Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

Moderator: lensovet

  by bellstbarn
Next week I hope to visit Sacramento for the first time. Besides visiting the Museum and seeing heavy rail action, I'd like to tour the entire light rail system. However, I am having a hard time distinguishing the routes by comparing the system map with Google hybrid (satellite and street maps). We will use a motel on Tribute Road near Cal Expo, and the nearest Light Rail stations would appear rather far away and without parking. Any suggestions? Are any stations of the light rail off-limits because the neighborhood is questionable even in daytime? Regarding either light or heavy rail, do police bother rail photographers? Many thanks!

  by Easy
I was there earlier this year, but I only took pictures in the downtown area. Nobody said anything negative.

  by bellstbarn
On September 27 and 28, 2007, I did explore about two-thirds of the Sacramento light rail system. I am answering my own inquiry as a help to other railfans. While posted regulations that persons on the platforms must have valid tickets and board the next train out (therefore, no loitering), about a fourth of the stations are in neighborhoods that attract vagrants, homeless, or lay-abouts. I saw Wackenhut security guards active at most stations, both those in "less-safe" neighborhoods and the busy outlying stations. On the one hand, guards provide security; on the other, they could become pests to railfans, especially given the "next train out" rule. I parked my rental car (with touristy Utah plates, unfortunately) at the "safe" Power Inn station. When I went directly to the vending machine to buy a day pass ($2.50 senior!), the lady Wackenhut guard immediately approached, "Can I help you, sir?" I did not have a chance to study the machine, as she punched the buttons for me. I inquired about photography. "You can take photos of the trains, but not with any people in the picture." (Irritable drug dealers?) I asked about nearby fast-food, and she pointed to Wendy's, reached by a pedestrian overpass from the north platform.
I was glad to see that the system is much used and has some fast running. The next morning, I parked at Roseville Road about 7 a.m. and boarded a crowded four-car train for downtown and Meadowview. The Meadowview branch had large numbers boarding both outbound and inbound. Despite the 64 seats per articulated car (twenty more than an R-160), some folk sat in the steep stairwells.
Most of the outlying stations have no fast food or rest rooms in sight, but the Iron Point Road station on the lengthy Folsom branch is a rarity in American transit. It lies adjacent to an upscale outlet mall, with restrooms, an Applebees and other food. The mall's website gives directions by car and by limo, not by public transit, almost as if they don't want business from the less wealthy.
Here is a link to a well-written blog by an RT motorman:

  by jwhite07
My one and only visit to Sacramento was in 1996, so my info is waaay dated (and pre-9/11), but I recall no problems photographing anywhere there.

While we're on the subject of SACRT, I know they purchased some secondhand UTDC LRVs from San Jose (which I also visited in 1996)... but I've never seen any mention or photos that indicates RT actually uses them. Do they, or did the CAF order pretty much make it unneccessary? If they don't use them, what happened to them?

  by bellstbarn
You pose a good question. When I rode past the Swanston carhouse twice during that morning rush hour, the San Jose cars were on the far side of the yard, west of the buildings, as if they were not needed in rush hour. I think (but cannot be certain) that the pantographs were raised.

  by Easy
bellstbarn wrote:When I went directly to the vending machine to buy a day pass ($2.50 senior!), the lady Wackenhut guard immediately approached, "Can I help you, sir?" I did not have a chance to study the machine, as she punched the buttons for me. I inquired about photography. "You can take photos of the trains, but not with any people in the picture." (Irritable drug dealers?) I asked about nearby fast-food, and she pointed to Wendy's, reached by a pedestrian overpass from the north platform.
I wouldn't accept that at face value, especially since it makes no sense. How could Sacramento RTD possibly have have a rule that states that photography of trains, but not people are allowed?!? She was obviously making up her own rules that may or may not be substantially consistent with agency policy.

