RTD Is Upping Transparency With Video, Audio, and Transcripts for Board of Directors Meetings

Transit agency won't spend money needed for live broadcasts and real-time closed captioning, though.

Thrilling debates over regional transit policy will soon be online for everyone to see. Photo: David Sachs
Thrilling debates over regional transit policy will soon be online for everyone to see. Photo: David Sachs

Starting June 1, residents will be able to watch (and listen to) how transit decisions get made at every meeting of the Regional Transportation District’s elected Board of Directors.

The transit agency will begin filming, recording, and transcribing each meeting, then publishing them online. It’s a move toward transparency for a lesser known elected body that shapes how buses and trains serve customers in Denver and the metro area.

Currently, only residents who make the trek to RTD’s downtown headquarters can see their elected officials in action. Soon everyone with internet access will be able to keep tabs on issues they care about. Viewers will be able to navigate to specific parts of meetings by clicking on agenda items and transcripts alongside the video.

“We think it is more and more difficult, given the flexibility of work schedules… to regularly attend public meetings — especially people who work in the evenings,” said RTD Assistant General Manager of Communications Scott Reed. “So we wanted to provide access to RTD board meetings in terms of people being able to see exactly what is going on at those meetings, how board members vote, and interactions with the public.”

The public will not get to see meetings in real-time, though, because the agency isn’t willing to pay for it. Instead meetings will be posted online about 10 days after they occur. Accurate, live closed-captioning is cost prohibitive, Reed said, so the agency will add captions later “to provide equal accessibility to all viewers at the same time” and “to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

RTD has not yet released the project’s price tag.

The RTD board’s meeting minutes will change drastically. Gone will be the days of narrative prose written by one RTD staffer’s interpretation of board happenings. The public will now be able to see conversations word for word with posted transcripts, and will see them online sooner than before.

The board shot down an earlier bid for transparency in 2015, with six current board members voting against the measure. RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova made this initiative a priority, Reed said.

The transparency measure is technically a pilot. “It’s a pilot, yes, in the sense that we’re launching this for the first time,” he said. “And I think that we want to be sure that what we’re putting out there is what we intend. So I think that’s the only kind of caveat.”