Back-Seat Driver

Sacramento transit agency tries creative plan to attract arena fans

Lighting the way to downtown Kings arena

Sacramento to ease safety concerns by adding street lights near downtown arena.
Up Next
Sacramento to ease safety concerns by adding street lights near downtown arena.

If you live in the suburbs and plan to attend games at the new Golden 1 Center but worry about a downtown parking crunch, would you give transit a try?

In an effort to entice some of those potential riders, Sacramento Regional Transit is laying plans to offer a door-to-door deal for at least some people. The transit agency will offer $5 discounts for arena attendees to take a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft to select light-rail stations, where they can catch a train to the arena.

“They don’t have to worry about parking or driving at all,” said RT General Manager Henry Li.

RT says it will subsidize $50,000 worth of rides, which means the promotional program could last up to six months. The agency intends to contract with a single rideshare company in the next few weeks, and have the service ready when the arena opens Oct. 4.

People who take advantage of the offer will be allowed up to 10 discounted rideshare rides. RT has yet to decide which stations will be part of the rideshare program, or to establish the details of how the program will work.

It’s part of an RT push to make transit more attractive. The agency recently doubled its cleaning crews, added 25 fare inspectors, is upgrading lighting at stations, and will have volunteer station guides on arena event nights to help new riders.

The rideshare plan is being questioned by some RT users who say it sounds like it mainly benefits wealthier riders who have smartphones and credit cards, and by some union officials who say they do not like the way rideshare drivers are treated by their companies.

“Are low-income folks working minimum-wage jobs going to have equal access, or are we just catering to wealthier suburbanites?” asked Fabrizio Sasso, executive director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council.

RT rider Russell Rawlings, a wheelchair user, expressed similar concerns. He said the one time he tried rideshare, he couldn’t find a driver with a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. (RT buses and trains are wheelchair accessible.) He also said the practice of ridesharing companies to increase prices on a moment’s notice when demand is high – called “surge pricing” – could surprise some riders.

Li said RT will work with the chosen rideshare company to see if it will take cash from riders who don’t have a credit card.

His staff also plans to ask the RT board next week for permission to offer a group round-trip pass for people going to the arena, $14 for up to five family members and friends traveling together. The daily pass is $7 per person.

RT park-and-ride lots at stations will be open during arena events. Some are free, though others charge $1 to park.

Why no Roseville/arena train?

Capitol Corridor announced last week it will offer nightly 10:30 p.m. westbound train service from downtown Sacramento to Davis and the Bay Area for arena attendees. That prompted a question: Why not late-night train service eastbound to Roseville and Rocklin as well?

Read Next

The answer: Union Pacific owns the rail line and limits Capitol Corridor to one train a day in each direction during commute hours.

State and local officials are working on a plan to build another track between Sacramento and Roseville. If they succeed, Cap Corridor officials say that will make night trains to Placer County a definite possibility.

Work continues at the future home of the Sacramento Kings. The venue will be ready for the Paul McCartney show on October 4.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee