Is RTD Boss Dave Genova Doing the Best He Can for Denver Transit?

The agency is struggling, but the RTD Board just voted to give the agency chief a small bonus.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

The RTD Board of Directors gave General Manager and CEO Dave Genova a small bonus Tuesday by a vote of 8 to 7. Genova will receive a one-time bump of $2,850, or 1 percent of his current salary.

The sum is pretty small in the scheme of things, but the optics aren’t good. RTD is cutting bus and rail service, juggling a severe driver shortage, and answering for the delayed G and N lines.

“It’s not that I think the amount of money is huge — I think it’s symbolic,” said Ean Thomas Tafoya, a board member at the Colorado Latino Forum, which came out against the bonus.

Dave Genova
Dave Genova

Genova’s salary isn’t going to affect RTD’s big budget problems: The agency is serving a growing area with stagnant funding levels, and coping with a $6 million-per-year punch to the budget thanks to a legislative snafu.

But his actions can make the most of the hand he’s been dealt. The vote on his salary is a good time to ask: Is Genova doing a good job running the region’s transit agency?

As an advocate for the services he oversees, Genova hasn’t always spoken up when it could have made a difference. Last month his agency remained neutral on legislation that would create new funding stream — $10 million a year — to provide an income-based fare pass.

RTD is “sending a bad message,” said Jenee Donelson, a transit organizer at 9to5 Colorado. “You’re showing people exactly what you care about, and it’s not them. It’s not the people who ride the bus.”

Genova and the RTD Board of Directors will have a chance to redeem themselves and get behind the bill when it goes before the Colorado General Assembly next session.

Another potential source of revenue is to charge more for parking at RTD’s rail stations — which would also be good transportation policy. RTD can’t charge residents to park by Colorado law, and the agency forgoes $22 million annually because of it. Genova gets some points for having his staff study the problem, but neither he nor the RTD Board have advocated publicly to change the status quo.

Under Genova, RTD also elected to keep throwing away resources on the new but sparsely used R line, which just doesn’t serve the type of compact, walkable areas that are conducive to transit. RTD’s resources would be better spent increasing bus service where many people will use it, but RTD caved to pressure from Aurora officials and the media, choosing to prop up R service instead. (As it happens, an Aurora rep on the RTD board provided one of the votes for Genova’s bonus.)

Then there’s RTD’s driver shortage. The agency has tried to fill vacancies by offering slightly higher wages and bonuses, but it hasn’t been enough to provide all the service RTD is supposed to under its current schedules.

Genova has some successes under his belt. He oversaw the on-time opening of the A and B lines and the successful Flatiron Flyer bus line between Denver and Boulder — all with growing ridership. But the G line is still more than a year behind schedule and the N line’s opening is anyone’s guess.

Mobile ticketing and real-time arrival information also went live under Genova’s leadership.

“I think he’s done some good things, but I think what he’s done is included in his regular pay,” District K Director Paul Solano told Streetsblog. “The agency is not taking care of the core backbone, and that’s the drivers, the mechanics… We can’t keep drivers because number one we don’t pay them enough.”

Bonus or no bonus, after nearly two years at the helm at RTD, Genova has a mixed track record. The year ahead will be a critical one, with an important legislative session coming up, a new union contract to be negotiated, and RTD expected to overhaul its fare pass program.

Here’s who voted for the bonus: Bob Broom, Tina Francone, Larry Hoy, Judy Lubow, Ken Mihalik, Chuck Sisk, Doug Tisdale, and Jeff Walker. Ernest Archuleta, Barbara Deadwyler, Claudia Folska, Natalie Menten, Kate Williams, Lorraine Anderson, and Solano voted against.