A committee appointed by Governor Polis and the legislature will be formed to review RTD’s operations and fiscal management. The full press release can be found below. But first, my initial reactions:
The creation of an appointed committee should be welcomed. By virtue of its elected nature, the RTD board sometimes makes decisions that serve its different constituencies but not the health of the overall network (case in point: the hesitancy of numerous board members to declare ridership instead of coverage as a goal). Officials on the accountability committee, who will be selected by the governor and legislature, should avoid this pitfall. Moreover, depending on how forward-thinking the committee’s proposals are,, I think the RTD board should consider the idea of appointments instead of elected positions and consolidating its districts (if some portion of board seats remain elected positions).
Transit agencies across the United States are asked to do more with less, and the recommendations of the accountability committee must either acknowledge the constraints placed on RTD or push the legislature to amend them. It could start with the limitations on parking fees in RTD lots and restriction on RTD-led development. From there, the committee should reflect on state contributions to public transit, which remain incredibly low in Colorado (less than one cent a day per capita), and look to additional sources of revenue like raising the gas tax and amending contracts with ride-sharing services (Colorado Public Utilities Commission currently charges $111,250 per entity, whereas some other major cities levy a per ride surcharge and congestion pricing predicted to generate millions of dollars).
The committee should focus on the present core services of RTD In the short-term and push municipialities on bold infrastructure in the long-term. In the short-term, creating a thriving bus network should be the focus of RTD because it is the quickest means to creating equity in the city and attracting ridership, not to mention it is flexible. In the long-term, the state, Denver, and the surrounding region need to be pushed to commit to transit projects like bus rapid transit. We risk falling victim to class stratification, worsening environmental conditions, and congestion if we do not start thinking differently.