RTD maps future amid declining ridership

Transit agency announces launch of effort to collect public input


The Regional Transportation District has launched an outreach program to put a long-term plan in place for changes in transportation demands in the Denver area.

Reimagine RTD is a project aimed toward creating a vision for the transportation district as ridership is in decline. Ridership has declined from 103.4 million annual boardings in 2015 to 97.6 million annual boardings in 2018, despite RTD's total operating budget increasing by more than 44% in that time frame, according to statistics found on RTD's website, rtd-denver.com.

“The landscape is changing, and we need to change along with it,” said RTD CEO Dave Genova. “We know we have a big role to play in that, and how we integrate with other options.”

RTD will collect feedback from the public and consider expert consultation to determine a plan.

Christina Zazueta, community engagement manager for RTD, said this will provide input to help RTD better optimize its current systems. Zazueta said RTD wants to hear equally from longtime bus and rail riders as well as those who don't use public transit as much.

“We realize how important it is to hear from riders as well as nonriders,” Zazueta said. “We consider them both part of our community and it's everyone's system … Even if it's a non-rider, we want to know their experience that would make them consider using the RTD system.”

RTD hosted the inaugural telephone town hall Oct. 2 to introduce the project. Each of RTD's 15 internal districts will have its own telephone town hall to solicit feedback. Callers will be able to ask questions over the phone and answer questions about how to improve things like service demands, alternative transit options and RTD's driver and rail operator shortage.

RTD is no stranger to complaints from rail and bus commuters regarding inconsistent arrival times and overall lack of service. RTD has said it does not have enough rail operators or bus drivers to handle RTD's service demand.

RTD serves an area that spans eight counties with a total population of 3.1 million. RTD owns 1,026 buses and has 58.5 miles of light rail track and 40 miles of commuter rail track.

RTD is celebrating 50 years in operation. Light rail was introduced to Denver in October, 1994. RTD operates eight light rail lines and three commuter rail lines.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments is also in the midst of drafting its 2050 plan, which will take into consideration input received through RTD's Reimagine program. Jacob Riger, manager of long-term transportation at DRCOG, said the Denver area's ensuing growth means addressing safety needs, first and foremost, while needing to consider changing technology and finding creative ways to build partnerships to help fund transportation projects.

Riger said DRCOG and RTD have not announced specific long-term project partnerships yet, but said DRCOG will be fully participatory in the work RTD is doing.

Riger said the DRCOG 2050 transportation plan is expected to be finished in 2021.

“I could see a future where transportation solutions are customized to community needs,” Riger said. “I think we need to think differently about our transportation needs as this area evolves.”


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