By Makenzie O'Keefe

DENVER (CBS4) – Light Rail riders are warning others to keep an eye out for rider alerts, as trip cancellations have become more common in recent months. RTD says it’s because they’re facing an operator shortage, a problem without an easy fix.

RTD officials say an operator shortage is to blame for recent delays and cancellations

RTD officials say an operator shortage is to blame for recent delays and cancellations. (Credit: CBS)

“60% of the time, it’s really good,” explained Aaron Ball, who takes the Light Rail to get to work. “And 40% of the time its delayed, unreliable, hot, too crowded, just any number of problems.”

Ball says more often than not, he’s stuck waiting for a delayed train, or his route is entirely cancelled. He tells CBS4 that the public transportation is so unreliable, he’s changed his work schedule to allow himself an hour and half morning commute. It should normally only take 30 minutes.

RTD officials say they are down about 50-60 Light Rail operators.

RTD officials say they are down about 50-60 Light Rail operators. (Credit: CBS)

“I’m not driving my car,” Ball explained. “I’m taking public transit because it’s supposed to get me where I need to go on time. And it’s not, which is really frustrating.”

In the last two weeks, CBS4 has noticed RTD cancel more than 200 light rail trips on passengers. RTD says it’s because they don’t have enough operators.

“It’s our single biggest challenge right now,” explained RTD’s General Manager and CEO, Dave Genova. “It’s a number one priority for us to address right now, but it’s not going to be easy.”

(Credit: CBS)

Genova said they’re down about 50 to 60 Light Rail operators, and more than 80 bus drivers.

“We’ve been growing very rapidly with all the infrastructure we’ve built out in the last half dozen years,” Genova explained. “It’s been really tough for us to keep up with the people we need for the operations and maintenance.”

Genova said they’ve implemented an 8-12% wage increase, incentives for split shifts and signing or referral bonuses, in an effort to attract more employees.

A long term solution is part of ReImagine RTD, the company’s new future mobility plan. Over the next two years, they’ll explore ways to improve transportation as the city continues to grow. Two committees will focus on ways the company can optimize services, and implement new ones with changing technology.

“Obviously we can’t pick up infrastructure but we can look at how the different lines interact with each other, their schedules and the frequencies,” he explained. “These will be major things we’re looking into as we reimagine the future of RTD.”

RTD is reaching out to riders, and others in the community online to learn more about what people would like to see when it comes to public transportation.

“It’s nice at the end of the day to sit on a train and catch up on news,” Ball said. “But at a certain point, we just want to get home.”

Makenzie O'Keefe