Enhanced stakeholder engagement process incorporated in new service change proposals

The RTD Board of Directors’ Operations and Customer Service Committee reviewed the latest service change proposals during its March 9 meeting. Eleven proposed changes for June were presented to the Board. RTD customers will be able to weigh in on the changes later this month. Prior to the proposals being submitted to the Board, RTD conducted a series of meetings with stakeholders across the district as part of an enhanced engagement process.

Committee members praised staff for gathering community feedback before the proposals were crafted. Several Board members said they would like to see a more robust stakeholder feedback process in the future. 

“Bravo,” said RTD Director Lynn Guissinger, “A great series of meetings. … I think this is a great process (and) something that we will be building on.” She suggested gathering feedback earlier in the decision-making timeline and expanding the invitation list, too, to boost attendance.

Director Peggy Catlin praised the effort as “proactive outreach” and predicted the numbers of customers and stakeholders will grow “as people become more accustomed to participating.” 

Director Erik Davidson called the new process a “great first step.” And Director Marjorie Sloan said she appreciated that RTD staff started each stakeholder meeting by posing a broad question designed to listen: “Are there things happening in your community that would help RTD make the next round of service updates?” 

Several Board members, including Director Shontel Lewis, recommended that RTD staff do a better job of delineating how the stakeholder input process influences staff analysis on what service changes are being proposed.   

Ten meetings were held between Jan. 28 and Feb. 22 and included such key stakeholder groups as Boulder County Mobility for All, Denver Local Coordinating Council, RTD Citizens Advisory Committee, Regional Transit Mobility Organization and Denver Public Schools. City and county officials were also represented. In all, 154 individuals attended the meetings. 

RTD staff heard a variety of themes from the meetings, said Pauletta Tonilas, assistant general manager of communications. One overriding point, she said, was that RTD should provide “equitable service return,” meaning that the system should serve the people who are most transit-dependent. 

Many factors impact decision-making in the current environment, as COVID-19 case numbers decline and pandemic-related restrictions begin to ease, Tonilas said. RTD staff continue to analyze and understand how the yearlong pandemic is affecting long-term changes in patterns around work life, in-person school attendance and all personal transportation needs from errands to entertainment. Currently, RTD is carrying 40% of its pre-pandemic ridership while providing 60% of the service. 

RTD has limited ability to increase service due to availability of operators and the capacity restrictions on buses and trains due to social distancing requirements. Before the pandemic, one operator and one bus could carry 25 customers. Currently, two operators and two buses are required to move those same 25 customers.

The proposed changes include three route restorations, three service increases, extensions of two routes, changing the termination point on one route, discontinuing an extension on one route and changing the schedule on another.

The proposed changes affect a wide variety of locations on the RTD system map from Lakewood to Longmont, from Boulder to Brighton.

The 11 service changes being considered for implementation in June are:

  • Route 15 – East Colfax: Increase service frequency from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes. Thirty-four percent of all calls about buses being over capacity are complaints about this route, said Jesse Carter, manager of service planning and scheduling. 
  • Route 20 – 20th Avenue: Extend east terminal from the Anschutz Medical Campus to East Metro Division. This change is to provide a better rest location for the operator at the end of the line under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Carter said. 
  • Route 28 – 28th Avenue: Extend service east from 30thlDowning Station to Central Park Station. This would create a better connection with the University of Colorado A Line. 
  • Route 40 – Colorado Boulevard: Discontinue extension north of 40thlColorado Station to 60thlDahlia. This route is duplicative; it’s also serviced by Route 49. 
  • Route 44 – 44th Avenue: Change terminal at Ward Road Park-n-Ride to Ward Road Station. Again, Carter said, this provides better connectivity with the rail system. 
  • Route 99 – South Kipling: restore hourly service from Southwest Plaza to Federal Center Station.
  • Route 169L – Buckley Road/Denver Airport: Restore previous weekday schedule. Requests to restore this service generated more volume than any other, Carter said. 
  • Route 324 – Main Street Crosstown (Longmont): Increase weekday service frequency from 60 minutes to 30 minutes. 
  • Route 483 – Parker Road/Lincoln Avenue: Restoring weekday service will “make up gaps in the network,” Carter said.
  • Route BOUND – 30th Street (Boulder): Increase weekday service from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
  • Route RX – Brighton/Denver Express: Schedule adjustments to address on-time performance and operator recovery issues. These are “tweaks,” Carter said, to improve performance. 

RTD Board Chair Angie Rivera-Malpiede thanked staff for the “astronomical” number of hours that went into the stakeholder meetings and all the related logistics. “I really think we are moving at a very fast rate,” she said.

Tonilas noted that the stakeholder listening process will be ongoing from now on as RTD staff attend various stakeholder meetings, and even before the June 2021 changes are implemented, the next round of geographic sector stakeholder listening sessions will begin all over again for the next service change scheduled for September.

RTD customers will have the chance to review the proposed service changes at three virtual meetings. The meetings will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30, and Wednesday, March 31, and from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 31. Details on how to access these meetings will be announced soon.