What's next for public transit in Parker?

RTD disagrees with some residents' views on expanding service

Posted 4/16/19

On any given weekday, Parker residents who rely on the "P" route bus to downtown Denver from the Jordan Park-N-Ride station can expect to wait. The Jordan station is well-known for its crowded …

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What's next for public transit in Parker?

RTD disagrees with some residents' views on expanding service

Posted

On any given weekday, Parker residents who rely on the "P" route bus to downtown Denver from the Jordan Park-N-Ride station can expect to wait.

The Jordan station is well-known for its crowded parking lot, and any regular rider of the "P" route knows one universal truth: You have to get there early.

The “P” route is a peak-period service that operates between Parker, The Pinery and downtown Denver. The bus runs from about 5:30 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.

Now, some riders of the “P” route feel shortchanged. The overcrowded parking lot and sometimes overcapacity buses provide an anecdotal contradiction to the statistics provided by the Regional Transportation District, which insists that enhanced service for the “P” route is not necessary. The Parker RTD tax district generated a total of about $10 million from sales taxes in 2017, according to an RTD tax audit.

Some within the district feel they're not getting their money's worth.

Kory Nelson, an assistant city attorney with the City of Denver, is an administrator of the Facebook page “RTD 'P' Bus Riders,” where people can post their concerns with the bus line — the only RTD bus line with its own Facebook page. The page has 142 likes.

“We just don't feel like we're getting a decent return on the investment we're getting,” Nelson said. “I understand we shouldn't get a one-to-one return, but I think that when they cut our 'P' route to half the number of buses arbitrarily, they did us a disservice. They're trying to bleed us dry.”

Nelson is leading the charge on a planned protest of RTD at the May 17 ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Southeast Rail Extension in Lone Tree. Nelson feels RTD has favored the light rail project and left Parker's needs on the back burner.

What the people want

Some residents have called for an expansion to the Jordan Road Park-N-Ride stop, which is at full capacity through most of the work day. Residents have said RTD insists the Park-N-Ride sits at only 50 percent capacity. To provide users a solution to the parking problem, RTD placed fliers on windshields showing different places to park in the area.

Some have also called for more frequent stops from the “P” route loop to Civic Center Station in downtown Denver. So far, RTD officials say, the route does not draw enough passengers to require more frequent stops at this time.

“Crowding is subjective. There are people who say a bus is crowded when all seats are occupied. That's where we want to be. That's healthy use of the taxpayer dollar,” said Jessie Carter, RTD's manager of service scheduling and planning. “Some people think it's crowded if they have to sit next to someone. The suburban market does see crowding as anytime they have to sit next to someone.”

Currently, the average busload of the “P” route is about 30, below the capacity of 49, according to RTD numbers. Nelson believes those numbers do not accurately represent the “P” route's daily uses.

Ken Mihalik, the RTD board of directors representative for District G, which includes Parker, said expanding the service of the “P” route would have cost $2 million of the town's allotted $10 million garnered from RTD taxpayers.

Bryce Matthews, the town's planning manager, said the town acts as more of a facilitator to RTD in these matters, bringing the desires of the residents to the attention of RTD officials and board members. In some instances the town will partner with RTD or bring up concerns on behalf of residents. Matthews said that, on top of the concern with the “P” route, many residents who work at the local businesses live out of town, but RTD does not provide weekend services or service past 7 p.m.

No single theme

In 2006, the community rejected a full-service 410 bus — connection to Parker and the Lincoln Station — to replace the “P” route. The 483 is the other long-distance coach that serves the Lincoln Avenue corridor and Nine Mile Station in Aurora.

“There isn't a single market for the commute to work in Parker. Parker keeps expanding and growing, and their drive distance and drive times I wouldn't say are horrible,” Carter said, “but is it enough to push it to influence transit needs downtown, and there is that challenge to actually convince people there is a value in using transit to get to their place of work.”

Changes to local service, Carter said, comes from statistics gained on ridership demand and feasibility of providing that service. RTD is short about 10 percent of its needed drivers and maintenance workers, Carter said.

Although a new coach looping to the new end-of-line light rail station at RidgeGate Parkway, about seven miles west of downtown Parker, has been discussed, no action has been taken on it yet. The next RTD service change is in May. There are no changes, other than the introduction of the Southeast Rail Extension, set for Parker.

“As we move toward the future, we'll work with the Town of Parker and the county to look at some things we've looked at in the past,” Carter said. “Right now, I'd like to see a lot more development around RidgeGate. I know it's coming, and it's something we have to plan for, but in the near term it's not there. In the future we hope it will be there.”

The Southeast Rail Extension project will officially open to the public May 19, extending the light rail end-of-line 2.3 miles farther south in Lone Tree. The extension project will provide easier access to light rail for surrounding residents, yet some Parker residents question what the town's future in public transit will look like.

I don't know that there's any type of a single theme,” Mihalik said. “But I certainly want Parker and District G to get the service that is commensurate with the taxes being paid.”

The squeaky wheel

On Feb. 25, RTD unveiled the rebranding of the Call-N-Ride to FlexRide bus. The FlexRide name, according to an RTD news release, “better reflects the flexible nature of a service designed with each community's specific needs in mind.” New features of the FlexRide include online trip booking and quick access to booking from a user's mobile device, which reduces the advance reservation time from 60 minutes to about 10 minutes, according to the release.

FlexRide will operate the same as the Call-N-Ride. In some service areas, regularly scheduled times have been established through flex routes to places like schools, activity centers, light rail stations and Park-n-Ride stations with no reservation required.

The new buses will feature a stylized, modern mountain symbol reminiscent of those on other RTD buses and trains.

While the new features of the local, on-demand bus service gets into full swing, the question of what will happen to the longer routes out of town remains. Nelson said he believes residents need to speak up more about what they want from RTD service.

“Parker residents are too nice. We don't complain enough and we're not out there demanding better services,” Nelson said. “I understand we need to be more squeaky.”

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