Telephone town hall addressed continuing challenges RTD faces with staffing and effects on service

Regional Transportation District (RTD) officials said in their first public forum considering potential temporary service cuts that they continue to try a wide array of ideas to improve recruitment and retention. 

Temporary service cuts are just one of many possible tools to help solve RTD’s severe operator shortage, which has recently resulted in unplanned cancellations of trips and disruptions for passengers planning on scheduled service. A telephone town hall with top RTD leaders Wednesday, Nov. 6, was just one of many opportunities for the public to weigh in on service cuts or other possible remedies, said RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova.

“We recognize RTD needs to take more immediate steps than what we’ve already been doing. We need to consider all of the options available to us,” Genova said to the phone audience, which asked dozens of questions over the course of an hour. “This will not happen overnight, it will unfold over months. We want people to know that.”    

Many of the questions and comments from riders prompted RTD officials to detail efforts already underway to fill the employee gap and improve retention:

  • Reducing the number of split shifts for operators, in which they operate runs for a morning rush hour, have a few hours off, then operate routes again in the evening. Many operators prefer normal shifts.
  • Finding more recovery time and restroom time during shifts, a common request in discussions about operator morale and retention.
  • Promoting cross-training for existing RTD employees who might consider training as an operator to be career advancement. 
  • Recruiting in nontraditional pools of potential employees. When a caller suggested offering jobs to currently homeless people who already frequent RTD property, RTD officials said they have considered such ideas and welcome other suggestions.

Chief Operations Officer Michael Ford said anyone interested in becoming an operator should know that RTD provides the training to acquire a Commercial Driver’s License required for the job. “It can cost three to seven thousand dollars to get a CDL on your own, so that’s a big benefit,” said RTD Assistant General Manager of Communications Pauletta Tonilas. 
A few riders on the town hall call endorsed the effectiveness of RTD’s Access-a-Ride services for passengers with disabilities, and worried that potential service cuts could hit that benefit too hard. RTD Service Development Manager Jeff Becker explained that Access-a-Ride is a top priority, and that federal mandates also protect services for the disabled during all service change studies.

“Bottom line,” Becker told the phone audience, “We want to have the least effect on the fewest number of riders.”
The “Your Voice Matters” outreach seeking input on potential temporary service cuts continues throughout Nov. 17. One of the next events is a series of contacts with passengers at local stations, beginning Nov. 11. 

For a full list of outreach opportunities visit the Your Voice Matters web page.