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Denver RTD Generating Innovative Ideas to Fuel Expansion

Posted on April 24, 2013 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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The first portion of RTD’s FasTracks program, the West Line light rail line, will debut late April.
The first portion of RTD’s FasTracks program, the West Line light rail line, will debut late April.

Delivering quality service to the more than 2.8 million people residing in Denver Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) expansive service area, while managing a multi-billion dollar transit expansion program, takes precision, planning and innovative thinking. It is this innovation that has been the key to RTD GM Phillip A. Washington’s ability to develop new revenue streams and bolster the workforce to help keep the system and its projects moving forward.

Funding initiatives pursued include boosting sales tax revenue, maximizing current assets and creating a pooled savings account, while leadership programs and collaborative partnerships have helped bolster its workforce.

Economic challenges
RTD’s services include light rail, fixed-route bus and paratransit, as well as seasonal bus service to sporting events. The agency uses a fleet of nearly 1,000 buses and 172 light rail vehicles to serve 40 municipalities in six counties plus two city/county jurisdictions within a 2,300-square-mile service area.

RTD is funded with a combination of farebox recovery (20%) and collected sales tax, advertising, grants and interest income revenues (80%). Currently, the agency receives 0.6% from sales tax for its base system operations and 0.4% of sales tax for its capital program. Like many transit systems in the U.S., RTD has seen their sales tax revenues fall due to the economy.

During these fiscally challenging times, the agency froze salaries, locked in fuel prices, restricted travel and deferred projects.

“We bit the bullet last year and cut service by eight to nine percent,” Washington says. “It was tough, but as a result we stabilized our budget.”
Washington says he doesn’t anticipate significant service reductions or fare increases for the next few years.

Additionally, RTD just negotiated a five-year collective bargaining agreement. “That length of time is really unprecedented in this industry,” he says. “To do that within the parameters of the budget was really significant.”

The precarious economic outlook also made it a challenge to continue moving the agency’s mass transit expansion program — FasTracks — forward. To prevent any delays on this front, RTD developed innovative ways to generate additional funding.

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