Wednesday, July 7, 2021

News: RTD Accountability Committee moves toward final recommendations


RTD Accountability Committee moves toward final recommendations

In June, 2020, Governor Polis established the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Accountability Committee, hosted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). The purpose of the Committee is to provide an independent and objective analysis of RTD's operations, and was formed in collaboration with the Governor's Office, RTD and the chairs of the State House and Senate Transportation Committees.

The Committee released a preliminary report in January 2021, and is finalizing recommendations. The Committee’s preliminary report included legislative recommendations, which were included in the RTD Operations Bill (HB 21-1186), which DSP endorsed, and is now law.

We are largely supportive of the Committee’s draft recommendations and appreciate the time and effort the Committee has dedicated to this process and improving RTD. 

What we’re most excited about:

  • Fares and Pass Program: RTD’s fare and pass programs should be simple and easy for all transit users to navigate. 
  • Operator Retention: Transit operators are the backbone of a great public transit system. 
  • Service: Public transit service must be accessible and reliable. 
  • Using Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds: Public transit is critical for recovery from the pandemic. RTD must restore service, rebuild trust, and attract new and returning ridership. 
  • Transparency and Reporting: Transparent government = good government. 

What we think could use a bit of improvement: 

  • Subregional Service Councils: The DSP is excited about this, but we have asked the Committee to reconsider including elected officials in the membership. Elected officials have a variety of avenues to provide feedback to RTD and we have concerns about the power dynamics that could, intentionally or unintentionally, develop because of their presence. We believe that these councils should first and foremost prioritize the voices of existing transit users and encourage this to be amended to reflect that. 
  • Northwest Rail and Unfinished FasTracks: We are concerned about the recommendation to “perform a complete and comprehensive analysis of the Northwest Rail project to establish a common set of assumptions and engage in a regional discussion about opportunities and alternatives, both near-term and long-term, for the corridor.” This seems like a costly effort that may not produce much new information, given the existing studies and the study recently approved by the RTD Board. We appreciate the pursuit of partnerships with Front Range Passenger Rail and exploring additional Bus Rapid Transit to serve the northwest corridor. Further, RTD should explicitly address all incomplete FasTracks projects in this set of recommendations.

Once the Committee finalizes their recommendations, they will be sent to the RTD Board of Directors, Governor Polis, and the chairs of the State House and Senate Transportation Committees. The RTD Board will have 45 days to publicly respond to the Committee’s recommendations. We’ll be following that process closely, so keep an eye out for opportunities to express support along the way!