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RTD Survey: Most Passengers Support Service Cuts to Get More Reliability

DENVER (CBS4)- In an effort to curb the ongoing operator shortage, RTD turned to passengers to choose between the lesser of two evils – temporary cut backs on service or keeping the status quo? According to the Regional Transportation District's two-week survey, most people prefer a temporary service reduction.

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"I think it shows, on a temporary basis, they're willing to deal with a bit of reduction to have the reliability," RTD CEO Dave Genova said.

In the district-wide outreach survey – of which 13,000 people completed between Nov. 4-17 – 59% favored a temporary cut to better balance with the number of RTD bus and train operators. RTD said about 63% of its stakeholders also agreed with the service reduction idea.

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RTD Board of Directors meeting on Nov. 2019. (credit: CBS)

"We heard a lot that it's like 'bad and bad' as the choices that you're giving us," RTD's Assistant General Manager Pauletta Tonilas said of the "Your Voice Matters" survey, "but what this came down to was an either/or of those situations. That's what we're faced with."

Tonilas added RTD is in the midst of an operator shortage crisis and those who currently operate the agency's buses and trains are required to work six-day workweeks… every week. That's having a significant impact on their mental and physical health, as well as the reliability of trip schedules.

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"This is not a situation we want to be in," she said Thursday evening. "This is very difficult and we're sorry for what we're doing and impacting people's lives every day. But this is where we are and we have a responsibility to face this situation and deal with it."

Ahead of a board meeting Thursday evening, RTD leaders addressed the media about the survey results and the agency's historic labor shortage, which really RTD started experiencing in 2015. Genova said the rapid expansion of commuter and light rail lines in the last few years coupled with low unemployment rates has played a significant role in the shortage.

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"We have challenges like a lot of organizations," Genova said. "I'm confident we will work through our challenges."

As far as what that looks like – temporary service cuts for days… months… maybe years? – RTD isn't sure.

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"We really haven't started to look at the detail of what the plan might look like yet," Genova said.

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RTD staff will meet with the board of directors again on Dec. 12, likely with a plan of possible cuts to bus and light rail routes. While few specific details were shared at Thursday's meeting, RTD did confirm commuter rail lines A, B and G would not be affected.

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