This is the livestream version of Joint Meeting of City Council, Transportation Advisory Board & RTD – January 11, 2021
For a transcript of the meeting, please read below:
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introductions from the to Eric
all right Hello everyone. Mayor Bagley couldn’t be with us tonight. So I’m Aaron Rodriguez the mayor Pro Tem and I guess I’ll be kicking us off says welcome and introduction. So first of all on behalf the city of lorman I’d like to welcome all the members of or the representatives for with RTD tonight as well as our transport advisory board who are off camera at the moment, the council is here with us. And so I believe the easiest as far as introductions would go would be letting our RTD associates introduce themselves, and then move into their presentation. Thank you very much for being here.
Thank you. I’m happy to kick things off here. This is Eric Davidson. I am the recently appointed director for a district I, I am delighted to be here. I’m honored to be able to represent you all. I was appointed by the county commissioners last fall, and was sworn into office about a week ago. Although I was appointed, I think it’s it’s worth noting that I believe it’s it’s actually extra important for me to spend time getting to know all of our stakeholders and all of our constituents and all of our riders in the region to do everything I can to represent all of you given that this was not on the ballot and voters didn’t have the chance to to cast a vote. I’ll just briefly tell you about my background and and why I’m here and what my interests are. I come to you largely from the private sector. I have run businesses that I’ve started or that I’ve been hired to run and worked in various technology leadership positions. I’ve lived in a number of metro areas. I’m a traveler, both for business and for pleasure. Having traveled far and wide and having lived in a number of metro areas. I am a strong believer. That transit is at the very heart and soul of strong, sustainable towns and cities. I believe that we can do a lot in the United States, we can do a lot in Colorado, to make our cities more accessible to everybody. And more sustainable. I like many people, I’m drawn to our great downtown’s Longmont, or Lafayette or Lewisville Denver Boulder. I am delighted and excited to be joining RTD and a time that I perceive to be one of evolution and growth. We are facing a lot of exciting changes right now. Even though we’re in the midst of great challenges, certainly one of them is we’re joined here today by Miss Deborah Johnson, who’s our new CEO and general manager who, in my time, my brief interactions with her thus far and watching her first weeks on the job, I believe she’s the type of strong leader that this organization needs to take take it steps forward, I would just like to express that. First and foremost, my top priority is to represent. So to all of you here, please use me accordingly. I’m very hungry for the ideas, the concerns, the problems and issues that all of our residents face here in district di and RTD at large. So please hold me accountable. please reach out to me. And please share your priorities with me. If I could summarize some of my priorities coming on to the board, one of them is fiscal sustainability, I think we have a lot of work to do at RTD to improve our finances. And bear in mind that we have a responsibility to have a sustainable organization for our full time writers. For forever, there is no end game here. Our organization has to last well into the future. I would also say that one of my priorities is to promote a partner of a culture of partnership, which is what I look to you all to please reach out to me and help me with that and engage with me. We’re an agency with 2300 square miles over 3 million people. We have a lot of goals and ambitions. And in order to accomplish all of those we have to work together. I am keenly aware being in district I that we are in the district with unfinished corridors. We have the fast tracks vote that happened in 2004. I’m keenly aware that last month alone has put $60 million towards the fast tracks program. But we are where we are for a number of financial challenges. And our best hope is to partner and look for opportunities. I’m excited that we’re joined this evening by Byron Mr. Van Meter, who is a commissioner on the Front Range passenger rail commission, which I believe is going to be a key type key partner that types of solutions that would like to look at. And finally a key priority is to bring not just writers back after COVID but bring more riders to the system than we’ve had. I think we have a lot of work that we can do in the in the district guy and across RTD to add riders to our system. So all of the ideas that promote fiscal responsibility, all of the ideas that that promote partnership, and all of the ideas that will help us bring more riders To our system, with an aim to make our towns and our cities more sustainable, more enduring. That’s why I’m here. I’m delighted to be here. And thank you for trusting me. And I look forward to serving all of you.
Thank you much. One of our other associates from RTD, please.
