Editor's note: This story first aired in a CBS4 newscast and was featured CBSDenver.com on Friday. It aired again on Sunday night.
DENVER (CBS4)- In just a few months, thousands of bus and rail rides around the Denver metro area could be eliminated. It's part of the Regional Transportation District's plan to address its ongoing operator shortage.
If the cuts RTD proposed last month are approved, six bus routes would be discontinued, 19 others would have reduced service and special bus services – like the Broncos Ride, Buffs Ride and Rockies Ride – would be suspended. Among the bus routes that could be eliminated is the 99L, which many riders depend on to get between Lakewood and downtown Denver.
"We just don't have any other options to get from Lakewood to Civic Center (Station)," rider Aaron Smith told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann. "It saves me 40-50 minutes a day compared to taking the W Line or even another bus route. The W Line, though, it goes to Union Station and that's not really a comparison. It's totally inconvenient."
Smith explained many of his fellow riders may not even be aware their bus route is on the elimination list. That's because RTD is changing the route's number on Jan. 12. Instead of the 100L as it's currently known, it will be the 99L, which is how RTD refers to the route in its proposal. Confused yet? You're not alone.
"It's super frustrating," Smith said. "It has caused a lot of confusion and some people don't even understand what's going on. Upwards of 600 people board (the 99L) on weekdays. It's a lot of people for (RTD) to just take this away."
In an effort to keep the busy bus he relies on to get to and from work, Smith is taking action.
"I started a petition after I saw RTD's announcement about the service reduction," he said.
Hundreds of people have signed Smith's petition to "Save the 99L." He said signatures are from upset riders as well as their families who he explained would also be impacted by the loss of the bus route.
"My time is extremely valuable to me to spend with my family," he said. "I just want to get home to be with my kids. It's not worth it to spend more time waiting for another bus or a train that won't even get me close to where I need to be (for work)."
RTD explained it intends to reestablish the 99L once the agency stabilizes its operator shortage, however it did not elaborate on a timeline. It is Smith's hope his petition and the voices of reliant riders will prevent RTD from removing the route at all.
"I don't really think that they (RTD) are listening to us and I feel like they're probably going to move on with it," he said.
Before RTD finalizes any of its proposed changes to go into effect in May, it is holding a series of public meeting next month (time and location TBA). Smith said he plans to attend at least one of the meetings and encourages other frustrated riders to voice their concerns, too.
LINK: Save 99L Petition | RTD Service Reductions
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