Parker council, staff worried RTD cuts are a 'slippery slope'

Minor service reduction to Route 483 sparks discussion about future

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/28/20

Parker will likely see service reduction to its commuter bus route to Aurora when the Regional Transportation District implements service changes in May. The proposal would convert pickup times …

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Parker council, staff worried RTD cuts are a 'slippery slope'

Minor service reduction to Route 483 sparks discussion about future

Posted

Parker will likely see service reduction to its commuter bus route to Aurora when the Regional Transportation District implements service changes in May.

The proposal would convert pickup times during weekday morning and afternoon rush hours of Route 483 from every 30 minutes to every hour.

The proposal, presented before a town council study session Feb. 10, was enough to ignite a discussion among council and staff regarding the town's relationship with RTD.

Council and staff discussed ways to reconcile the continued loss of service to Parker routes.

“We're worried RTD is not holding up its end of the bargain through these service cuts,” said John Fussa, community development director, “so I think the mayor and council were very clear that if RTD is not going to hold up their end of the bargain, all options are on the table, including the most drastic option of leaving the district.”

Castle Rock voted to be removed from the RTD taxing district in 2005.

If Parker wants to do so, the effort would require a state legislator to sponsor a bill to ultimately put the question up to town voters. Fussa said considering that measure would require serious study, but it is a last resort. The first perference would be to find a service level within RTD that works for Parker residents.

RTD will reduce or modify service to 25 local bus routes, including the 483, which travels from Lincoln Station in Lone Tree along Lincoln Avenue and Parker Road to Nine Mile Station in Aurora. The 483 was created in 2016 when two Parker bus lines consolidated. Parker also has Route P, a commuter route that loops in Parker and Civic Center Station in downtown Denver.

Residents within Parker's RTD taxing district pay an additional 1% in sales tax that goes toward the district. Parker RTD taxpayers contribute about $11 million each year.

“We don't get anywhere near that level of service in return,” Fussa said. “The mayor and council understand it's a regional district, so the money they put in the pot is used for transportation service throughout the district… but our residents and businesses send a substantial amount of money to RTD and we get very little return of service in terms of transit service.”

RTD welcomed its new interim general manager and CEO Paul Ballard Feb. 24. Ballard said, before a room of media, his priority will be employee retention and opening the N line in the north suburbs. Service cuts, Ballard said, are not ideal, but RTD needs to face reality. Ballard will be in his role between 4 to 14 months.

“The only way to gain the public's trust back is to do what we say we're going to do,” Ballard said. “In my experience, when you have a problem in service delivery, if you fix it and you communicate that to the public, they become more loyal customers than they were even before you messed up their trip to work. I think we have an opportunity here to build even greater loyalty to RTD.”

But, Ballard added, “We have to deliver.”

The town feels it has held up its end of the bargain with RTD. The mayor and council advocated developers of the town's newest housing development in Hess Ranch to join the RTD taxing district, and the town has paid for a free summer FlexRide program with town funds and encouraged mass transit in various master plan documents.

Bus service is not only crucial to the locals who rely on the service to get to their jobs in Aurora or Denver. It's vital for Parker's local business community as well. Many Parker businesses rely on workers from Aurora and Denver.

RTD has cut service to Parker bus routes before. In 2016 RTD consolidated Route 410 and Route 83 to make the 483. Riders of the P Route have voiced frustration before regarding inconsistent pickup times and overall service. 

“It's much easier to cut service than it is to implement service. Once it goes away it's harder to get it back,” Councilmember Josh Rivero said. “If we lose service down here, I don't think it comes back. When we start to allow them to take away the little bit of service we do get, it's a slippery slope.”

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