Silver lining on RT’s 2009 rate increase

If you’re an RT user I’m sure you know that fares are going up in 2009. An extra two bits for a single fare, and actually also an extra quarter for a transfer, up to 50 cents. So a basic ticket plus transfer is $2.75, almost double the same type of fare on SF Muni, I’m discouraged to learn. However I suppose you could pretend that all of SF would be within the “Central City zone” for Sac RT, in which case a comparable fee will only be $1.60. But that takes some pretending.

However, the silver lining is that RT riders will not experience any service cuts when 2009 comes. In fact, according to the latest “Next Stop News” the only service changes will actually be additional service on several lines.

I like RT’s General Manager Mike Wiley’s moxie; the press release about 2009 fare increases quotes Wiley: “RT could not absorb an $18.3 million raid by the state of California without asking our riders to pay more…”

What do you think though, RT riders? Increased costs or service cuts? Are you going to be happy to pay more knowing that at least for the time being you won’t have to deal with changes to your route?

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

30 thoughts on “Silver lining on RT’s 2009 rate increase”

  1. I think that for a Governor who is as concerned with blaming every hardship California endures on global warming, it’s remarkable that there is absolutely no incentive by the state to encourage its citizens, by way of county subsidies on public transportation, to take more environmentally friendly ways to work.

    But then again, is this surprising? The man flies to work every day.

    It’s shameful that it costs $100 per month to purchase a transit pass. With the price of gas right now, I can fill up my car almost 2.5 times- which is all I need for my monthly commute to work. Especially in this economic climate, what’s the point of being inconvenienced by public transportation if there’s no cost-saving trade-off?


  2. Actually, all RT buses use non-petroleum alternative fuels that are alcohol based (so ya know it’s a fun ride home), mineral fuels, natural gas, and hydrogen.

    The state does give employees a subsidy on monthly passes to the tune of 65% of the cost of a monthly pass. I’ve been taking RT to work for 9 years. Does the county not offer this Game Guy?


  3. Hair notwithstanding, The Game Guy is correct on all points- ‘cept gas is even cheaper now. Extrapolated to its logical end conclusion, no Public Transportation can work in a free market (take that you commie LR riders). Meanwhile, I’m unwilling to risk my life in Sacramento’s cesspool called “public transportation” even if it does help “the environment.”


  4. Turty Squip, when have markets ever been absolutely free? Never! But I think you know that. We’ve got a socialized banking system on our hands thanks to the geniuses that run the banks. Although you’ve got a point on the risks of riding RT…sometimes I think I’m on the 38 Geary in San Francisco.


  5. Turty conveniently forgets that tax dollars pay for the streets he drives on, and highways are the most expensive form of “public transit” ever saddled onto the taxpayer’s back, even more so than the massive subsidies paid to airlines and the air travel infrastructure.

    I don’t think that Game Guy is talking about subsidy for county employees (although I could be wrong) but rather incentives paid by the county to reduce the cost of transit for its residents. To me, if the state wants to make public transit a priority, the state should be providing the funds–or, as has been the case in recent years, STOP CUTTING FUNDING to public transit projects…by, just as a for-example, reducing expenditures on new freeways. Passing costs along to counties and cities just shifts the budget deficits around, and allows more regional planning to take place than on a county-by-county system.

    It may be small relief to know this, but the city of New York isn’t just raising fares, they’re also cutting service on their subways. We aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch.


  6. Only about 1/20th of Muni’s full range would fit inside our central city district, so that’s a pretty big stretch.

    Until we see this sort of infrastructure cost as an actual investment in our society and future – things everyone benefits from in a thousand ways – use taxes, no matter how unfair, will continue to be the only way to pay for them.


  7. Y’all are missing the real reason people don’t ride RT in Sacramento: It doesn’t go to and from where people need to go in a timely manner.

    Case in point, my commute from Natomas to Rancho Cordova, 2.5 hours on RT and I would need to walk over 2 miles, each way, uphill in the snow, on the Rancho Cordova side. If it even took 1.5 hours (3 times as long as driving) but got me within a few hundred feet of my office, I’d do it. RT has yet to realize that more people work in Rancho Cordova and Folsom than in Downtown, yet they provide 1/4 the amount of services that the “Central City District” receives.

    Getting citizens from the housing centers (Natomas, Elk Grove, Folsom) to the work centers (Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Downtown) isn’t the priority of RT. Whining and bitching constantly about their lack of funding is their priority. You want more funding? Put some buses and trains out there that people can actually ride.

    I’ve said it on here before and I’ll say it again, if you charged people a $10 surcharge to ride on the “Airport LRT Line” they’d line up to pay it, and it would pay for your little railroad in no time.

    And who’s genius idea was it to make light rail go 1 mile west of Arden Fair instead of having an “Arden Fair Station?” Look at the light rail in Minneapolis. There’s an entire transit center in the Mall of America with buses and light rail. Why? Because people want to go there.

    People don’t want to go to Old Town Folsom, people want to go to the work centers on Bidwell and Prairie City. People don’t want to go to the Walmart in Rancho Cordova, they want to go to their jobs off of White Rock Road, across the freeway, uphill in the snow from the light rail line. Sac State figured it out and starting providing their own shuttle from light rail because RT figured that the 65th St station was “close enough” to attract the 29k people who attend Sac State. They don’t want to go to the Royal Oaks Post Office on light rail, they want to go to Arden Fair or the State Fair. And no one, except for the 50 people who work for the Office of State Printing, want to go to the intersection of N. 7th and Richards (the next planned spur for LRT), they want to go to Natomas, and Arco Arena, and the Airport.

    So cry all you want about how the price of bus passes is putting the buses out of business. The reality is that the misdirection and misapplication of public transit and its lack of public service will spell its ultimate demise in Sacramento.


  8. T Mc nailed it, I think. I am lucky enough now to have a slick commute on LRT, but I spent a few years commuting from Tahoe Pk to Natomas. I have to assume they don’t just make these decisions on a roll of the dice, there must be some research behind it, I don’t know. Some of those details are laughable though, like the Royal Oaks stop.

    I think there are geographical challenges that are going to be impossible to overcome, and just planning decisions that basically make a lot of solutions impossible. I mean there is never going to be an expressway from I-50 to Roseville, right? We’re just always going to have to boomarang through midtown or take surface streets through CH.

    I’m pretty sure that 7th & N extension is part of that “building for neighborhoods that don’t exist yet” problem I have mentioned several times.

    Turty, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. The NY subway system is probably (service cuts notwithstanding) one of the finest examples of public transportation, and NY is basically the home of the free market.


  9. Rights-of-way for what would be ideal transit lines or roadway projects (I-80/US50 connector, or another American River crossing) were sold off decades ago to make way for the sprawl that’s plaguing us now.

    There are plenty of studies that have been done on the suburb-to-suburb commutes of which you speak, using figures from the Census and substantiated by SACOG’s Household Travel Survey and on-board transit surveys — so the officials at least know that this is an issue; however, the public coffers can’t buy back these rights-of-way to fund LRT lines to support the burb-to-burb commutes.

    Public transit is a small piece of the puzzle; there also needs to be more investment in bicycle and pedestrian facilities and in intelligent transportation systems that improve public safety, reduce traffic congestion, lessen impact on the environment by reducing idling engines in traffic, and reduce wear and tear on the roadways (and drivers’ nerves.) None of these non-transit components, mind you, raises any kind of revenue at all. Farebox revenues on buses and trains comprise only a tiny part of public transit projects — it would be downright shocking to have riders pay what it truly costs them to get from point A to point B.

    DMZ is right about NYCT — it’s the easiest way to get around there. I think that the 7th and N extension is the first step in the planned DNA line (Downtown-Natomas-Airport).


  10. Suburb-to-suburb commutes, as RunnerGirl notes, are always going to be inefficient on public transit because it’s pretty much impossible to make enough public transit lines to go from everywhere to everywhere. Neighborhoods like we have now, where there are huge swaths of just residential neighborhoods, huge swaths of just job centers, and huge swaths of just retail, are artifacts of the automobile age. It’s very, very difficult to serve car-centric neighborhoods with public transit, because they work in very different ways. Cars can go pretty much from anyplace to anyplace, at the whim of the operator, while transit systems are most efficient when using a feeder model, from outlying regions to a central point. This almost always means that it will take more time to get from one outlying neighborhood to another outlying neighborhood, because you have to transfer at some central point.

    Prior to the automobile era, people lived pretty close to where they worked, and either walked or took a transit line. Population densities were generally higher, and retail locations were dispersed throughout the neighborhood. There were central business and retail districts, and transit lines generally radiated from there to outlying suburbs, but most suburbs had their own job centers. Commuting from one city to another city was pretty rare, although streetcars and interurban transit allowed the first long-distance commuting. Generally this was an unusual situation: for the most part, if you worked someplace really far away, you’d just move closer to your job.

