Transit Man

Acuity With Mike Wiley

Back Q&A Oct 1, 2012 By Douglas Curley

Mike Wiley, 59, began his career at the Sacramento Regional Transit District as a service planner in 1978. In 2007, he was named general manager and CEO. He also serves on the executive committee of the California Transit Association.

“Regional Transit has weathered the economic storm caused by the recession. But more importantly, I believe we’re now positioned to take on the challenges of any possible future storms.”

“The period between 2008 and 2010 was the most difficult time in RT history. Our state funding had been illegally zeroed. Local sales tax revenue was at an all-time low. We had just raised fares for the second time in nine months, and we were running a budget deficit of nearly $25 million.”

“Service cuts of more than 20 percent were implemented. Roughly half of our cost reductions came internally, where we reduced staff from more than 1,200 to less than 900. But it wasn’t just about savings. It was also about resource generation. We increased fares, increased our flow of advertising revenue and charged parking fees at our park-and-ride lots.”

“Beginning with me, every RT employee contributed to the solution. I went to the board and worked out a reduction in my contract. Our chief legal counsel did the same thing. Our two largest labor groups are still contributing to this budget solution. Our drivers, represented by Amalgamated Transit Union, still do not get holiday pay.”

“All of these collective decisions were extremely difficult, but they have really paid off. As our income has increased, we are taking a very strategic look at where we will be adding costs. At this point, all of it is going toward increased services. We’re adding more drivers, not administration positions.”

“The return of our state transit assistance funding through legal action was a giant step toward stabilizing our budget. Additionally, the sales tax revenue we receive locally has also inched up. Last year we budgeted a 1.1 percent increase in our combined state and local sales tax funding. It actually went up over 6 percent. A 5.5 percent increase is expected this year.

“We also have a focus on building reserves. Last fiscal year we built a reserve of $5.5 million. We project adding another $4.5 million this year. I don’t want to go through another storm without a reserve in place. It’s the first RT reserve program since the late ‘90s.”

“Our fiscal efforts are being rewarded. With our reserves in place and local and state matching funds secured, our bid for a $135 million federal grant looks good. That money will enable us to complete our Blue Line light rail extension to Cosumnes [River] College by September 2015.