I’ll jump in. I’m Lynn geislinger. I represent district Oh, which is very tiny piece of Southwest Longmont and I think that Phil greenwall you’re talented transportation planner is one of my constituents. And I represent boulder lions all the way up to the Continental Divide, Netherlands and that area, and then out to Lewisville where Eric takes over at the eastern part of the district there. I’ve been in Boulder for since 1980, and a little bit in timber practice law for 20 years and a large law firm. And then I taught Landis’ planning and local government including transportation issues. And then really got involved in transportation advocacy, when I was when I owned a business which I still own, just not doing as much as it did bicycle advocacy, advocacy in the bicycle industry and, and marketing. And that took me on to the point where I decided to run for the RTD board in 2018. So with the exception of Bill ban meter, I guess I’m kind of the old timer of this group after being on the board for two years. And the board came in, I think, with the group that started with me, and the group that was there, you know, recognize that RTD that it was time for change. I’ve been in meetings with some of you and know that RTD has not always had the reputation of being a great partner. And I really think that is turning around. We brought Deborah Johnson on in November. And already I’m seeing changes in the way businesses done and some of the flexibility that our staff has to do things. And like, Eric, you know, I am focused on the culture of partnership right now. One of our big focuses is bringing back ridership, our ridership dropped about 75%, when COVID hit is still down about 60% we’ve had to cut service 40%. And Deborah Johnson, I’m sure we’ll get into some of the details of some of that more. But you know, it’s been a very big roller coaster as we got cares Act funding. Last year more funding that was just announced today, and I’ll let her get into that. And in the meanwhile we were we were budgeting for serious 100 and $40 million deficit. So we’ve, we are in the process of a lot of change. And I just share Eric’s commitment to this area already. We’re working closely together, in addition to, you know, the Northwest rail, which people ask me when we when we will be getting Northwest rail and I usually say it’ll be at least November. Without getting into what year that will be happening. But we’re working on that we’ll be working on the names Carter’s highway 119 is currently I believe the only budgeted capital project that RTD is working on and I RTG came up with the first money towards that the $30 million that’s allowed us to build on that from see DoD and federal funds and other ways to get up to I believe 93 million of what’s needed at this point. So that’s an exciting project. And it’s just a great area to work for, you know, your mayor in in the Community Solutions, meeting last week said was talking about the Northwest mayors and commissioners and the fact that so much is done here by consensus and by working together. So you know, I think Eric and I are committed and and Bill and Deborah and all of us are committed to to helping to work with all of you and with the mayors and commissions coalition to bring about more transit in this area. Thanks.
Thank you very much. I guess we’re here from looks like Miss Johnson next.
Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Mayor Pro Tem members of the City Council, and the transportation advisory board and to all that are virtually assembled as introduced. I am Deborah Johnson. I am the general manager and the chief executive of Officer of the Regional Transportation district. And I want to thank you for the opportunity to come before you tonight and introduce myself and tell you a little bit about who I am and what I bring to the table. I pride myself on being a servant leader, I have been in the transportation space now entering my 29th year, I recently joined the Regional Transportation district and the capacity I just focus on November 9, I have been working in a myriad of different urbanized areas over the course of my career most specifically coming from the southern California region. Prior to joining RTD, recognizing that I pride myself on being a person in the people business, I really find great value of engaging with others, so I can garner a better understanding of what it is that we need to collectively do. I look at public transportation, literally and figuratively as being the vehicle that brings the haves and have nots together. And as we look at this urbanized area in which we are providing transportation services, now more than ever, it takes great opportunity for us to collaborate and coordinate. So we Garner an understanding of what really is needed. With that at the backdrop, Director geislinger made reference to some elements that have come full circle assets today, regarding additional funding we have received as it relates to stimulus to help stimulate the economy and help us manage our transit operations. Everyone keeps talking about the importance of bringing back ridership, and I believe in three hours, we have to reclaim, retain, and recruit customers. And we have to do that with the focus like approach. We can’t just say we’re going to increase fares and hope that everyone’s comes because for all intents and purposes, we should make it free and we would have people come but is that the necessary customer segment that we are looking to attract? I think it’s anything recognizing that in this area, there have been expectations regarding transportation, perhaps that is still will versus rubber tires. I think if anything, we need to collectively roll up our sleeves and figure out how we can do more with less. I do recognize this director Davidson pointed out the investment made by loanmart. specifically regarding looking for viable transportation options. I’m a firm believer that we have to take it from the approach of right sizing the appropriate transportation mode that will suit the