Sacramento's midnight train is back.
Two years after unprecedented bus and rail cuts, Sacramento Regional Transit officials say finances have brightened enough to allow them to launch the first in a series of incremental service increases over the next five years.
Starting Tuesday night, RT will run light-rail trains once again after midnight, two hours later than trains currently shut down. Key buses on routes linked to light-rail stations also will run later hours.
Transit officials say those changes will allow hundreds of swing shift workers to use the system again to get to and from work.
"We lost a lot more riders (with service cuts in 2010) than we had anticipated, especially on rail," agency General Manager Mike Wiley said. "Because that late-night trip wasn't available, people were not taking the midafternoon trips. Not just shift workers. It's people going to dinner, shows and shopping."
To balance its budget during the recession, the agency also raised rates, cut staffing 25 percent and negotiated new union contracts. Now, sales tax revenue and state transit funds are on the rise, with projections for more increases in the coming years.
"This is a huge turnaround for this organization," Wiley said. "We can accomplish our mission to add more service."
This week's changes amount to an 8 percent increase in bus and rail runs. The agency hopes to be able to restore service to 2010 levels by 2017.
The goal, RT officials said, is to expand in a more cost-effective manner than in the past. New bus routes must meet given ridership levels in their first two years or they will be eliminated, officials said.
One bus change this week is notable. Buses on the 51 route â" along Broadway and Stockton Boulevard between downtown and the Florin area â" will arrive at 12.5-minute intervals instead of 15-minute intervals.
Officials said buses on that route have drawn complaints from riders about overcrowding. In some instances, bus drivers have had to leave riders behind, and have had trouble keeping on schedule.
The 12.5 minutes between buses will be the shortest headway in the Regional Transit system in a quarter century, since the 1980s, when the 30 line on J Street ran every 10 minutes. The 30 line currently runs every 15 minutes.
The upcoming late-night light-rail hours, scheduled for Mondays through Saturdays, will allow trains to run until about 12:30 a.m. The last trains will leave their start stations for final runs earlier than that. The final Gold line train leaves the downtown depot station at 10:53 p.m. The last Blue line train leaves the Meadowview station weekdays at 11:59 p.m.
For detailed information on bus routes and times, go to www.sacrt.com.
Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.
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