This story is courtesy of Newsteam, posted on 13 October 2011.
Boulder, Colo., — On October 25, the RTD Board of Directors met to make some very important decisions, some that will affect everyone in the Denver Metro and Boulder areas. To try to make up for a $12 million budget deficit, RTD structural and developmental managers have proposed making changes to 130 routes. Of those changes, 118 of them will be service cuts and only 12 will have service added.
Some sources say that number equals eight to 10 percent of their routes. CU’s Transportation Options Manager, David Cook, has been following the proposed changes since they were unveiled at the end of August this year. Cook said there is 17 buses that touch CU Boulder’s campus and 14 of those buses will be affected, some during peak traffic times.
RTD has been holding a series of public forums throughout the Denver Metro and Boulder areas since the middle of September. The purpose of the forums is to get the public’s feedback on the changes being made and to offer the transportation company any suggestions. More than 50 people, including passengers as well as campus and city officials, came to the meeting held at the Boulder Senior Center on Oct. 5.
Concerns came from parents and commuters who chose Boulder as their place of residence specifically because of the numerous transportation options. Residents spoke out against the increased bus fares and taxes coupled with reduced service.
Specific routes that were of most concern were the DD and Skip bus routes. The DD bus, which goes from Boulder to Colorado Station in Denver is being eliminated altogether. Service is being re-routed, which commuters claim will add an extra 30-45 minutes each way to their trip time. With winter weather conditions, it could take even longer. The Skip route is being cut so that it comes every 10 minutes during peak hours, rather than every seven minutes.
Mayor Susan Osborn had a representative attend the meeting to raise some concerns that the city has. Even though a three-minute difference may not seem like a lot, the mayor’s office has done research to show that during peak hours, which are proposed to be cut, time between bus intervals can take as long as 22 minutes, and that’s on a nice day. Since the Skip is one of the busiest buses for residents and especially for students, the city is wondering what RTD’s reasoning is behind the cut. RTD officials had no comment.
Cook was also at the public forum. He stated that the busiest buses seemed to be the ones, which were being cut at peak hours. By extending the time between Skip buses, the three-minute difference means that 30 percent of passengers on each bus will have to wait for the next bus. With each bus that comes, there will be that continuous overflow of passengers.
Other concerns were how rushed the service changes seem to be. The proposed cuts were announced at the end of August, a series of forums were held at the end of September and beginning of October, and the board of directors will decide Oct. 25. City officials and residents felt this was not enough time to get the information out to the public about what is happening, let alone get everyone to participate in the decision-making process.
Jeff Becker, RTD’s Structural Development Manager, says that RTD has done a lot of advertising on their website (www.rtd-denver.com) through the news media and flyers on buses.
After speaking to students on campus, most of them were not aware that the buses they rely on would be going through service changes or possibly be cut.
CU officials also suspect that the inconvenience of waiting longer or having to take other routes will cause commuters to start driving to campus more. Given that there are 30,000 students on campus not counting staff and faculty, the congestion of cars will increase, as will the environmental impact their vehicles will have.
Also, with a projected increase of people driving to campus, that creates a potential need for additional parking. If the university has to build more parking lots or a new parking garage, it will be an expense absorbed by commuters through an increase of costs, such as parking permits.
Rising costs are also a concern for those who voiced their opinions at the public forum. RTD increased their fares at the beginning of this year, and they are already charging residents a 1.2 percent tax on all purchases. There have also been speculations about RTD requesting another tax increase on residents to help pay for the mounting costs of the light rail and to help with their fiscal planning.
Becker said this is not true and there are no plans for an increase in fares or taxes at the beginning of the year. Aside from that, they have also looked internally at cutting their budget through reduced fuel and maintenance costs as well as salary freezes for their employees for the last couple of years. Cutting service is the last thing they want to do, but the company feels that there is no other choice.
After RTD’s board of directors makes their decision, changes will go into effect the first of the year.