Proposed service reduction to save money and reduce mandating

Proposed temporary service reduction will save RTD about $12.4 million over a year and relieve some pressure on mandating six-day work weeks for operators, but it will not immediately solve the agency’s severe operator shortage, RTD staff told the Board of Directors on Tuesday night. 

RTD’s financial staff assured the Board the savings would be set aside in a segregated fund to be used for restoration of the cuts when enough operators are hired and retained to improve service. 

“It will get us some level of stabilization,” Chief Operations Officer Michael Ford told the Board. But, he added, “we still need to get our counts up.” RTD has been more successful in recent months recruiting new members of training classes, but operators are continuing to leave and citing the six-day weeks as their biggest issue, Ford said. 

The temporary service cuts – which will be discussed in up to 18 public forums in coming weeks and voted on by the Board in March, for implementation in May – would save the equivalent of 12 rail operators and 50 bus operators. The ongoing challenge, Ford said, is that on the rail side, for example, RTD is down to 148 current operators when it is budgeted for 216 to run the scheduled service. 

The Board asked how RTD could measure success if the temporary cuts are implemented. Ford responded that the goal was to reduce mandating of operators down to the single digits as a percentage of employees. More than 69 percent of bus operators are now being mandated consistently. 

Sudden trip cancellations were reduced last month, representing thousands of hours of service, but the improvement came through continued mandating that is stressing all employees, said Fred Worthen, assistant general manager of bus operations. 

Staff told the Board that the N Line to the northern suburbs would be fully staffed with operators when it opens later this year, and that a few operators working elsewhere on the RTD system have chosen to move to the commuter rail line when it is available.