RTD Director Menten: $15 Million for Transit? No Thanks, Spend It on Roads

RTD Director Natalie Menten

You’d think the leaders of RTD would want to shepherd the Denver area’s transit system into the modern era, but RTD board member Natalie Menten would rather see Colorado transportation dollars go toward highways than transit.

Menten, who represents parts of Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and Golden, told Complete Colorado that transit doesn’t deserve the $15 million it gets each year from legislation passed in 2009, nicknamed “FASTER.” A bill is up for debate in the State Senate, where some lawmakers want to give all the funding to roads.

More from Complete Colorado:

Dennis Polhill of Golden noted that CDOT traffic counts aren’t reduced, and sometimes increase, when parallel light rail is opened. Therefore more money should go to highways.

Natalie Menten, a director of the Regional Transportation District but speaking for herself, echoed that theme. She said the extra $15 million at issue should go to highways, not mass transit, because 100 percent of the population uses roads, and less than 5 percent use RTD. CDOT’s current budget is about $1.4 billion, she said, while RTD’s is $1.1 billion — way out of proportion to RTD’s usefulness.

Apparently Menten thinks RTD is flush with money and has reached the pinnacle of transit service. She should tell that to her agency’s customers, many of whom can’t get where they need to go as bus service shrinks, all while fares get more expensive. The RTD Board is supposedly looking for a way to offer income-based fares to impoverished riders, but hasn’t found enough money in the couch cushions. Don’t expect Menten to help.

FASTER raises about $200 million a year from vehicle registration and rental car fees. Transit receives less than 8 percent of that — for the entire state — with the rest going to roads. Over the years RTD has used $4 million in FASTER funds to replace downtown circulator buses, for example, while Denver used $5 million to rehab Union Station. This year, most of the money got divvied up between Bustang, the regional bus service, and transit vehicles and programs, like service for the elderly in rural and suburban areas.

This isn’t the first time Menten has undermined her agency’s mission. Last year she came out against walkable, compact, transit-oriented development in her suburban district. Menten’s attitude toward transit is alarming given her influential position. Instead of pushing RTD forward, she seems to be fixed on holding it back.

Filed Under: RTD