The Green Line, a light rail transit line located in Sacramento, California is struggling to survive. When it was first opened on June 15, 2012, the city was very excited about the $44 million dollar project. It would provide service to the Sacramento International Airport and the North Natomas area.
Now the Sacramento Regional Transit District light rail system says that the Green Line isn’t really profitable. Though all large cities are trying to bring affordable transportation like light rail to their city, these modes must at least pay for themselves and the Green Line is not doing that.
City leaders believe the reasons for that primarily have to do with construction in the area. There were large residential and commercial projects in the works four years ago when the rail was opened. By now, city leaders thought that these projects would be completed or at least near completion. Instead, much of the land designated for residential homes, apartments and office buildings is still vacant.
The Green Line averages 440 rides per day, but it costs $330,000 per year to operate. So the system really isn’t paying for itself. And these are times when financial deficits are important to government organizations.
The City of Sacramento’s Rapid Transit system has struggled overall in the past few years. As mentioned, planned residential and commercial building projects have not moved forward at the brisk pace that city officials had hoped. When there are no people living and working in an area, then there’s no need for public transportation.
Cutting Back on Services
The RT system is looking to reduce operating costs to its bus lines by $2 million a year. To do this, they will be taking some buses and routes off their service charts and eliminating some administrative positions.
A few people using the Green Line were interviewed and said that they would sorely miss it. Though it’s only 400 or so people per day, these people have no other way to get to their destination in an affordable fashion. So those users were definitely disappointed to hear about the closure.
Why Isn’t Rapid Transit Profitable?
RT board Chairman Jay Schenirer commented about the possible closure saying that the city of Sacramento is determined to revamp its public transportation system until it’s efficient and profitable. He also says that continuing deficits hurt the overall city budget.
RT has been suffering since the recession in 2008. The agency depleted its reserve account to help balance its budget over the last two years.
With reduced state and federal funding, increased costs, and low ridership numbers, the RT board made the decision to increase fares by 10 percent earlier this year. Over the last two years, they’ve depleted their reserve account in an effort to keep offering bus and light rail to city residents although it wasn’t profitable.
Moving into the future, it is hoped that the Township 9 development near downtown will get back on track. These areas around North Seventh Street and Richards Blvd have been vacant for years as developers have been in a “wait-and-see” mode.