RTD gains flexibility with signing of new legislation

RTD will shrug off key bureaucratic straitjackets after Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 21-1186 into law in a brief ceremony Monday, May 24 in front of bill sponsors, RTD Director Lynn Guissinger, and members of the RTD Accountability Committee.The legislation grew out of RTD’s independent Accountability Committee, formed 11 months ago. Key details and language were amended following collaborative work between RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson and Lance Longenbohn, president of ATU 1001. The RTD Board of Directors expressed unanimous support. And the concept drew little interference as it moved from the House to the Senate and finally to the governor’s desk.

The bill is the “first tangible result” of the Accountability Committee process, said Polis. “I am excited to get RTD reforms off to a good start.”

The 11-member Accountability Committee has been meeting since August. Its work is focused on three areas: finance, governance and structure, and operations. State leaders partnered with the RTD Board to form the committee, which was charged with analyzing the transit agency from an independent and objective perspective—and to make recommendations to state statute that might help improve RTD’s operations.

“I am appreciative of Gov. Polis, the bill sponsors, and members of the Accountability Committee for their support to champion the legislative solutions contained in HB21-1186,” RTD General Manager Johnson said. “This bill provides enhanced flexibility and supports innovative transit-oriented development opportunities for the agency. I, on behalf of RTD, look forward to working cooperatively and collaboratively with the Governor and members of the General Assembly to provide greater mobility options for Denver metro residents and visitors alike.”

A key feature of the new law repeals a limitation on developments that would reduce parking at a facility or result in a competitive disadvantage to private businesses near the facility. It also repeals limitations on RTD’s authority to charge fees and manage parking at district parking facilities.

RTD also gains budgetary flexibility with the removal of a current requirement to derive 30% or more of its revenues from customer fares. At the bill signing, Gov. Polis called that requirement “arbitrary” and something that has “hamstrung” RTD.

Johnson has stated the agency is conducting a thorough analysis of its fare structure and that changes are on the way—both in terms of the rates and how they might be simplified.

Polis said he appreciated RTD’s “willing engagement” with the Accountability Committee process and that he looks forward to more recommendations.

The Accountability Committee’s final report is due in July.