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February 1988 - Page 16


S ACRAM ENTO LI G HT RA I L
T he second portion opened on Sept. 5, 1 987, but patronage has been l i g ht
by Mac Sebree

opened its two segments on time, on budget-but to ridership that has been, at least initially, disappointing. The first line , from downtown to Watt Ave . -Interstate 80 via North Sacramento, opened last March . After six months of operation, the line is carrying 7,500 riders a day. The other half of the system-the Folsom line-opened as planned on Saturday, Sept. 5 . After a month, it was carrying only 3 ,000 riders a day. That's a total of between 1 0 ,000 and 1 1 ,000 riders a day, about half the predicted total. Cameron Beach, the system's operations manager, says many more riders will be added in January 1 9 8 8 when the east side bus network will be rearranged to feed into light rail stations. And, even at 1 1 ,000 passengers a day, Beach says the line is a success by several important measurements. "We're carrying that many people in 2 1 light rail cars with plenty of capacity to spare. Just to carry an equal number of passengers we'd need 52 buses, and lots of people would be standing. " The saving i n overhead i s dramatic . The 2 1 cars comprise

T

hat's the question a few are asking these days about Sacramento's new light rail system, which has

o nly eight trains, requmng ei g ht drivers. The 52 buses would require 52 drivers. Former Sacramento County Supervisor Patric Melarkey, on the other han d , thinks the light rail line was a "dumb, ludicrous proposal" from the start. Certainly, seeing the sleek, German-made Duewag cars gliding along K Street downtown is a culture shock for many, although perhaps less so for those old enough to remember when Pacific Gas & 1 946 . The trouble, Beach thinks , is that patronage projections were made many years ago when funding was first sought for the light rail line . At that time, transit patronage was rising rapidly due to gasoline shortages. If only 1 1 ,000 passengers had been promised, building the entire system at a bargain price of $ 1 75 million would still have been j ustified , and the line's management would be hailed as prophets, Beach feels. The builders of Portland's new light rail line are heros now because they did not over promise ridership. Still, praise for the Sacramento line is not hard to find.

Electric's yellow trolleys rolled along the same street prior to

Mayor Anne Rudin was quoted in the S AN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE as bullish about the newfangled trolleys. She

-MAP COURTESY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

says the rail line helps reduce smog in Sacramento, which

North Highlands

now has the third-largest air pollution in California , helps carry people downtown and is a hedge against the day when Sacramento (which is California's capital city) has the kind of urban traffic problem that is strangling other cities. Operation of the system is extremely simple. The North east and Folsom lines are through-routed aside from one or two early-evening trips from Watt Ave . which end down town . A I S -minute headway is run on weekdays, half-hourly on weekend s . Eight trains are needed, but nine operators are used as fallback rostering is employed at the Watt terminus to permit a quick turnaround . One-way running time is 53 to 5 5 minutes. In the base period, weekdays , all trains are two-car con sists (requiring 1 6 units) and in peak hours 2 1 of the 26 LRVs are in service, with three-car sets on the Watt line and two-car sets on the Folsom line. How is this accomplished? At the south end of downtown, where the line turns from 1 2th to private right-of-way head ing east, there is a three-track holding yard, known as the R Street Yard. At the 1 3th Street Station j ust east of this loca tion, each southbound train drops a car, and this car is then reversed on a nearby crossover and attached to the next northbound train.

2 MILES

,

Rosemont

1 6 . FEBRUARY 1988

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