Editorials

Want more transit riders? Duh. Try soap, water

A Downtown Sacramento Partnership crew power-washes a light-rail station at 11th and K streets. Cleaner stops with less graffiti may perk up ridership.
A Downtown Sacramento Partnership crew power-washes a light-rail station at 11th and K streets. Cleaner stops with less graffiti may perk up ridership. rpench@sacbee.com

The graffiti should’ve been the first clue. Colorful obscenities scrawled on Regional Transit stops don’t exactly make for an inviting travel experience. Neither does the smell of urine, nor broken light bulbs that leave passengers waiting for a ride in the dark.

We know this. Everyone who has walked by an underutilized light-rail station or bus stop in the central city knows this. But for too long, this has been the sorry status quo for RT.

Finally, things are changing.

Forced from the bench by a business community eager to make the most of the coming Golden 1 Center, RT has promised to clean and upgrade dozens of transit stops downtown and in midtown, as well as in Rancho Cordova and other Sacramento districts. The result, RT and its partners predict, will be a transit system that thousands of Kings fans will actually want to ride. Well, duh.

If stations look scuzzy and seem unsafe, few people – particularly transit newbies – will want to try them. As far back as January, RT officials were telling The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board the same thing. They were eager to team up with the business community to fix long-ignored problems, especially the safety concerns after two high-profile shootings rattled RT’s reputation.

At the time, we called for swift action and a solid financial plan. That seems to be happening, though RT’s deal with the Downtown Sacramento Partnership took awhile to take shape.

As of last week, crews finally were working on the worn-out, grimy station at 11th and K streets. Soon, the station on 7th Street between L Street and Capitol Mall will be rehabbed with new benches, lighting, signs and equipment. It will be the “flagship” station when the arena opens. Other stations throughout the RT system also will get new lights, signs and ticketing machines.

These are all necessary, if expensive, upgrades. We applaud Regional Transit officials for finding a way around persistently tight budgets to make it happen.

But let’s not underestimate the basics. Adding a little paint to chipped railings and battered trash bins every now and then. Scrubbing away graffiti and power-washing layers of gunk from station platforms. Thankfully, this sort of maintenance will happen a couple times a week now.

Regional Transit finally got a clue. The cheap stuff goes a long way.

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