    As a result, public transit tends to work best if you live relatively close to where you work, and if at least one end of your commute is in the central city.

    The 7th & Richards extension (not 7th & N, there is already a Light Rail line there) is indeed part of the airport line–it would be difficult, after all, to get a light rail line out to the airport without running a light rail line north in the general direction of the airport. 7th & Richards is the first phase of this expansion.

    Running the light rail line to neighborhoods that don’t exist yet is part of the solution, CoolDMZ, as I have mentioned before, not a problem. You build the transit first, THEN the neighborhood–that’s how transit-oriented development is supposed to work. If you build the neighborhood first, you end up with Laguna West or North Natomas–car-centric neighborhoods that become very hard to serve with transit later, because they were designed for cars. With a transit line in place, the Railyards and Township 9 developments have immediate access to transit, and can actually build the kind of transit-oriented neighborhood we haven’t built here in Sacramento for almost a century.


  11. T Mc is right on. Google’s “get there by public transportation” feature in their maps is a great way to compare- and they include Sac! My commute is 15 mins by car. With public transportation: over 2 freakin hours (including 1/2 hour of waitin’ around time), plus a walk of half a mile (I’d rather not in the rain).

    wburg & Moe- I’ll think about that while I’m driving to work and waiting to pay the toll. Oh- wait- THERE ARE NO TOLL ROADS in Sacramento. So RT gets built via tax dollars, and then charges a toll on top? CoolDMZ- $1 billion ain’t free market. [dubya-dubya- dubya]


  12. wburg: I guess I think it does not have to be either/or. I understand what you’re saying about transit oriented development, but I still don’t understand ignoring the rest of the problems with the service map and building transit for people who are going to live downtown. Are these people going to work in Roseville or Rancho? If that’s the case then they’ll still be screwed as others have noted. If they’re going to work downtown well, they’ll live downtown. Even if they work in Natomas they’ll be pretty screwed; none of them with cars are going to look at the existing 1-hour wait times for buses to and around Natomas and decide to take RT. Just ask Tom Skerritt. (I can’t believe I’m the first one to drop a Singles reference, in all the posts we’ve done about public transit!)

    Turty Squip: I suppose you meant that public transit wouldn’t work if the free market was solely responsible for building it. But I think it probably would, and it would probably be better — and if you look into your heart I think you would admit that you’d have to agree. I am in favor of smaller government, so we’re just haggling about whether infrastructure should be part of the essential offerings of government or not. I think it should.


  13. I’d go for that. But it would be too expensive right now with lightrail, bus for this, bus for that (too many freakin’ bus companies/agencies runing around, and they all appear rather heavily subsidized), train, etc. Just run one type of local public transport, plus a decent Amtrack type for long trips. Fund them properly, or don’t do it at all. Stop making them compete against each other. Go to the freakin’ airport! It’s all too cobbled together and half-assed now, and it makes me want to scrap the whole thing, and tell the providers to stop bickering and work together (how long have we been talking about getting light rail to the airport?), or lose public funding.


  14. @ wburg: “As a result, public transit tends to work best if you live relatively close to where you work, and if at least one end of your commute is in the central city.”

    That was exactly my point. Sacramento shouldn’t live and die by the beloved Central City. Downtown and the Central City have taken on a “Serna-esque” quality in this town, where no one ever questions their virtue. In 1999 (latest data I could find) 88k people worked in Rancho Cordova alone. Downtown Sacramento only beat it by 11k people. And, as someone who commutes up and down 50 every day, I’d submit that the tide has changed on that in the last 9 years and RC has more workers than Downtown (RC has room to expand, DT is the same size it’s been for 60 years).

    Another stat is where people live. In 1999 35k people lived Downtown. Out of a little over a million in our region. More people lived in S. Natomas in 1999 (9 years ago, before the building boom) than in Downtown.

    The thesis of my original comment was: RT mismanages their resources. On the Central City map for RT, 27 bus routes and 2 light rail routes are represented. By comparison, Rancho Cordova (in roughly the same square mileage and same workforce) has 8 bus lines and one light rail line. S. Natomas has 4 bus routes and no rail. RT throws the bulk of their resources at 10% of the population and shows no signs of changing that behaviour.

    I’m all for charging people more, if you give them the services they need. I realize we’ll never charge them what it really costs, but 108k people a day ride on RT, according to their own stats (which is likely 54k people to and from work). If you put the service where it needed to go and only doubled your ridership (216k) and raised fares to $4, you would take in $224M per year. That buys a lot of track (or at least makes a lot of lease payments). This isn’t rocket science, it’s supply and demand. The trouble is this agency operates like government and supply and demand and the needs of the citizens have no bearing on their decisions.

