employees on the same train/bus: The Green Line might do OK on this, though light rail already suffers from the perception of higher income people (which is mostly who flies rather than takes the bus or train) that light rail is only for poor people.
  3. Connect the airport to lots of places, not just downtown, by providing a total network: Since the SacRT network fails pretty badly on connectivity already, it is likely that the Green Line will suffer from the same issue.
  4. Don’t interfere with the growth of other services: The Green Line is definitely a negative on this issue. The Green Line to the Airport would gobble up all the construction funds for years, as well as a large slice of operating funds. Fare recovery on the network is 23%, somewhat below average, but the extension would likely reduce this significantly. If distance-based fares (which SacRT has talked about but done no real planning towards) are implemented on the light rail system, the operating subsidy might be less, but it will still compare poorly with the rest of the system.
  5. If you can afford it, go via the airport instead of terminating there: Not applicable to the Green Line because there is nothing beyond the airport except agricultural fields, and a bit further out, sprawling suburbs that would never generate ridership.

I think the right solution for airport access is frequent bus service (15 minute frequency) from downtown to the airport, from 5:00AM to 12:00 midnight, for travelers and airport employees, and less frequent service from midnight to 5:00AM, for employees. The current Yolobus 42A/42B provides infrequent (60 minute) service from 5:30AM (6:30AM on weekends) to 10:00PM. In addition, there would need to be service from eastern Sacramento/Roseville, but I’ve thought less about how that would work.

Save our infrastructure funds for more productive routes!

Open houses on Green Line to the Airport

PrintSacRT is holding community open houses on the Green Line to the Airport in early December. December 1 in North Natomas, December 2 in Sacramento, and December 3 in South Natomas. Details are at http://www.sacrt.com/glopenhouse.stm.

As I’ve written before, I don’t think that an extension to the airport makes economic sense, with likely low ridership and high costs to get to the airport. But there are real opportunities for South Natomas, which is very much underserved by public transit.

I encourage you to attend one of the open houses, make your own decision, and then get involved to make sure that SacRT makes decisions that support transit access for lower income communities and economic development, connecting jobs to homes.

linking the colleges?

I attended the Blue Line extension to Cosumnes River College (CRC) Grand Opening this morning at Meadowview station and then at CRC station. It was a lot of fun. There were more politicians in one place that I think I’ve seen, and they were justifiably proud of their part in supporting this extension, some having worked on it for years. [Photos on Flickr]

A number of speakers talked about linking the colleges, in this case Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College. An increasing number of students apparently take classes at more than one campus in order to get the ones they need, so this extension is expected to help them, whether they don’t have a car or just choose to get around in a more convenient and more responsible way. Folsom Lake College’s Rancho Cordova Center is very close to the Mather/Mills light rail station. The Cosumnes River College’s Elk Grove Center will be on light rail if the Blue Line is extended to Elk Grove (Blue Line Phase 3). American River College’s Natomas Center will be on light rail if the Green Line is extended to Natomas. All of these connections are great, for students and for the community.

Unfortunately, American River College’s (ARC) main campus in North Highlands was barely mentioned. Brian King, Chancellor of Los Rios Community College District, said that ARC was served by a robust bus system. Unfortunately, that is not true. ARC is served by Route 1 (Greenback) on a 15 minutes frequency, and Route 82 (Howe-65th) on a 30 minute frequency, which is hardly robust service. Route 82 only runs until 9:30PM, missing students with later classes or who are staying to study, and who need to make connections to other buses or light rail to get back home.

Continue reading “linking the colleges?”

SacRT light rail extensions

SacRT is considering a number of extensions to the light rail system, beyond the opening of the Blue Line extension from Meadowview station to Cosumnes River College, which will occur August 24.

These are:

  1. lpa_mapGreen Line to the Airport, also known as DNA (Downtown, Natomas, Airport). This project is likely in two phases, first from the current end at Richards Blvd to somewhere in North Natomas, and second the rest of the way to the airport. Information on this project is on the SacRT website. This project is furthest along, and the draft EIS/EIR is now being prepared. The map of the “locally preferred alternative” is at right, and this links to the larger map on the SacRT website.
  2. Blue Line to Elk Grove. This project has been talked about, particularly as the line to CRC has approached completion and generated discussions of whether or not Elk Grove residents will be willing to change from bus to light rail at CRC. So far as I know, there are no publicly available documents on this extension, but it is included in the 2009 Transit Action Plan updated Scenario C (below).
  3. Blue Line Northeast Corridor. This project would extend the line to the northeast, to American River College, Citrus Heights, or Roseville. Though this project was part of the original vision of the light rail line when constructed back in the 1970s, it has not received much notice while I’ve been in Sacramento. So far as I know, there are no publicly available documents on this extension, but it is included in the 2009 Transit Action Plan updated Scenario C (below).

SacRT_TransitActionPlan-ScenarioC

Each of these extensions are worth exploring in detail, but for now I’m posting because I have two ideas I want to share.

