With New Transit Chief Dave Genova, What’s Next at RTD?

RTD Candidates
RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova

The RTD Board of Directors offered Interim General Manager and CEO Dave Genova the permanent post late last week after the career RTD employee beat out two outsiders for the job.

Phil Washington left the agency to run LA Metro in Los Angeles, and his legacy centers around FasTracks, the massive, voter-approved expansion of the region’s rail and bus network. One rail line has already opened, with four more to open in 2016, plus the Flatiron Flyer bus rapid transit route.

Which begs the question: What’s next for RTD? How will Genova set priorities and steer the agency?

Streetsblog Denver spoke with transit professionals, transit riders, and our Twitter followers to find out what they want to see in this new era. Here’s what they said. (Some interviews are condensed.)

Kathleen Osher, executive director of the Transit Alliance:

I think RTD needs to be more of a customer facing agency, meaning all the things that make transit super accessible, not necessarily something groundbreaking. People ride transit more when they don’t have to have a schedule. It’s the simple things. I’m a much more avid bus rider because I ride the Zero — if i miss one, there will be one a few minutes later.

I think that in the state of Colorado there has to be some recognition that the next big project is a whole bunch of small things — really making those [FasTracks] lines work well for the communities that they connect. That is one of the biggest pieces that RTD has a genuine opportunity with. I think there’s an opportunity for public sector agencies like RTD to get out of this paternalistic role and really transition into being a partner. They have limited resources, limited scopes, and so there’s a lot of opportunity there.

It may be a blessing that RTD has been in a holding pattern for leadership because that conversation about looking at mobility as a service has evolved since then. It’s about a more integrated, holistic system, where RTD delivers a component of that mobility.

Gerald Tarkington, daily rider on the Number 15 Bus:

People need to be able to pay and board faster and easier. I’d like to see him do something on that. I’m already late for work because the bus was late, and I have to wait for someone to find exact change in their purse before the bus gets moving again?

Will Toor, transportation director at Southwestern Energy Efficient Project:

RTD should be focusing on how to fill buses and fill trains. I would love to see him really focus on growing the EcoPass program. I think that RTD has tended to be very concerned about the increased ridership that EcoPass brings because more demand means more buses. I think there’s a real opportunity for David to change that approach and get RTD to really embrace the EcoPass to fill ridership, fill empty seats, and build community support for transit.

I’d also like to see him focus on the whole arena of customer service — things that don’t cost a lot of money, figuring out how to really make the Smart Card work, moving toward data integration to move toward a single card for bike-share and car-share and other transportation services. Wifi, real time transit information — make all of that tech stuff that really helps the customer experience work. I think that’s been a real challenge. There are agencies that have figured this out.

Toor also said he’d like to see Genova envision the next big thing after FasTracks, which may be more robust bus rapid transit, or BRT, throughout the region.

Jill Locantore, policy director of WalkDenver:

I think we made some pretty clear recommendations in the first and last mile connections report that we hope he would follow up on. One of those was developing a strategic plan for better first and last mile connections to transit. Part of that is looking at return on investment by providing those better connections, and looking at local government partnerships to provide better bus shelters.

We’re also hoping RTD will be an active partner with Denver as the city develops its transit plan to help not just connect the suburbs to Denver, but help Denver residents get around and into downtown Denver, and really extend the reach of the walker with better transit.