needs of the constituents in which we need to provide transport to. And I look forward to engaging more specifically with you all on that having had experience working in the Washington DC area, I recognize that there are different elements that may be better suited for communities that live outside of the urbanized district in which most transportation is, you know, program to suit but recognizing that we need to go to and fro. And as director Davison pointed out, really, this is a transportation network. And you’ll be hearing more from my colleague building meter. As we talk about what might we do to bridge the transportation gap. As it relates to Front Range rail, I look at that as being a complimentary option to transit mobility as opposed to being a competing one. If we look at it through the lens of being holistic, where we create a comprehensive transportation network, I really believe our future is bright as relates to transportation, mobility options in the greater Denver metropolitan area. So with that, as a backdrop, I welcome the opportunity, opportunity to learn more about this community’s desires as relates to mobility options, I want you to know that I’ve heard loudly and clearly over the course of my past two months that we have been branded as the agency of No, I want to reframe that and brand us of the agency of let’s see what we can do together. Let’s have conversations. We may not always agree, but I’m a firm believer that we don’t have to be disagreeable when we don’t come to that firm, yes, perhaps, maybe and we put a little bit in to get a little bit back. And then we can collectively forge our way together. So with that, I will yield the floor to my colleague, Bill Van Meter to introduce himself. And I’m certain that we’ll we’ll be more than happy to entertain any questions that you may have for us collectively. But before I do that, I am remiss in saying that priorities as relates to where I stand, I think there needs to be some alignment created amongst all of us, because I can easily come in and say this is what I want to do. But I need to ensure that I’m listening, I’m being empathetic, understanding our customers pain points, and then defining what issues that it is that we need to solve because if I do that in absentia, then I’m not being a true leader in reference to forging this transportation network forward. So with that, I will yield the floor to Mr. Van Meter and thank you so much once again for the opportunity to come before you.
And thank you Deborah. I am bill Van Meter, the Assistant General Manager for planning at RTD and director geislinger reference my long tenure I’ll Just Well, okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been at RTD since 1991. So in the planning department so I have a lot of knowledge and experience regarding the plans and and history of RTD. But we’re here in the present. And my job is to look into the future. And one of the key appointments that I have or was also referenced earlier in introductions, and that is that I was appointed by the RTD board of directors to represent RTD on a commission. That’s the Southwest chief Front Range passenger rail commission. I know that staff from the commission have talked with at least some of the folks on this call a number of times, as we’ve been conducting our study over the past couple of years, the Front Range passenger rail study, and since our commission in our commissioning, commissioning in 2017. So presuming the discussion may go in that direction, I certainly may be able to lend some insight regarding opportunities around the juxtaposition of potential for Northwest rail, with Amtrak’s interests in the Front Range passenger rail, as well as the studies that we have been conducting jointly with c.so. I stand prepared to talk about that and try to answer or support any other sort of dialogue or question as we go along.
Thank you. Thank you very much. So the first item on the agenda is the background short and long term goals for RTD. Obviously, I think I heard some in some of the introductions, but I’m sure there’s probably a few more things that some of our associates would like to say. And I’m not sure if there’s a speaking order that you’ve decided upon or not.
So if the members of the board would like to say anything, I will yield the floor. But I can just say broad brush Lee, as we talk about where it is that we need to go as an organization considering that we’re in the midst of a pandemic. And director Geisler did touch upon this. First and foremost, our laser light focuses on looking at our core system as remains today, recognizing that we have suffered a large hit and ridership, as most transit agencies have done around the country, considering that we provide viable means of transport to get people to activity centers, such as places of business, critical doctor’s appointments, you know, schools and things of the light. And so quite naturally, with us trying to adhere to public orders that have been issued in reference to stay at home as well as the CDC guidelines, quite naturally, our service has plummeted due to the fact that people aren’t utilizing the system. And so with that as a backdrop, quite naturally, we’ve had to make some tough decisions, considering that we do receive substantial subsidies as relates to sales tax, and use tax and things of the like. And so recognizing that we had a budget deficit before us. When we were formulating the budget going into this calendar year being 2021, we had $140 million deficit. And so there were some adjustments that were made relative to the type of service we were deploying, deploying. So it could be right fitted to the resources that we had readily available, recognizing that there is new additional monies that were identified, you know, by a bipartisan effort in Congress that was signed into law by the President on December 27. Just today, the US Department Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, announced what those apportionments would be to the urbanized areas throughout