Continue reading “SacRT light rail extensions”

SacRT gets grant for light rail car refurbishment

In the recently announced round of grants under the CalSTA Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, SacRT received funding to refurbish the remainder of light rail vehicles from San Jose. The money is from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund using proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions. The statewide total was $224M.

7. Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT) – Refurbishment of Seven Light Rail Vehicles
Award: $6,427,000
Refurbishment of the last 7 of 21 vehicles acquired from Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in order to support 15 min peak hour service frequencies throughout the RT light rail system and enable future limited stop service on the RT Gold and Blue Lines during the next 15 years. The project will result in increased ridership, eliminate impacts from the overhaul program needed on the rest of RT’s fleet, and connect residents in disadvantaged communities to jobs. Improved service on the system also increases the attractiveness of connectivity to Amtrak services and future High Speed Rail service at the Sacramento Intermodal Facility.

improving SacRT

The condition and future of Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT), particularly the light rail system, has been much in the news recently:

Everyone these days seems to want a better transit system. The problem is that no one wants to pay for a better transit system. The business leaders who suddenly want a modern, appealing, well-maintained light rail are the same ones that have worked over the years to suppress efforts at increasing the tax base for operation of the system.

Continue reading “improving SacRT”

SacRT machines accept cards

20140212-071219.jpg
sign for new fare vending machines

SacRT has joined the 20th century! There are now twelve fare vending machines that accept credit and debit cards for purchasing tickets. Though the machines are all located at light rail stations, the tickets can be used on SacRT buses as well. Most months I buy a monthly pass, but since in February I am gone about half the days, I decided to buy by the day, and it has been very convenient to have these machines. Though two of my most commonly used stations don’t have them. There are 52 stations on the light rail system, and each has one or more fare vending machines.

When I moved to Sacramento nearly three years ago, I was frustrated that the machines, which were clearly designed to accept cards, did not. Every other transit system I used in my travels did accept cards at some to all stations, and having a system that dealt only in cash was a disappointment.

20140212-072431.jpg
the credit/debit card slot and stickers

There will eventually be a region-wide fare card, similar to the Clipper card used in the Bay Area, for Sacramento. I don’t know whether this capability will be added to the existing machines, or whether new machines will be installed.

Lights at Arden-Del Paso, not

I was at the Arden – Del Paso light rail station this evening after seeing a play at Big Idea Theatre, waiting for the last Blue line train back downtown, and in walking around noticed a big problem with lights. Of the lights at the station, 40% were out. But there is a thicket of video cameras, more than ten. It seems strange to me that RT spent a considerably amount of money on video cameras, presumably to enhance security, but doesn’t spend money on replacing light bulbs, which would have a far more beneficial affect on security. Or, if the light standards need repair, then repairing them.

The Arden – Del Paso station is quite busy during the day, serving as a secondary transit hub with five bus routes as well as light rail. But it does not have the schedule messaging boards that many less busy stations have. With 40% of the lights out, none of the schedule boards can be read at night, so not only is there no indication of the time, there is no information available about the length of wait for the next train.

bike storage at light rail

bike lockers at SacRT light rail Glenn station in Folsom
bike lockers at SacRT light rail Glenn station in Folsom (SacRT rental, BikeLink, bike racks)

If you are a light rail user, you may have noticed bike storage lockers at some of the stations. Two types of lockers exist:

  1. rental lockers at 19 SacRT light rail stations, which are listed on the SacRT “Biking with RT” webpage
  2. on-demand lockers at 3 SacRT light rail stations in Folsom, plus the Folsom Pedal Stop bike station

The rental lockers work well for people who routinely commute the same route to and from work, and are leased for 6 months or 13 months at pretty reasonable rates. The downside to rental lockers is that they can be used by only one person, and are empty when not in use by that person. Mike Mattos, SacRT Chief of Facilities & Business Support Services Division, said that these lockers were mostly purchased at the time of rail extensions, and they are repaired and replaced from operating funds. They move lockers from one station to others as demand changes. They have explored on-demand systems, but have not installed any because they don’t feel that any vendors so far meet their criteria. He pointed out that the downside of on-demand systems for typical commuters is that they don’t then have a guaranteed space at their station.

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Bike capacity on light rail

Sportworks Interlock transit bike rack
Sportworks Interlock transit bike rack

The other item I want to talk about at the Unmet Transit Needs meeting today is bicycle capacity on SacRT’s light rail system. I’ve written about bikes on light rail previously, and won’t repeat that detailed post here, except to say again that SacRT is not meeting the needs of transit users with bicycles on the light rail system.

Sportworks makes two types of transit bicycle racks that could be used on SacRT light rail, the SwingLock and the Interlock. The SwingLock is basically an improvement to the bike rack hooks installed on the 200 series light rail cars, while the Interlock is a more complicated, more expensive, and more effective rack. I spoke to a Sportworks employee at ProWalk/ProBike last year, and he said they also design custom racks for transit systems where off-the-shelf solutions won’t work. I have family in Las Vegas, and when I’m visiting, I use the RTC-Southern Nevada transit system which has the Interlock installed in many of its newer articulated buses. The racks work great!