The Regional Transportation District is considering reducing service to three pickup times for Route 483, a local bus route traveling from Lone Tree through Parker to Aurora, converting the route to hourly pickup throughout the day.
The proposed service reduction is considered minor compared to RTD's district-wide service cuts, said Ken Mihalik, Parker's RTD Board of Directors representative. Mihalik represents Region G, which includes Parker, Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch and parts of Aurora.
“For the last several years, they've been trying to incrementally attack the issue,” Mihalik said. “It's probably more bold or substantial than previous ones, but we're trying to get ahead of that, of having to do this on an incremental basis.”
An open house of the proposed service reduction will be held March 5.
The cuts will apply to one morning and two afternoon pickup times. Route 483 currently has one pickup between 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., at 7:15 a.m., and two similar half-hour pickups during the afternoon peak. The proposal would cut the 7:15 a.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. pickups from the schedule as it stands.
“These are particular pickups that fall way below the minimum standards,” Mihalik said.
Mihalik said fewer than 10 people would be affected due to the change. Council and staff requested more data on how many people would be affected by these changes.
Mihalik said the proposal is not final yet. The March 5 open house will give residents an opportunity to provide feedback to RTD about the proposed cuts.
Parker Town Council and staff discussed the proposal at the Feb. 10 town council study session. Council cannot decide whether RTD makes service reductions to their local routes. The best council can do is draft a letter or resolution of opposition.
RTD examines bus and rail performance three times a year. The next cycle for service changes comes in May. RTD has made service reductions throughout the district as it experiences a shortage of bus drivers and light rail operators. RTD has cut 1% of its bus service and 4% of its light rail service so far, Mihalik said.
Route 483 began service in 2016 when routes 410 and 83 consolidated. The route begins at Lincoln Station in Lone Tree and ends at Nine Mile Station in Aurora, travelling in an "L" shape along Lincoln Avenue and Parker Road.
The discussion touched on Parker's history with RTD's service. Council tossed around the idea of creating an in-house transportation department, separate from RTD, something council has considered for the past few years. To leave the transportation district, Parker would need the state Legislature to sponsor a bill that, if passed, would allow Parker voters to decide whether to leave or not. RTD would likely want to retain the Parker area and its roughly $11 million annual contribution.
Parker Town Councilmember Josh Rivero has grown frustrated with RTD's recent service cuts despite Parker's ongoing contribution to the district. Rivero said council has taken the initiative to annex parts of town into RTD's taxing district while service continues to be downsized.
“That is never weighed, and that's what really upsets this council and this town is that as we tell people, 'We'll include you in the district, but by the way we're losing service,'” Rivero said. “It is really hard for us to grasp why we consider to keep going for mass transit in the new age and introducing our to-be citizens to RTD and have RTD screw us in the end.”
Rivero attributed labor shortages of some local businesses to RTD cutbacks, noting some businesses in Parker have resorted to shuttling employees privately.
Councilmember Cheryl Poage agreed with Rivero, saying succinctly: “You either have to come to the plate or reduce what you're taking.”
Mihalik said the service reduction proposal had to do with a combination of factors, including an RTD-led survey and RTD's driver shortage.
Councilmember John Diak added RTD has returned some local funds that recently helped the Parker Senior Center secure a new shuttle. Diak serves as vice chair on the Denver Regional Council of Governments, a coalition of local leaders driven to solve regional issues like transportation. He pointed out the reductions should be considered on a regional scale.
“This is a system-wide issue,” Diak said. “It's not just 'let's pick on Parker.'”
Mayor Mike Waid agreed with Rivero, saying it is becoming increasingly difficult for council to encourage developers to be part of the district. Waid said the idea of an in-house transit department is not fully off the table for the town.
“The only three letters our citizens hate as much as T-A-X is R-T-D,” Waid said. “We're in a system. I get it, but there's also a little bit of taking care of yourself.”