RTD Board to consider modified proposal for May service change

On Tuesday, March 10, RTD will propose modifications to the service reduction plan that was recommended to the Board of Directors in December in response to the operator shortage. These modifications are the result of feedback from 20 public meetings and 15 outreach events with riders and local officials.

Reductions will begin in May if the Board approves. This timeframe follows the schedule for regularly planned service changes RTD implements three times a year. In the new proposal, a number of routes originally considered for cancelation were restored, others would continue operating on shorter routes, and some would instead see their frequency reduced. The Board will discuss and vote on the service cuts March 24. 

The proposed reductions aim to close the gap in available bus and train operators after months of recruiting and retention challenges that RTD and economic experts have attributed to metro Denver’s low unemployment and mandated six-day work weeks. RTD executives and staff have said reducing the overall number of scheduled trips will reduce the need for mandating and slow the disruptive, last-minute cancellations of trips due to operator shortages.

The changes to the original set of proposed cuts include: 

  • Bus Route 16L will continue operation instead of being canceled. 
  • Bus Route 32 will retain selected peak period service east of downtown instead of being canceled, but service would no longer run west of Wadsworth Boulevard. 
  • Route 99L will run from Federal Center to Civic Center Station instead of being canceled, but it will no longer continue onto South Kipling. 
  • Route 153 frequency will remain at 15 minutes.
  • Route 157 will continue operation instead of canceling.
  • Route 206 will be retained with current service levels between Boulder Junction at Depot Square Station and Arapahoe and 55thStreet, and reduced to AM and PM bi-directional service only, between Arapahoe and 55th Street and Fairview High School.
  • Route 403 proposal modified to retain hourly service. 
  • Route 483 peak frequency will remain at 30 minutes from Parker Park-n-Ride to Lincoln Station.
  • Route Y will be modified to retain three trips in each direction.
  • RunRide, serving participants in the annual Bolder Boulder race, will remain for now, but will be considered again for elimination in 2021. 
  • Light rail’s H Line weekend service frequency will remain at 15 minutes instead of becoming less frequent. 

Not all the proposed reductions were restored in the latest staff recommendations. Light rail will still see frequency reductions on the Aurora portions of the R line to two trips an hour, and D Line service would still be eliminated on weekends. However additional C Line trips will be added as an option for reaching downtown Denver. Among bus routes, proposed cancelations still include the 55 in Arvada and the 236 in Boulder. The 16th Street Mall shuttle’s frequency will change from every 90 seconds to every three minutes. More bus routes will face frequency or length cuts, with a complete list available here. 

While the RunRide is restored for now, other special services to Broncos, Rockies and CU Buffs games are still proposed for elimination. 

The original proposal had called for eliminating six routes altogether and reducing 19 more. 

RTD staff recommendations on service changes and revisions are made through a rigorous series of reviews that take into account federal requirements for equitable access to transit, ensuring adequate services for people with disabilities, ridership and subsidy amounts on each route, maximizing savings in operator hours, and public input. 

Once the initial service cuts were described to the Board in a December study session, RTD kicked off a series of forums in all 15 board districts, as well as pop-up comment sessions at RTD stops, and other community and leadership meetings. 

Communities affected most by the changes did make their feelings known to RTD planners and Board members. Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, for example, wrote a widely circulated opinion piece saying the city was unfairly impacted by the proposed bus route and rail frequency cuts. Boulder County officials and organizers sought to save RunRide, which they say delivers more than 13,000 runners to a crowded Memorial Weekend field that can host more than 40,000 on race day. 

Approval of these reductions are paramount to addressing operator shortage and minimizing mandating. Approval will allow RTD to get closer to workforce stabilization through ongoing hiring and training, while providing relief to current employees. Without approval of this plan, future reductions will be more significant and impactful to customers.