    And, wburg, I realize the spur to Richards is the eventual Natomas/Airport line for LRT, but the estimate is that it will take ten years (I heard this directly from Mike Wiley) to build even the Natomas portion. Why do we need to build the spur to Richards now to wait ten years to build it to the airport? Action is not necessarily progress.


  15. T Mc: We can build the Richards extension now, or we can build it later. There are persuasive reasons to build the extension now: there are job centers in the Richards area, including the city’s Development Services office,

    CoolDMZ: If someone’s job is in Roseville, they should live in Roseville. If someone’s job is in Natomas, they should live in Natomas. If someone’s job is in downtown Sacramento, they should live in downtown Sacramento. If someone’s job is in Rancho Cordova, they should live in Rancho Cordova. Are you sensing a pattern yet? The idea of people living in one city and working in an entirely different city is ridiculously inefficient. It will never make sense, and it is only feasible because of our massively subsidized freeway system.

    Given my druthers, I’d prefer to see the small cities around Sacramento have their own feeder-line systems, either buses or streetcars, to carry people from local residential neighborhoods to local job centers. By building in a transit-oriented fashion, with residential mixed in with retail uses, along commuter routes instead of spread-out cul-de-sacs, public transit, walking and riding become far more efficient. Light rail isn’t a streetcar, it is more formally an interurban system, like BART or the old Pacific Electric (admittedly, on a much smaller scale) intended to carry people between nearby cities.

    Note that, with this system, working in one city and living in another will still be a huge pain in the butt, because it’s stupid, and it should be a pain in the butt.

    Turty Squirp: You’re still paying for freeways with your tax money, it just isn’t coming out of your pocket the same way as fares collected when you board public transit. If you had to fork the money out of your wallet every day to drive on public streets, instead of paying it as part of your taxes, you might feel differently about it.

    Oh yeah: Public transit USED to work in a free-market fashion: streetcar companies were private, for-profit companies, typically operated in conjunction with power or land development companies. They didn’t become unprofitable until the government got into the business of paying for roads capable of handling automobiles. Similarly, railroads’ passenger service was profitable until freeways came along, stealing both a lot of long-distance passenger traffic and, more importantly, US Mail traffic (just about every long-distance passenger train also carried US mail.)


  16. To continue my response to T Mc:

    T Mc: We can build the Richards extension now, or we can build it later. There are persuasive reasons to build the extension now: there are job centers in the Richards area, including the city’s Development Services office, and remember the Greyhound station is going to relocate there. Once the funds and political will to build an extension into Natomas exists, it will be made much easier if there is an existing, operating line to Richards to build on.

    It’s also generally cheaper to build a project now than later.


  17. wburg: I’m sorry, but that is extremely silly. What if somebody lives and works in Roseville, and loses their job, and takes the next one that comes up which happens to be in Natomas or Rancho, so as to be able to pay the bills and such? What about sales reps or other folks with no home base for work?


  18. Hmm… Like “Universal Healthcare”- “Universal Housing”!! Everyone gets an equal space to live in, provided by their “employer.”


  19. CoolDMZ: Then they deal with the extra aggravation of a long commute until they can afford to move to Natomas or Rancho. The only way to make long-distance commutes easier is through massive public expense, either by increasing freeways (which is a temporary, highly expensive solution) or increasing public transit (which loses efficiency when applied to a non-centralized system.) Neither solution works as well as trying to localize jobs.

    Sales reps and other people with no home base don’t have a regular commute, so this doesn’t apply to them. People with home offices obviously don’t need to commute, and migrant workers have to follow the work, so they don’t necessarily have fixed residences. However, let’s say a sales rep wants to expand into a new territory. He can base his operations near the center of the local transit hub, and use its radial design to visit sites around that city, using the central location to visit customers. Or, he can just use a car. I’m not suggesting we do away with roads and cars, my problem is with car-centric urban design.

    Turty Squirp: No, just housing the way people used to live until the past couple of decades–people have ALWAYS lived close to their jobs, and if the jobs moved, the people moved. At least until the advent of “Universal Highways,” a taxpayer-funded (not subsidized, but entirely funded) social program to provide roads everywhere.


  20. wburg: Again, this is a very silly idea. Peoples’ jobs relocate all the time, they can’t always pick up and move. Sure, most people would love to find a job that is a block from their house. And most people who relocate to an area would love to find a place to live that is 2 blocks from their new job. But this is not something you can or should enforce on society.


