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RTD board discusses its problems and some solutions with state lawmakers

Posted at 6:36 PM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-23 13:08:02-05

DENVER — Three state lawmakers met with the Regional Transportation District’s board of managers Tuesday to discuss the ongoing challenges RTD is facing, from driver shortages to delays.

The meeting, which RTD board chair Doug Tisdale described as informal, happened before a scheduled RTD meeting. Tisdale says the two groups got together before the legislative session to discuss the challenges and potential solutions.

“We will work happily and collaboratively with the legislature,” Tisdale said.

Tisdale said the message he took away from the meeting was that RTD needs to continue to reach out to lawmakers to let them know what’s happening.

However, Rep. Chris Hansen, who attended the meeting and spoke with Denver7 over the phone, his intention was to leave RTD with the clear impression that there is a lot of urgency in the state legislature to find solutions.

“Continuing to operate, you know, as usual, is not going be adequate, it’s not going to be sustainable,” Hansen said.

Rep. Hansen says he has heard from his constituents that they are concerned about the service cuts and what it will mean for their commute.

He said the state might need to step in if RTD can’t correct its course.

“We tried to be clear with them last night that that is one of the options, that is on the table. They need significant reform of the RTD to be successful and that we’re going to consider those options,” Rep. Hansen said. “RTD was created in state statute, and if we need to look out different reformer ideas, the state legislature is the right venue for that.”

However, Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, who also attended the meeting, said that despite the issues RTD is facing, she was not there to deliver a stern message to the group.

“It’s important that RTD and the legislature work together to come up with solutions, and that the legislature not just go forth and just come up with solutions themselves,” Rep. Kraft-Tharp said.

She too has heard a lot of the frustrations from her constituents about the issues with RTD but described the meeting between the two groups as friendly. Still, she wants a solution.

“We understand the difficulties that they’re encountering, and we’re all invested in transit in Colorado, and RTD is an important part of that,” Rep. Kraft-Tharp said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Gray, the chair of the state’s transportation committee, says there may need to be more oversight or checks and balances to ensure that the fixes RTD comes up with are the right ones to move the transportation district forward.

“It’s impossible to deny the issues,” Rep. Gray said. “There’s been enough challenges that can we have a serious conversation about the decisions that have been made and the path that they are going down to reach more of a consensus and agreement about their future direction, especially when a new general manager comes on board.”

RTD is in the middle of a major transition and searching for a new General Manager after Dave Genova announced his retirement last month.

Rep. Gray believes that might be a more appropriate, collaborative approach than merely relying on RTD to make the right decisions about the future until there is proof that the transportation district is moving in a positive direction.

“They don’t want to state to just completely take them over and push them to the sidelines,” Rep. Gray said.

However, he acknowledges that there is a lot of doubt over and questions about the way RTD is handling its problems, and he wants to ensure his constituents that he’s paying close attention to what’s happening.

“We’re working collaboratively, but we’re also having accountability to make sure that there are some right decisions that are being made,” Rep. Gray said.

RTD board chair Tisdale says there are no quick fixes, and the transportation district is looking for the right long-term solutions. He’s looking forward to working with the state but believes RTD has the desire and talent to be able to find its own fixes in a way that will offer clean, safe, cost-efficient commute options for riders.

“We have to take care of this ourselves and we are doing everything that we can to do that,” Tisdale said.

Everyone Denver7 spoke with agrees something needs to be done to address the issues RTD is facing, and they’re trying to work together to find the right path forward.