the country. And with that, as a backdrop, that specific bill language, detailed what the monies could be utilized for, which is to maintain transit operations, and to ensure that those monies are first and foremost, made available to support transit service delivery, meaning those that are providing that service being our frontline operators and mechanics, the individuals that are really making the system go on a day to day basis. So recognizing we just were made aware of the apportionment that RTD is to receive, my team and I are taking a laser like focus as relates to what does that mean, considering that we just effectuated a service change today being January 10, yesterday, excuse me on January 10. As we look at ensuring that we’re providing service trying to minimize the length and trepidation of those individuals utilizing transit service, it’s important to note that there has been no known case in the United States, whereby a transit vehicle was seen as a super spreader, but recognizing that we are dealing with something that we One hasn’t seen in a century, we don’t know what we don’t know. So with that, what we’re trying to do is ensuring that on our buses that we can maintain social distancing. So on our 40 foot buses, we are capping that at 15 customers per vehicle on our articulated buses, which are 60 feet in length, we’re capping that at 20 individuals. And as we look at our rail cars, considering that we have more room to spread out, that’s hovering around 25. And so as we go forward, recognizing that the information being put forward relative to the $190 million, we’re looking at where we can supplement service to ensure that there’s adequate social distancing. Also, we need to ensure that our frontline employees have personal protective equipment, as well as for our customers. And we were handing out face coverings of all supplies last to ensure that those were readily available to protect everybody that’s in the shared space on these on these vehicles that are transporting primarily essential workers getting to essential appointments. So as we marched down this path and look at it, look at what it is that we need to do. That’s something that’s immediately on the horizon. Additionally, with the help of Bill Van Meter staff who have really been shepherding this effort, there’s reimagine RTD, which we qualify in this transit industry as being a copy of a comprehensive operational analysis. And basically what we’re doing is looking at the system from top to bottom to discern, where might we have the most potential to optimize the service levels in which we’re delivering. So that is something that we’re looking to resurrect come March, whereby we can have more engagement, because the preliminary work that was done by this dynamic team helped inform decisions as related to us. Right sizing our service delivery model being of 60%. And quite naturally, I’d be remiss to say interwoven in everything that I’ve said right now is sustaining our financial health as we go forward. Recognizing that with the pandemic, with the vaccines that are coming on the horizon, we’re still going to have issues whereby people are assuming some state of normalcy, we don’t see that happening, probably for months to come. I’d be excited if in fact, that would happen sooner. But qualifying those statements, we have to ensure that we have enough resources to provide the level of service and which we have monies to do that. And quite naturally, as we look holistically at our region that we serve, we need to figure out what can we do to ensure that there’s viable transportation and creating a network that’s viable. So I would encapsulate those as being the immediate short term priorities that we have before us with the pandemic really causing us to do business as unusual versus as usual, and recognizing that we’ve been very fluid and agile, as we’ve tried to navigate these unchartered waters. And so with that, I will yield the floor to my board members, and to Mr. Van Meter, if there’s something else they would like to add in relationship to what I just outlined. So thank you very much.
I would just add it and Thank you, Miss Johnson, very well said about the near term goals and priorities. And the one I would certainly emphasize, given some of the priorities that I laid out, where is the fiscal sustainability of our TDA, I think we have very near term things that need to be done and managing our cares act Fund and the stimulus funds to make it through what’s going to be a difficult time and continue to be a difficult time and then looking towards the future. We have, in my view, a concerning debt service obligation that is continuing to grow. I think that staff is doing some some good work at the moment to look at ways to adjust that. I look forward to tomorrow one of our agenda items for our finance committee on the board actually pertains to refinancing some of our long term debt and debt service. It’s no one action is going to correct this. But I think in the short term, there’s a lot of actions that will need to be done to make sure that we make it through this time. And then likewise, in the long term. I think we need to be looking at other opportunities. Revenue diversity is certainly something that comes to my mind. I think Director geislinger maybe perhaps could could add and expound upon this a bit. But the accountability committee which was appointed by the legislature to look at RTD and its practices and opportunities for change, is evaluating certain things. handcuffs, I might call them in terms of what RTD has in terms of fair recovery, in terms of parking, in terms of local collaboration and partnership and contracting. I think if we are able to open up some opportunities, I would like to work with my fellow board members and with staff and Miss Johnson to look for ways that we can raise additional revenues in the future. But certainly right now, we have to stay laser focused on making it through what is going to remain a difficult time into the better part of 2021.
