“I came kicking and screaming in this process. But I think what saves me is the fact that it’s a work in progress. It is a living document. There is some flexibility,” said RTD chairman Vince Buzek, who represents Westminster and other nearby suburbs.
RTD staff and consultants have been drafting the plan over the past two years. It has received more than 1,600 public comments since January – most of which were asking for services beyond what RTD can fund. Van Meter said the agency could add more services if and when funding permits.
What the changes will look like
In the meantime, this map shows what the new bus and train network will look like. This RTD overview contains more details on each route.
RTD will split some long runs and increase the frequency of bus runs where it anticipates increased demand. For example, the #3 Crosstown bus, which runs from Aurora to Lakewood on Alameda Avenue, will split near the Alameda light rail station in Denver. Service on the west side, where demand is higher, will increase to every 15 minutes during peak hours.
Similar changes are planned for several other lines, including No. 0 on Broadway, No. 12 on Downing Street, No. 21 on Evans Avenue and No. 76 on Wadsworth Boulevard. Other lines will remain intact and will also operate more frequently, including #40 on Colorado Boulevard, #73 on Quebec Street and #105 on Havana Street.
Several lines currently suspended due to the pandemic will return, including the Boulder-Denver FF2 express bus and other iterations of the Flatiron Flyer, #53 on North Sheridan Boulevard, #104 on 104th Avenue, #122X between Thornton and Denver, the GS line between Denver and Boulder, the LX route between Denver and Longmont, and the Free MetroRide in downtown Denver.
RTD staff expect the changes to result in a 50% increase in the number of low-income and minority residents who have access to frequent transit services. RTD is currently operating at approximately 70% of its pre-pandemic service levels. When fully operational, changes approved by the board on Tuesday are expected to bring its service up to 85% of pre-pandemic levels.
But around 20 routes, many of which were suspended at the start of the pandemic, are now permanently dead – at least if RTD funding levels remain stagnant.
Losses include Line Y between Lyons and Boulder (although Boulder County is working to replace it), #209 in Boulder, #128 in Broomfield, #125 in Metro West, # #157 in Aurora, and #401 in Littleton.
Some Denver express buses also receive the ax permanently, including #16L on West Colfax Avenue and #30L on South Federal Boulevard.
Few changes are planned for RTD’s light rail and commuter rail systems. Finances permitting, the agency will eventually upgrade peak frequencies on certain key lines – the D, E and H – to every 10 minutes. Line G will be pushed back every 15 minutes. Lines C and F will not return, except possibly for special events.
Transit advocates say they support the plan and its priorities, given the precarious state of RTD’s long-term budget and lack of other funding sources. But Molly Mckinley, director of policy for the Denver Streets Partnership, told the board on Tuesday that the service levels built into the plan were not high enough, “to serve the region and meet our air quality goals. , climate, access and security”.
“Now more than ever, we need leaders, not just in RTD, but at the local, state and federal levels, to come to the table and get transit back on track and identify additional resources for RTD,” said she declared.
RTD staff hope the agency can partner with other government entities to fill some of the gaps in transit service it leaves behind. President Buzek noted that state government accounts for less than 1% of RTD’s operating budget.
“Maybe that’s something we need to work on,” he said. “This may be the first partnership we need to really try to fix and improve.”