RTD Board directs staff to present draft service reduction plan Dec. 19

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors on Thursday night directed agency staff to develop a plan for temporary service cuts to be delivered at a Dec. 19 meeting, after hearing results from a broad survey of passengers, employees and community leaders.
 
Some Board members made it clear, though, that final approval of service cuts to solve the currently severe operator shortage is not a given – they want to see the proposed reductions and discuss alternatives first. 

“This is just creaming us in terms of status and reputation. In my opinion, it’s an emergency,” said District I Director Judy Lubow. “I would hope there would be more than option one or two.”

During the study session, the Board reviewed a series of observations from a two-week survey conducted in early November, meant to gauge opinions on possible solutions to the operator shortage that has caused an increasing number of canceled bus and light rail trips in recent months. The cancellation of more than 100 light rail trips on a recent Monday meant the loss to passengers of nearly 10 percent of RTD light rail service that day, staff told the Board. 

To sample a wide range of opinion, RTD conducted online and in-person surveys, a telephone town hall meeting, employee listening sessions and meetings with community stakeholders. Surveys asked riders whether they would rather see temporary schedule cuts that would produce more reliable service, or leave the schedule as is and continue to see last-minute cancellations. 

RTD operators discussed how mandatory overtime affects their lives, and they shared their thoughts about whether RTD should implement a temporary service reduction based on the operator shortage.  
    
A majority of riders and community leaders said they would favor service cuts with predictable times over the current unreliable state of commuting. Though many operators said they rely on mandated six-day weeks to provide income, many said nonstop weeks of required overtime were ruining family life and taking a toll on health.

In discussing the findings Thursday night, RTD Board members made the following points: 

  • Access-a-Ride for disabled access should not be cut from current service levels even if regular routes are reduced. 
  • Two of RTD’s core values are safety and reliability, and the operator shortage and long-term, mandated overtime are affecting both. 
  • The agency must continue to negotiate with union leaders about work rule changes that could ease operator scheduling problems and cover more shifts. RTD leadership is also running numbers on how much additional wage increases would cost the system. 
  • RTD staff should use operator survey results and more extensive exit interviews of departing employees to find ways to improve retention.
  • Required service levels on the newly extended E, F, and R light rail lines to Lone Tree have stretched operators even more, and RTD must explore whether it can reduce light rail frequency without jeopardizing federal funding. 
  • The agency must be open with the public about what “temporary” service cuts mean, when any reduced routes would be restored, and whether some routes or frequencies might be reduced permanently. 

Though study sessions do not include formal votes, all 15 RTD board members agreed to ask for a staff plan on service cuts. 

“We will get to work,” RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova said.
 

 

This article was updated on Dec. 10 to reflect the new Board presentation date of Dec. 19.