Yeah, I would just add that, you know, as I think it was Churchill that said, Don’t let a crisis go, you know, I’m forgotten the saying, but you want to make the best of it. And I think we have some good opportunities, the money that we just learned today is about $200 million. It’s a, it’s a, you know, another game changer and a lot of opportunity to look at some of the things that the accountability committee is is looking at, which is, is Eric introduces appointed by the governor and the legislature to address some of the issues they were seeing. And and I think they’re coming up with some interesting ideas sort of in tandem, because we’re working on the same things we’re working on. How do we bring ridership back, you know, dude. And so for instance, you know, is this an opportunity to look at our past system, and you know, how we how we have the past is we’re changing to an account based system that will let us be a lot more flexible with, with how people pay how they get on all of those things, look at our fares and see if, if they make sense. So I think you’ll see, again, as Deborah Johnson says, often you got to look at it holistically, so much change. We passed a budget it two months ago, that was $140 million deficit. And we made a lot of decisions that now are coming back around that, that needs to be looked at again, and it’s an exciting time.
All right, thank you very much. Does Mr. Van Meter have anything to add? Not at this time. Okay. The now we are going to move to the q&a section to to our RTD representatives from city represents. I just want to ask that for our transportation advisory board members. If you do you have a question, if you could please turn on your video and raise your hand. And then once your question has been answered, turn your video back off just so we don’t have a lot of zoom boxes in the in the in the field. All right. We’ll start off because Councilmember Martin had her hand up first. So Councilmember Martin floor is yours. Thank you.
I was interested to hear you talk about debt service. Does your debt liability extend to services that Longmont expected to have provided to it that have not been provided? Is Is that part of your debt?
Yeah, thank you, I’m certainly happy to feel the best of the question as best I can here. Know, a lot of the debt service that exists is related to fast tracks and is repayment of some of the the work that has already been done. And this is where I do believe that one of the things we’re going to have to do is look for other opportunities with other partners. And again, I bring up Front Range passenger rail, I also have taken an interest in, you know, Amtrak’s interest in the region connecting from Pueblo to Fort Collins, and identifying this as a high priority corridor. And to answer your question, simply, the debt service issues are already upon us from what has already been built, and along other fast tracks corridors.
Well, since you have 200 million new dollars and long months total tax revenue, and I think we have gotten some value from RTD. know our taxes from the district. Certainly we haven’t gotten $60 million worth of value on because, you know, we don’t have train. But are we going to have a tax abatement because of that? Because, you know, what it looks like to me is that when you say well, Alright, we’ve got these in districts and I frankly don’t know how many there are. But when we have to cut services, who is going to be least impacted and who is going to be is who’s going to squawk the least when we cut their services and you know here up in Longmont. We feel like the answer is districts I end Oh So I really have a hard time justifying that tax to my constituents. And I want to know what you’re going to do about it.
I’ll make one comment. And then I’d like to see if some of my other colleagues have some things that they would like to share contribute to this. Certainly one thing that I would offer is, you know, I think we’ve certainly seen that we have not been able to put together the funds to complete the the Beeline corridor. And part of that, you know, in my view, it’s it’s highly unfortunate from the 2004 vote, there were some significant financial mission misses in terms of projections, things that, you know, for example, vendor expenses, were undershot considerably. And some of that is understandable, given the unprecedented growth of the Indian and Chinese economies and the increase in cost of goods, we did not have a good handle on what the BNSF costs would be through the rail, we did not see the 2008 recession coming. And so there’s some significant hits that the system took. And now we’re in this situation where we’re putting money into the account into a savings account, not sure exactly when we’re going to be able to complete the rail. I for one, especially being a resident in the area, and I’m very concerned about that. It’s something that we have put off, there’s a hold harmless agreement that expects that if there is going to be a change, and you talk about tax abatement, that there would be hearings, and there would be discussions. And I think we’ve avoided some of sum of those discussions, I can certainly speak as a representative on the board. First and foremost, I am a staunch supporter that we do not pull money out of that fight account until we have a crystal clear path forward of what it is that we are going to do. And again, I look at opportunities for RTD to demonstrate leadership in partnering with other entities to accelerate some of those projects. I will also just add that from my standpoint, both for district guy as well as for the district at large. I, you know, entirely agree, I believe the comment was made that part of what RTD is trying to do here. And part of why I think this, the justification for this being sales tax driven, is we are trying to connect the region and ensure that all of our people can equally access all of the different regions that were within and that the 15 different districts. And so along those lines, I fully again, I feel it as a resident here that up at the north, similar to the way some of our districts down in the south have kind of felt that if you’re just sort of on the border, you’re you’re the last to be heard on some of this. I am certainly in support of completing our 119 project, making sure that we make good on that, that we complete that and that we have ways for people to get in and out of Longmont, I think a lot has been done to already put money towards planning around some of those systems. So I think to summarize, you know, I think short term goals, we have to complete the short term goals that were on like 119, we have to defend the money that we’ve set aside for these projects until we have a very clear plan forward. And then I think, you know, we need to start a conversation about what type of partnership opportunities and what opportunities, we have to correct some of this in the long term. Because as it stands right now, we have a massive financial mess. That has been compounding on us now for 16 years. And we’ll be going on 17 years here pretty soon.
