RTD Board discusses proposal to temporarily reduce service

At its Oct. 22 operations committee meeting, RTD’s Board of Directors reviewed and discussed a proposal to temporarily reduce service in response to an acute labor shortage and issues with recruiting and retaining bus and light rail operators. 

The information was provided for the sake of discussion by staff. The proposal is being made to provide relief to RTD’s operators and provide the public with a level of service the agency is confident it can deliver.

General Manager and CEO Dave Genova noted that RTD has hired a lot of employees, but retention has been problematic. Over a 33-month period, he said, the transit agency has hired 73 percent of its workforce for RTD bus operators and 82 percent for light rail train operators. During that same period, RTD saw two-thirds of its bus operators and 93 percent of its light rail operators leave their positions. 

To deliver RTD’s current and planned service, the agency’s bus and rail operators have been mandated to work six-day work weeks for the past four years. Being mandated means that employees must work overtime without an option to refuse. Mandating has been named as the single biggest factor affecting retention of new RTD operators, and it affects all of the transit agency’s represented employees – even those with the most seniority. 

While RTD is providing a high overall level of service, the agency is dropping service even with mandates in place. The proposal would not completely alleviate the need to mandate employees, but it would reduce the need for the same employees to work six days every week.

Many details of the proposal have not yet been determined. These include specific areas where service could be affected, how much service could be curtailed and the length of time any changes could be in effect.

Several Board members on Tuesday expressed concern about reducing service. Many encouraged the agency to seek additional ideas by working with groups and individuals across the Denver metro region with interest in RTD.

RTD’s staff has been meeting regularly with union representatives to work on issues related to retaining employees and providing a better work environment. In addition, RTD has been speaking with peer transit agencies to understand whether their recruiting best practices can be added to RTD’s efforts.