I have had security guards tell me that:
  • photographs on metrolink property are not allowed

    photographs on LACMTA property are not allowed (I was also told that by an LASD deputy and several metro employees, but it's not true)

    photography of buildings and movie sets from public sidewalks is not allowed without permission
IOW some people have built in perceptions about what is legal and illegal regarding photography and are more than willing to state their personal opinions as law and/or fact. Many everyday people are under the mistaken perception that they need to give their permission to be photographed when they are in a public place. I think that this security guard was under this mistaken impression.
  by mattmason
Yes, the VTA cars are on property and have been for some time. They are not needed right now, as the CAF and Siemens fleets are enough. This is far from the days when we could only have 3-car rush hour trains (8 trains, 26 cars total=you do the math). All platforms are 4-car lengths that are determined by downtown block lengths.

The VTA cars were a steal, therefore were purchased. They were about $220k each. All will need to be refurbed for Sacramento, such as for the E&H ramps for handicapped access. The cars have been over the entire system except into the Historic Folsom station. They will not clear the E&H ramp going into the station. This was tried twice during testing, but no go. You will not see VTA cars on this line ever, unless changes are made at the end.

An interesting story with the VTA cars is that there were plans to bring some in the late 80s (specifically 4 cars) over from San Jose. The previously mentioned 26 cars were not enough before the additional 10 Siemens-Duwag U2As (127-136) were ordered. VTA had extra cars as their line was not fully operational yet. It was getting serious enough where clearance measurements and line checks for voltage were done. (Sub 7 - now known as Sub F1 - was putting out over 860 volts.) It never happened, of course.

Also note that one VTA car does make at least an annual appearance during the Christmas tree lighting. The historic streetcar restored for use on the San Jose transit mall and was numbered 129 is actually PG&E "California"-type car 35. This car was first brought out for Railfair 91 as part of the festivities. (If you have never seen a trolley unloaded, you would be amazed that as soon as it hits the rails and pole goes up, it can be run.) The car was returned, but later purchased and is now part of the Sac RT fleet.

  by pdxstreetcar
its more an unwritten rule not to specifically photograph strangers where they are the target of the photo. and this is what i assume the security guard meant about not photographing people. but of course if youre taking photos of transit obviously you will have a hard time not taking a photo of someone in it (considering transit stations are busy places) but in this case people are not the target and are instead random, anonymous and in the background.

one of the few places i can recall that i've not been allowed to photograph is at the trimet yard and shops when i was told i could not photograph any part of the shop building exterior or interior, nevermind that our nrhs tour was pretty much allowed full access within the building including the central control center. and nevermind that there are older interior photos of the shops floating around the internet. probably absurd rules coming from homeland security because i doubt trimet would be that illogical.

in places like boston where for a time you needed a photo permit, i found security would be extra nice and friendly. it was also in boston that i got yelled at by a bus driver for taking a photo of an etb while standing on city streets (didnt have a permit then).
  by lpetrich
Sacramento has construction and planning for three urban-rail projects.

First, the current state of its light-rail system. It has 4 lines radiating out from its downtown core. The east line to E Sac and Folsom and the west line to the Amtrak station are grouped as the Yellow Line, and the northeast line toward Roseville and the south line toward S Sac are grouped as the Blue Line.

Downtown-Natomas-Airport Transit Alternatives Analysis/Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Report
Under construction: the first part of the Green Line, which will run from the downtown core north in 7th St. across the railyards to Richards Blvd.
Planned: to go from there to Sacramento International Airport. The route: north across the American River to Truxel Rd., then E Commerce Wy., then Meister Wy., then the airport.

I can't find any construction updates there, so I have to go to Press Releases - Sacramento Regional Transit. Recent news on the Green Line. The new 8th and H Sts station is now open; it is near the 7th and I Sts one (PR Jan 6, 2012). The overhead cables are now electrified (PR Nov 14, 2011).

The South Line - Phase 2 to Cosumnes River College in south Sacramento. There was a groundbreaking for a parking garage there, and the South Line extension to there is stated to open June 2015 (PR Nov 4, 2011).

Sacramento Press / Sacramento gets on track for streetcars
City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to move forward with a plan to bring a modern, electric version of the single car “trolleys” to connect neighborhoods in the central city and make getting around town easier for residents, workers and visitors. ...

The study suggested four route plans for the central city and three more to allow connection to eastern Midtown, Sacramento State, Oak Park and the UC Davis Medical Center.