So then that makes me that all seems to address how it happened. And I think my original question was, how are you going to make us whole?
Well, I again, and I would say, you know, at this point, and I’ll be quite transparent that I’ve been on the job for a week. And one of the one of the top priorities that I have, and I talked about partnership is looking for ways to address some of that. And, you know, I think I don’t want to put too much stock in things like Front Range passenger rail or Amtrak, because you never know what can happen with those kinds of things. And it really is a matter I think Mr. Van Meter put this Well, to me at one point, it really isn’t matter of political willpower. But in the time that we have put a rail advocate into the White House, and that I’ve heard some people call Amtrak Joe, in a time that we have a congress now interested in infrastructure spending in a time that we have a congress interested in environmental sustainability and issues in a time that we have a governor who is passionate about rail as well and rail connectivity through the state, including districts that he has been a part of. I think we do have the political willpower to look for partners like Front Range passenger rail or Amtrak and I think it’s completely fair to expect that RTD can take a leadership role and when I look at the fysik for example, I see opportunities for us to be a leader. Don’t have unfortunately a concrete proposal to put forward in front of you because it is one of the things I would like to work with Miss Johnson, with my fellow board members with RTD staff to find a good path forward. But my commitment would be this RTD needs to take a leadership position in any possible solution. Be at Front Range passenger rail be at Amtrak, and we have a moment when the governor and the President and Congress may be able to offer opportunities for us to take advantage of here.
Councilmember Peck Thank you, Mayor
Pro Tem and welcome to all of our TD both directors, Deborah Johnson, and Bill Van Meter. I love this staff and directors, I think that you’re hard working. And I have to say that when I sat down with Eric and talk to him a couple of months ago, I was very interested in his ideas about his fiscal responsibility and how to move us forward. But there are a couple of things I would like to bring to the attention of you probably already know this. But I was very happy that the feiss account was retained and the reason for that is a shovel ready shovel ready projects are the ones that go into the long range plans, both for Dr. cog as well as see DOD. And if we can get shovel ready plans for the Northwest corridor, then that would open up the door to apply for funding through Dr. cog and other agencies. I also want to remind you that when we have the transportation bill on the ballot, I was always concerned about the term multimodal, multimodal, because multimodal has always been bikes and pedestrians. But to me when we’re talking about a mass transportation organization, be at RTD b c dot multimodal should also include other types of mass transportation. So there was a contingent of us I would say about five or six a legislator, a state senator, our staff may met the mayor and we went down to a board meeting and convinced them to add rail to the multimodal description. So there could be some funding, I’m not counting on it. It is just that through the multimodal funding as that grows, so I have hopes I would hope that RTD would support as much as you can I know that you can’t choose but but really gonna fight for the alignment for the Amtrak, the Northwest corridor, and hopefully get enough support to lobby Congress to vote for the bill that will be coming up. Hopefully this spring before Amtrak funding. And I do want to say to Deborah, if in fact we get this, then RTD would probably be off the hook for funding it. Because that bill would fund all of it, which would be amazing. And correct me if I’m wrong bill Van Meter because I know that you’re on. You’re one of the conditions on that board. So I am excited about that prospect. This is not something that a local jurisdiction can do alone. We need the big, the big people to come in and help push us and I would like to make a statement about ridership. When we when we talk about ridership. It has always been the one seat ride. And I have taken the LD three and LD bus lines from Longmont to meetings in Denver for years. And it’s been a little over an hour now. It’s almost two hours by the time we routed around the hospital I think it’s in Lafayette cintura and then wait 15 minutes if the buses are on time in Broomfield and I have to say I don’t get back from those meetings until 1130 at night and there’s absolutely no way I am standing at a Broomfield station waiting for a bus to come take me to Longmont, I wouldn’t get home anyway till probably midnight. The other thing is that we need to remember equity. The other thing that I noticed about when we change that LD three before we changed it, there were so many marginal people who rode that they would ride it to the college, they would come back late at night from a service job that they had. They would go from Lewisville to Broomfield or just from Longmont to Lafayette. There was a little girl who got on every single day because it stopped at her Stop,
