­RTD bus service cuts draw DougCo opposition

Mike McKibbin

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Weekend service may end on the Regional Transportation District 402L bus through Douglas County.RTD

By Mike McKibbin / NewsBreak Denver

(DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO.) Stating they had "deep concern," Douglas County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to send a letter to the Regional Transportation District opposing any proposed cutbacks in bus or light rail service in the county.

In a study session, commissioners voiced concerns about RTD's proposal to end weekend service on the 402L bus from Highlands Ranch to the Park Meadows Mall.

In a staff memo to the commissioners, Community Development Director Terence Quinn stated RTD's overall approach focuses on higher-density areas of its district, such as downtown Denver, at the expense of suburban and rural areas.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Quinn told the commissioners.

Most of the comments the county received concerned RTD discontinuing weekend service of the 402L bus.

"As the only east-west route through Highlands Ranch to the Park Meadows Mall, this could have an economic and workforce impact," Quinn wrote.

"The only place in the county that people can count on transit is this route," said Commissioner George Teal.

In a later email to NewsBreak, RTD spokeswoman Christina Zazueta said the current ridership on route 402L is 9.1 passengers per hour on Saturday and 8.7 on Sunday. Before COVID, those numbers were 13.4 passengers per hour on Saturdays and 13.3 on Sundays.

"It is expected that reduced ridership will continue for several years," she wrote, "and with route 402L already performing poorly, it is not recommended the route continue to operate on weekends. Service will be monitored on weekdays to determine if and when weekend service should return."

Other changes include expansions

RTD proposed including:

• Adding weekend service to route 483 from Parker to its E line Lincoln light rail station in downtown Denver.

• Splitting route 0 at Englewood Station for better reliability, with route 0 operating between Englewood Station and downtown and route 0B operating between Englewood Station and Highlands Ranch Town Center.

• Maintaining current service levels on route P between Parker and downtown Denver.

The changes are part of Reimagine RTD, a district-wide, two-year effort to evaluate and forecast changing transportation needs of the district.

The COVID-19 pandemic, population growth and funding shortfalls caused in part by a sharp drop in bus and light rail ridership have hurt RTD.

RTD will take public comment on all proposed changes through March 9 before adopting final changes later that month. RTD will implement those changes over five years.

Quinn noted RTD had proposed expanding its on-demand FlexRide service to balance service cuts. The county would work with local area governments, public and private entities, and RTD to help guide the FlexRide service.

Commissioner Abe Laydon agreed that the future of mass transit would include ride-share services and other on-demand mobility options.

"The solutions are well-known in the private sector, so I don't think they should be spending more tax money" to reach similar conclusions, Laydon said. "FlexRide needs to be fast, reliable and safe to make a significant dent in our troubles."

RTD losing support

The commissioners' letter noted that "Incremental decreases in RTD services over time have eroded confidence in RTD, as well as the perceived value of tax dollars, contributed to RTD. With limited service available in the area, it is disconcerting that the citizens of Douglas County are potentially losing affordable transportation options and we urge you to reconsider."

Along with most of the Front Range, the county is part of the RTD district, and residents pay taxes to the district.

"We're not alone in feeling like we're being left high and dry" with proposed service cuts, Teal said.

Parker Mayor Jeff Torborg told the commissioners the Reimagine project is the start of RTD's future. Still, while the service faces decreasing ridership and revenue throughout the district, service cuts become a Douglas County problem.

Parker has tried twice to get a bill passed by state lawmakers to allow city voters to decide if they wanted to remain in the RTD district due to similar concerns.

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Mike McKibbin is an independent journalist on Colorado's Front Range and covers Douglas County for NewsBreak.

Denver, CO
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