Management & Operations

RTD Dodges Privatization Curbs, Awards Major Rail Feeder Bus Contract

Posted on February 18, 2000

The Denver Regional Transit District (RTD) dodged a bullet in Colorado’s state legislature designed to kill the district’s ability to contract out as much service as it currently does. A bill sponsored by state Sen. John Andrews (R-Englewood) was soundly defeated. However, Andrews said he will revamp his bill to overcome some objections and gain more support. One option is to drop provisions that would replace the 15-member elected board, only one of two among major transit systems in the country (San Francisco’s BART being the other) with one appointed by county commissioners and the governor. The elected Regional Transportation District board was put in place by voter referendum in 1980. Similar efforts to make the board appointed failed at the Legislature two years ago. Some observers say Andrews’ renewed might do even worse than his latest attempt, because RTD voters by an overwhelming 66% vote approved a new light-rail project last fall, seen by many as a vote of confidence for the current district’s performance. Meanwhile, the RTD awarded a contract with Laidlaw Transit to operate about 7% of the system’s bus service. The contract is for three years with two one-year options. Total value with the options is more than $36 million. Other bidders included ATC/National Express, Atlantic Express, and Coach USA/Stagecoach. The RTD board declared the latter two bidders nonresponsive because in its view they did not meet the minimum technical requirements of the tendered documents. According to RTD internal analyses, the award to Laidlaw will save the RTD over $5 million during the five-year period of the contract. The RTD report estimated it would cost the agency $40.4 million over the five-year period if it operated the service in-house. This contract is for new service, which will allow the RTD to start rail-feeder service to the Southwest Corridor light rail line when it opens for revenue service in July 2000.

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