DENVER (CBS4) – Thousands of bus and light rail rides around the Denver metro area could be eliminated in 2020. It’s part of the Regional Transportation District’s plan to address its ongoing operator shortage.
According to RTD, a recent survey found 59% of commuters would support service cuts of it means a more reliable schedule. Now, RTD has released its plan on how to move forward based on that survey.
If the proposed cuts are approved, six bus routes would be discontinued, 19 others would have reduced service, and special bus services – such as the Broncos Ride, Buffs Ride and Rockies Ride – would be suspended. Also, the frequency of the popular Free MallRide shuttle on the 16th Street Mall downtown would run every 3 minutes instead of every 90 seconds. In addition, the plan would reduce runs of the R Line light rail, and weekend service of the D Line, between Littleton and downtown Denver, would be eliminated.
“This is a very popular area, so it’s going to be really difficult,” Andre Mims, a consistent D Line rider, said. “That will be very stressful.”
The temporary reduction in service is RTD’s approach to curb the issues stemming from the agency’s driver shortage. Many of its operators are forced to work 6 days a week, and the mandatory overtime costs RTD $1.2 million every month.
“Clearly we would rather not be doing any of this, but this is our responsibility. We’re owning this,” Pauletta Tonila, Assistant General Manager of RTD, said.
RTD’s chief operating officer, Michael Ford, explained the plan is a “good start” as any more cuts could create “unintended consequences.”
“We’re looking to do this to try to right size things, bring some stabilization to give our drivers relief and be more reliable to our customers,” Ford said. “We’re obviously experiencing trouble with recruiting and retention. We’re not the only one; we’re seeing this all over the place, all over the country.”
During a media conference ahead of Thursday’s board meeting, Jessie Carter, manager of service planning and scheduling for RTD, explained the agency’s suggested cuts are to bus or rail lines where there are transportation alternatives or other bus/rail routes available.
However, riders like Mims who rely on RTD every day believe the agency’s plan will only make transportation issues worse.
“I mean, we already have a big traffic problem in Denver anyway with the number of drivers (on the road),” he said. “That’s probably because they don’t have the time or patience to wait for public transportation.”
As for what’s next, RTD staff will present the full proposed cuts to the public during a series of more than a dozen meetings. Those will take place in January and February, and the board will take action on the issue in March. No changes would go into effect until May 2020.
The six bus routes subject to be (temporarily) discontinued come May 2020:
- Route 55 (Old Town/Arvada Ridge)
- Route 157 (CCA/Buckley)
- Route 235 (Boulder Junction/ US36 & Table Mesa)
- Route 403 (Lucent Blvd)
- Route 16L (West Colfax)
- Route 99L (Federal Center/S Kipling Limited)
Additionally, RTD proposed:
- Reducing service on 19 routes
- Suspending certain services such as BroncosRide, BuffRide & Rockies service
- Reducing peak frequency of the Free MallRide to 3 minutes
As for Paratransit Service, RTD stated, “We are committed to not impact current paratransit service. Those currently being service will be grandfathered in provided they continue to reside at their current address.”
However, no new customers will be added to the program if fixed routes are eliminated in their area.
RTD is planning service changes and reductions to several light rail lines:
- The D Line will no longer run service on weekends
- Weekend service on the C Line will be expanded to provide an option for D Line riders
- “Dropped trips are still likely, but not to the current degree.”
The approved changes are scheduled to go into effect in May 2020.