Back on Track: Meet District M Representative Marjorie Sloan
This is part six of the Streetsblog Denver series covering the RTD Board of Directors. Every Friday, we’ll be looking at the newest updates with RTD and its board members. We’ll explore the issues RTD is facing and the responsibility of the board to address them. Read parts one, two, three, four, and five.
It has been two weeks since four new members were elected to the RTD Board of Directors. As of this week, the new group has completed their second session of orientation and have started to learn what they need to in order to be effective members of the board. Included in this group is Marjorie Sloan, who ran unopposed for District M. This district includes Golden, Lakewood, and Wheatridge.
Prior to running for the RTD Board of Directors, Sloan served as city councilor and planning commissioner in Golden before serving an eight year term as mayor. When her term ended this January, she was looking for another role in public service and found the open position on the board. “I thought RTD could use a different outlook on its board,” Sloan told Streetsblog Denver. “I am going to bring to the board some experience in dealing with transit issues and challenges.”
Although not related to transit directly, Sloan is arguably one of the most experienced new members joining the board regarding transportation. In her time as mayor, Sloan helped organize and advocate for the “Golden Plan” with CDOT, which changed plans for a beltway around the metro area that would have bisected Golden along the 6th Avenue and SH 93 Corridor. Sloan was aware of the consequences that the beltway would have running through the city and fought to provide alternative solutions. The changed plans resulted in addressing concerns of traffic speeds and traffic noise while connecting neighborhoods and preserving the historic elements of Golden.
One of her main focuses as mayor was making Golden more accessible to the surrounding metro area. As mayor, Sloan sought to connect people to the experience of Golden while also connecting residents to jobs and activities in other parts of the Denver area. “Transportation is the connective tissue of our Denver Metro area,” Sloan acknowledged. She advocated for maintaining service along the 44 bus line, which received service cuts prior to COVID-19, insisting the line continue all the way into Golden in order to support business owners and employers who could benefit from stops existing in Golden.
Sloan also notes that many residents in her district rely on public transportation to get to the Jefferson County Center where the courthouse, jail, and social services are located. Due to the location of the county center, the fares often fall into the “regional” category making it more expensive. “The people who need to get to the county center are not the ones who should be paying the higher fare,” Sloan stated.
One goal during her time on the board is to focus on creating equitable transportation that is accessible to all households no matter their income. “In my mind, equity and efficiency go hand in hand,” she continued. “RTD is charged with getting people wherever they need to go at a reasonable fare in a reasonable amount of time.” Sloan believes that, while the agency has done a good job at creating programs that accommodate varying incomes and mobility differences, these programs are too complicated for riders to figure out or even know about.
While she would like to see options for lower fares, she recognizes that RTD’s financial situation is complex and there isn’t a simple solution. She commendended the current board for their efforts and acknowledged the tough decisions that lie ahead. However, she does think the agency could delve into options yet uninvestigated. “There are so many possibilities that can be explored,” Sloan said, “such as sale of excess land.” She suggested that RTD look into selling land in their portfolio to generate additional income as well as encourage change that would let developers build more than just parking lots on the land around stations.
She is also aware of the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the agency’s finances. She believes that in a post-COVID-19 world, “transit will be viewed in a totally different way.” But until that time comes, her focus rests with those who depend on transit the most and planning to expand services and increase ridership in the future. “We need to focus on the people who depend on transit to get to where they need to,” Sloan said. “And at the same time plan for a future where you bring in a broader group of transit riders.” This means returning to back door boarding and suspending fares to ensure riders and drivers of their safety if COVID-19 cases should continue to rise in Denver.
Overall, Sloan thinks the best way to move forward is with new and fresh ideas. She is hopeful for what new CEO and general manager, Deborah Johnson, has to bring to the agency and is interested to see what ideas Governor Polis’s oversight committee has to offer. “I think fresh air is coming into RTD from a lot of directions,” said Sloan. “The governor’s oversight committee is bringing new ideas to RTD as well as the board members.” Going forward, she is excited to see how these elements come together with the new dynamics of the board to create a brighter future for RTD.
Sloan has lived in Golden since 1975, making her a seasoned advocate for Golden residents. Nevertheless, she is aware her district covers more than just the city of Golden. She is looking forward to learning more about what residents in Lakewood and Wheatridge expect from public transportation and apply her experience to help improve their public transportation experience. She wants the residents in her district to know that she will be “approachable, available, and open-minded” during her term, as she states on her campaign website.
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