  21. CoolDMZ: This “very silly idea” is exactly how most people have lived up until the early 20th century. The idea of being able to live and work in places so distant from each other is very recent. It has historically been the exception, but since the dominance of the freeway it has become the rule. It does have its conveniences, like not necessarily having to move when one changes jobs (increased mobility) but it also has costs. And the way things are going, the costs (like spending 10-20 hours a week in your car driving to and from work, in addition to all that tax spending and air pollution stuff) are starting to outweigh the benefits.

    I’m not even talking about 2 blocks–how about 2-3 miles? And it’s not something that would have to be “enforced;” this makes the very silly assumptuon that somehow freeways just naturally grow, that humans don’t have anything to do with paying for or constructing them.

    In fact, the same superhighways that make it easier for people to live in one city and work in another make it possible for workplaces to relocate! So if you de-emphasize cars, you also remove some of the incentive for businesses to relocate as much as they do (new suburban growth and new freeway construction incentivizes moving to new suburbs that offer lower rents, lower tax rates, etcetera.) This means less need to relocate when offices move.


  22. Yea, like when people work in Manhattan but live in Queens. They take the freeway, right? Oh crap, I think they take the subway.

    Okay, okay, how about living in Pleasanton and working in Oakland? No, there’s BART. Crap, another bad analogy.

    My point, wburg, is not that we shouldn’t have transit centered development (like Fargo and Tretheway advocated and then voted against), we absolutely should have job centers and housing centers in the same place. But at the same time we need to realize that we need to send transit from where people are now to where they want to go now. And I think RT does a terrible job of that.

    I also think its one of the things that holds Sacramento back. Most quality cities have great transit. You can get to Pac Bell Park and SFO and the Oakland Coliseum on BART. You can get to the Mall of America, the Metrodome, the Airport and the Target Center in Minneapolis on rail. In Portland you can go to the airport, PGE Park… I’m rambling. My point is, you can’t go to Arco Arena on Light Rail. You can’t go to Cal Expo, or even Arden Fair on Light Rail. You can go to Meadowview or the Denny’s at Watt & I-80. To be fair you can visit the outlet mall in Folsom, and the train station downtown is finally connected. But for Sacramento to be great, or even to be better than we are, we need to stop living and dying by Downtown. We need to give the citizens (or taxpayers, if you prefer) more choices, more accessibility, and more services. RT’s balance of transit is pointed towards Downtown, and there are many other places and people that get forgotten.

    And all this from a guy who lives off freeway construction.


  23. T Mc: And, as I said in my original response, the main reason why RT does a terrible job of that is because we don’t give them enough money to do anything more than a terrible job, outside of the central city. Triple or quadruple their funding, and then maybe we’ll see some improvement–but we’ll still have to reshuffle the way we build cities to ensure that we aren’t just wasting three times as much money.


  24. Whereas I think they’re mis-directing the funds they already get and they have a serious lack of vision and creativity. It makes me loathe to give them more, and it makes me unsympathetic that fares are going up.


  25. And that’s why I thought it was heartening that the RT board refused to cut services; at least if you’re going to take people places they don’t want to go, do it on a schedule that works for them! You’re probably both right in the end, though; more money spent more wisely.


  26. The good news is that the planets have aligned to bring us the ideal combination of favorable factors that will (hopefully) result in some positive changes:

    – Political will
    – Influx of public funding
    – Public interest

    Billions upon billions of dollars are purported to soon be invested into infrastructure projects, both big and small — not only for major federal investment projects, but also relatively minor tweaks to our existing system. Moreoever, local governments might be getting some help with the local match funds they need to have federal funds earnmarked for their projects.

    Gas prices have prompted individuals to make concessions on their transportation. Who *hasn’t* thought twice about the vehicle trips he or she really needs to make in the past year or so? And who hasn’t given some serious thought to his or her current mode of transportation and how to reduce trips and save money?

    These factors are just what we need to beef up our transit systems, improve our existing roadways, and maximize the use of what we already have.


  27. That would be “earmarked” not “earnmarked.” (What happened to our being able to edit comments? 🙂 )


  28. NYC’s subway system is pretty impressive, but I must say the Mexico City subway is quite impressive as well. It moves over 7/8 million people a day and pretty efficiently as well. I spent a year living there and my commute was 17-20 minutes from cenral Mexico City to Coyoacan, a nice wealthy suburb 20 miles away that housed the school I was attending.


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