Back on Track: Meet District G Representative Julien Bouquet
This is part seven 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, five, and six.
Meet the final new member to RTD’s Board of Directors, Julien Bouquet. He is the representative for District G, which covers the far southeastern metro area including Centennial, Lone Tree and Parker. Bouquet ran against incumbent Ken Mihalik, who conceded from the race on November 5.
Bouquet’s main priorities lie in making RTD a long-term transportation option for riders now and in the future by making it affordable, accessible, and efficient. “It seems like RTD has lost the perspective of the riders,” Bouquet told Streetsblog Denver. “They’ve lost the perspective of operators and drivers.” He wants to see a reduction in fares and is optimistic that would help bring more riders to RTD in a post pandemic world.
Bouquet has been concerned with how high fares and service reduction affect the people who rely on RTD for everyday needs like buying groceries, taking their kids to school, or getting to work. “When you have RTD increasing its ticket fare and reducing services or thinking about a reduction in certain services that so many people rely on, that affects the whole community,” said Bouquet. He believes RTD has lost some ridership to private forms of transportation like Uber and Lyft; according to him, the key to bringing those riders back to public transit is to make it more desirable.
In order to do that, Bouquet thinks the board should start by making their meetings more accessible to the public, holding Zoom meetings rather than holding them over the phone. While the public can dial in and participate in meetings, Bouquets believes video calls would make it easier for riders to ask questions and voice concerns. In addition, he thinks it would be helpful to host meetings aimed at riders communicating with the board. “If you establish a culture of us listening to the community, caring for the community, that’s ultimately going to be beneficial for RTD in the long run.”
He also acknowledges Colorado as a “car state” and that RTD has a unique challenge compared to most other transit agencies. RTD provides service to the largest geographic area in the country, meaning RTD has to figure out how to provide public transit for a number of people who have different needs and desires. Bouquet believes it is essential for RTD to convince residents from all districts that public transportation can be more convenient and a cheaper way to get around than driving their car. However, he is mindful that it will take time and won’t be easy, but believes it’s worthwhile to actively try and change public perception of RTD. This is where his priority of listening to the community and evaluating what they want comes in. “I hope to cooperate with the community because they have much better insight than us as the board,” said Bouquet.
Bouquet realized there were problems within RTD when he was waiting for a train home one night after an Avalanche game in 2019. He recalls the almost hour and a half wait as three trains that were scheduled to come never showed up.“It kind of opened up my eyes to the inefficiencies that were going on with RTD as I waited there,” Bouquet said. After that experience, he looked more into the agency and how it was run and learned about the board of directors. This was when he realized the privilege he had as someone who didn’t rely on transportation. “I realized a lot of people in the metro area don’t have a vehicle and are totally reliant on RTD,” he said.
Bouquet has been a frequent rider of RTD since he was in school at the University of Denver when he relied on the train to get to classes and work. Now, he and his wife use the train as a way of getting around when it’s convenient. But when he learned there were some board members who didn’t use RTD at all, he felt he could bring a new perspective. “I decided to run because I thought we needed a perspective from riders,” Bouquet said. “We need to be hearing from people that actually have experience riding trains or buses.”
Bouquet is looking forward to working with other board members, the new CEO Deborah Johnson, and Governor Polis’ oversight committee to collaborate with riders and operators to create a better transportation network. “I’m optimistic about the future of RTD,” Bouquet told Streetsblog. He believes RTD is seeing a much needed “breath of fresh air” and hopes to improve transportation for the community now and in the future.
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