RTD Board OKs Another Round of Bus Service Cuts, Along With Some Improvements

The periodic service changes may help the system, but individual riders will suffer.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

The RTD Board of Directors approved dozens of changes to the transit agency’s bus service Tuesday night, including the consolidation of bus stops to speed up service. But the suite of changes, coming in May, also includes service cuts that will affect riders trying to get to their daily destinations.

RTD lists the changes in detail on its website, but it hasn’t been updated to reflect tweaks made by staffers after several public meetings [PDF].

Riders on 12 routes around the region will have to deal with buses coming less often. Riders of the 0L and the 3L will see more buses coming more often, while riders of the 46 will see the route extended on weekends. Ten routes will see their bus stops spaced out more evenly to avoid the time-eating stop-and-go that occurs when drivers have to brake every block.

Denver’s transit agency is underfunded. So, three times a year, RTD examines every one of its routes and looks for ways to make the transit system run more smoothly with the resources it has. Problem is, people who ride buses and trains with low ridership get left in the lurch when the agency cuts back on their routes to add service where demand is higher.

Case in point: Ten people (on average) rely on the 3:24 a.m. run of the 121 bus along Peoria Street every day. RTD is scrapping this run, meaning riders will have to get to the stop 30 minutes earlier to get where they’re going on time.

The flip side: RTD is adding a bus trip to the 0L along South Broadway during the afternoon rush, which will serve more than 10 people a day.

The Peoria Street cut will save about $23,000 annually, according to RTD documents, while the South Broadway addition will cost about $15,000. In all the May service changes will theoritically save the agency $153,000 a year. That money will likely be reinvested into the system during the next round of changes in August, manager of service planning and scheduling Jessie Carter told Streetsblog. The cuts will also eliminate three full-time driver positions — another belt-tightening measure for an agency that needs 140 more drivers than it has.

This is the reality of a transit system expected to serve a growing Denver and its sprawling suburbs and exurbs with no increase to its sales tax revenue since 2004 — and that funding can’t be used for the base bus system. Expect the cash-strapped agency to continue the juggling act as long as its sales tax share remains static, and as long as state law makes RTD give parking spots away for free.

If Mayor Michael Hancock truly wants to reverse the trend of falling ridership and double the share of trips by transit in the city proper, he’ll have to invest in bus service and in physical changes to streets that make the bus competitive with driving. That’s what the city’s first-ever transit plan, due out this spring, will likely call for. But as of now, there’s no clear path for funding or implementation.

  • TakeFive

    …no increase to its sales tax revenue since 2004 — and that funding can’t be used for the base bus system.

    Yup, FasTrack $’s have been spent pending the finish of the the N Line. I suspect with all the issues along A Line with crossing gates that most of the contingency money is gone as well. At least they got a big bang for their buck. Imagine downtown w/o DUS and not much of a DUS neighborhood. If they were to break ground today on FasTracks it would easily cost twice as much.

  • John Riecke

    Hopefully they fix the stop spacing on the 46, in some places it stops every block! That’s insane? The 10 could use some work too.

    • EMB

      Many of the too-closely-spaced stops for the 46 are along stretches where the sidewalk’s terrible, so it does make some sense. A better solution would be to improve the sidewalks, but… it’s Denver.

      The biggest single problem with 46 stop placement is how far the closest stops are from the main King Soopers entrance, not that I’m sure what the best way to fix that would be. (Probably just rearranging the store to have the primary entrance along actual sidewalks instead of in the middle of the parking lot. No street redesign or stop changes required.)

  • Bjorn

    The N-S Aurora routes are unique in how long their spans are.

    • That’s due to their use by DIA commuters and other blue-collar workers on non-traditional schedules or with long commutes. On some other routes the alarm clocks along the way haven’t even gone off yet. We did a lot of experimenting with this issue over the years, as neighborhoods changed and airports moved.

  • emmeaki

    Why don’t they get off all those redundant busses on the same line. Why are there a million #10 busses going only to 9th and Clermont when the other #10s pass that point anyway? I have to wait for 2 or 3 busses to pass to get the one to Centertech, and during rush hour, it’s always packed to capacity. Plenty people obviously need to go farther than 9th and Clermont. Don’t get me started on the nunbrr of 15 routes!

    • Actually, most people on Rte 10 don’t want to go past 9th & Clermont, but in recent years the schedule adherence in afternoon traffic has resulted in poor distribution of the loads. RTD is working on changes to the route to ameliorate the problems. One problem is the operator shortage — keeping a big city bus on time requires some experience.

      Also, your neighbors in the Montclair district put on a major push to kick out your bus some years ago and the current service level was a compromise based on passenger counts (where you see full buses, they saw empty buses). Ridership east of Clermont was light because of the long stretch next to Lowry and competition with the Rte 15Ltd.

      RTD ridership figures are posted by route by year in their website and I think you’ll find that Rtes 15/15Ltd are carrying a lot of passengers. They have schedule adherence problems, too, which are being addressed with the BRT scheme.

  • nemerzain@gmail.com

    Nowhere on the article does it mention what city this is… a reader that is not familiar with “RTD” wouldn’t know where this is happening…

    • TakeFive

      Celebrating 50 years of RTD

    • Good point. Not as bad for an out-of-towner, though, as Google Translate, which helpfully came up with “Federal Constitutional Court” instead of a news article’s “Berlin Transit Corporation” — both entities have the same initials in German.

      One problem with tagging it with the city is the red flag issue of Denver being both the state capitol and the business center. “Colorado’s RTD” is a safer reference. A majority of the elected transit district board members are from outside of Denver. For the same reason, it’s the Colorado Rockies playing baseball in Denver.

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