Routes are also suggested for major development areas, including the railyards, The River District and the Arden Fair Mall/Cal Expo areas, according to the study summary. ...

With its vote of approval, the City Council recommended city staff work in partnership with the city of West Sacramento, Regional Transit and the Yolo County Transportation District to pursue a federal grant for the starter line.

Once the funding is in place and environmental studies and design plans are completed, construction of the starter line is anticipated to take 18 months.
The Streetcar Study, discussed several routes, 8 of them in or near downtown Sacramento, and 1 of them in Davis, CA. The initial line, from east to west:

19th St. -- J, L Sts. -- 13th St. -- K St. -- (light-rail line to the Amtrak station) -- 3rd St. -- Capitol Mall -- Tower Bridge across the Sacramento River -- West Capitol Ave. in West Sacramento
  by lpetrich
City Beat: First light rail train rolls into station north of downtown Sacramento
The Green Line extends 1.1 miles from downtown and took nearly three years to construct. The project cost $44 million, most of which came from Measure A transportation sales tax funds.
The station is
7th & Richards / Township 9

Announcement at Sacramento Regional Transit's site: http://www.sacrt.com/documents/GLGO12.PDF complete with a picture of the new station. The line's schedule: http://www.sacrt.com/schedules/current/ ... enLine.pdf It runs from 13th St. through downtown and north to the new station.

There is a possible future station along this route in the Railyards area, and it is to be extended to Sacramento's main airport. However, that will require additional funding.

Construction has started on the Blue Line extension from Meadowview to Cosumnes River College. With additional funding, it may be extended further, to Elk Grove.
  by lpetrich
Sacramento RT Blue Line light-rail expansion gets federal funding to move forward - Sacramento Business Journal
Construction on the South Line Phase 2 light-rail extension project is expected to begin early next year following a commitment by the federal government to partially fund the 4.3-mile project.

The Federal Transit Administration finalized a funding agreement with Sacramento Regional Transit District, which allows the project to move forward, Congresswoman Doris Matsui announced Wednesday.
However, some construction has already started, construction of those two light-rail bridges and of a parking garage. The bridges should be done by April 2014 and the garage by next spring.
  by lpetrich
At Sacramento Regional Transit District Home Page I found at Sacramento Regional Transit Master Plan this Flash-applet page: Balance the costs and benefits of your Transit Network - Flash Game, which works from this map of proposed rail and bus improvements.
When maxed out, it costs $7232 million in capital costs and $813 per household per year to it run it.

The projects:
  • Regional Rail - 2 or 4 peak-hour trains to Auburn
  • Light Rail
    • Service-frequency improvements: 5 min peak, 10 min off-peak
    • Extensions: downtown to Sac'to Airport, south to Elk Grove, north to Citrus Heights and Roseville, east to El Dorado
  • Streetcar
    • Downtown to CSUS and West Sac'to
    • Rancho Cordova, Citrus Heights
  • Express Buses (Bus Rapid Transit in dedicated bus lanes)
  • Local Buses
  • Passenger experience: improvements to stops and stations, improved ticketing and passenger info
  • Safety and Security: police, cameras
I experimented a bit with that Flash applet, and I found some interesting results.

Safety and Security were relatively cheap, as were Regional Rail improvements. Passenger Experience was not much more expensive.

The buses have plenty of coverage, but all the buses together have a capital cost comparable to the light-rail extensions to Elk Grove and the airport, and nearly 3 times the operational cost.

Turning to light rail, while the capital cost of frequency improvements is about half that of the extensions, their operational cost is greater.

About the streetcar lines, the downtown ones seem more cost-effective than the Rancho Cordova ones. That makes me suspect pork barrel for the Rancho Cordova ones.
  by lensovet
i think the game is a really cool idea and i wish more agencies would do this. it makes it very easy for the public to visualize both how many can be spent and the benefits/impacts that it has.
  by lpetrich
That Flash applet is still online, happy to say.

The extension from Meadowview Ave. to Cosumnes River College continues construction. From Construction Activity - Blue Line, it is now at tracklaying.

No progress on other possible extensions, however. Home - Riverfront Streetcar Project is about a downtown - West Sac proposed line. It's still in planning.