Pushback on canceled Golden-Denver bus

Proposed service changes would take effect in May

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/25/20

An RTD service planner told those who came out to a meeting in Golden about possible RTD service cuts that if the RTD board votes to discontinue the 16L bus route that runs between Golden and …

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Pushback on canceled Golden-Denver bus

Proposed service changes would take effect in May

Posted

An RTD service planner told those who came out to a meeting in Golden about possible RTD service cuts that if the RTD board votes to discontinue the 16L bus route that runs between Golden and Denver’s downtowns, Golden will not lose bus service to downtown entirely.

Instead, RTD will extend the route of the 16 bus service, which runs from downtown Denver to the Federal Center to along West Colfax Avenue, out to Golden. The route of the 16 is already extended to Golden at night when the 16L is not running.

“We will try to match it up to every trip the 16L does currently have, so there will be no loss of service to the city,” said Dan Merritt, the service planner.

The 16L is one of six bus routes RTD is eliminating entirely in an effort to address a driver staff shortage that has seen RTD require the majority of its drivers to drive six days a week, which is further contributing to a cycle of drivers leaving the agency. Merritt said the routes being considered for elimination were chosen not because of low ridership, as their ridership is often quite high as is the case with the 16L, but because they represent “duplications of service.”

“Removing the 16L and increasing service on the 16 puts us in so much of a better position,” said Natalie Menten, the RTD board member representing the district that includes Golden, who also attended the meeting. “There is a huge amount of extra hours going into these two routes that are running over each other and that one service change is one of the ones that would have the biggest benefit in this whole plan.”

But extending the 16 to Golden would not be an ideal option for many because the 16 makes more many more stops than the 16L and takes longer to get from Denver to Golden as a result. The last daily trip on the 16L is scheduled to leave from the 10th and Washington stop in Golden at 7:24 p.m. daily and arrive at Colfax and Broadway in downtown Denver at 8:15 p.m.

The first nightly 16 that extends to Golden, meanwhile, leaves from the 10th and Washington stop at 8:43 p.m. and does not arrive at Colfax and Broadway until 9:24 p.m, an addition of 21 additional minutes.

Long commutes would grow

Colorado School of Mines grad student Connor Bray says adding that extra time to an already long and difficult commuting process does not strike him as a reasonable solution. Bray, who lives in Denver and says he cannot currently afford a car, said he currently must wake up at 6:30 a.m. in order to use RTD transportation to make it to campus for a 9 a.m. class.

However, he said he thinks his commute would be extended by an additional hour if the switch to the 16 is made due to that route’s length and the need for him to also catch an earlier RTD light rail train, which is how he gets from his home to the Colfax bus stop where he catches the bus to Golden.

“Waking up at 5:30 to get to Mines for a 9 a.m. class is frankly insane,” said Bray. “But my classmates and I who rely on this line to get to school can’t afford to buy cars because the 16L is going away. Honestly, I don’t know how I would be able to attend Mines if you cancel the 16L.”

Many who attended the meeting questioned why service could not be reduced on the 16L and 99L, which runs between the Federal Center in Lakewood and the Denver Civic Center, rather than cancelling the routes entirely.

“Maybe don’t have them [running] every hour and cut them back to every hour or something so everybody still has the bus to get to work or to the mall,” said Sammie Schultz, who said her brother relies on the 16L to get to work.

Menten and Merritt said the agency will continue both options but also warned that any such compromise would still leave many riders upset. However, several of the riders in attendance pushed back against that assertion.

“I just find that a little offensive you saying ‘well you are just going to complain if we do that,’” said Lisa Scott, who rides the 99L to her job downtown. “That’s not true. Please consider these options that we are calling for.”

Merritt said RTD would also intend to reinstate any service that is lost once RTD is able to maintain appropriate staffing levels.

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