as she got out of school, and she wrote it to where her mom worked, it made me so sad when we cut that, because now that that district disrupted her whole family, so I don’t think I know it’s fiscal energy that we need fiscal dollars that we need. But we also have to look at equity and social justice as to what is a bus route really supposed to do. And if we change it constantly, it totally disrupts a family schedule to get home, to take kids to the soccer to their soccer matches to be able to pick them up from daycare without being charged an extra hour or two of funding because they the bus route changed. And we are having to be honest, if you’re going to talk ridership, are those people now driving their cars because it is just too much of a hassle to figure it out. And will they come back readily to RTD trusting them to do to to not change the routes again to disrupt their whole family structure. The other point I want to make and this goes directly to the northwest corridor is that a lot of our ridership comes from weld and Larimer County. That has not been a part of the ridership count for a long time. It wasn’t even the ridership count for State Highway 119. until after the transportation bill failed. And then because I called the Boulder County Transportation director out on that, why? Why is that okay for 119. But it does not count for Northwest corridor. The ridership, for one would come from the same, same locations as another. So and before any of you got on council when I first got on, I mean, I’m on our TDs directors. When I got on Council, we had a grassroots, nobody asked them to do this, but it was familiar Mr. County, when they heard about our peak service, we’re very excited. And they did their own survey and came up with hundreds of letters that went to the director postcards letters, and said, Please finish this because Fort Collins wanted to link into it. They were very excited about it. So I don’t want us to just throw this idea of rail out of hand. I think that I know I’m going to be continuing working on it. And again, once again to state the equity part of what is a what is a bus really supposed to be? Is it only the one one seat ride if somebody’s going from Longmont to to Union Station or is it all the people getting off and on there as as their way of transportation. So thank you for listening to me my little rant.
This is Bill Van Meter. May I embellish a little and respond to it. Absolutely respond. Okay. So, thanks. Yeah, Councilwoman pack was discussing the potential for the Amtrak program Amtrak has proposed a network modernization program. And that would be a net national nationwide program, where under their proposal, they would pay 100% of the up front capital costs to build new corridors that would be serviced. So they, in their proposal would fund 100%. Now that would not cover all the costs of Northwest rail service, what Amtrak is describing as a service between and proposing as a service between Pueblo and Fort Collins with three round trips a day. So three round trips a day, they’re proposing that after building it, they would pay the operating costs for the first few years. And then over time, the state or some other entity would need to take over the operating costs. That’s also part of their proposal. So there’s some real intriguing opportunities there. I believe the strongest corridor is that corridor. They there’s some options that C dot and the commission have been looking at in terms of alignment, one of which would include the North Metro alignment paralleling i 25, a couple three miles east of I 25. But the Northwest rail corridor through boulder and Longmont is kind of strongest from a ridership perspective, from a technical perspective from existing tracks perspective and the likely cause order that Amtrak would choose would not mean that all the costs, capital costs are taken care of, because there are a number of additional stations that Amtrak would not serve. And that would need to be built and presuming RTD or another entity like Front Range passenger rail wanted to provide more service on the northwest rail. Those would be incremental costs that Amtrak would not bear. But it would certainly be a big step in the direction towards being able to extend service on the northwest rail. In terms of equity, hear you loud and clear counsel impact, you share our interests and concerns reimagine RTD and Phil Greenwald is on our technical Working Group committee for Greenwald with the city of Longmont. We are really diving into issues such as social equity, and community service quality, geographic coverage, and cost efficiency and service productivity in the trade offs under different scenarios between those key topic areas for service provision, and a key one, in our current COVID environment, and prioritized by our board of directors is social equity and making sure that people today who need to get to jobs, essential workers health care, are getting that service. And I had one final thought that now escapes me is I got so engaged and involved in everything else. So I’ll yield the floor back.
Councilwoman pack, I would just add and thank you, Mr. Van Meter for your comments there. Yes, thank thank you very much for sharing all of that I think I completely agree that we need some bigger dollars. And we need as much shovel ready as we can possibly be to solve our problem. When I look at things like, you know, an Amtrak proposal coming through and paying capital costs, we did put money aside for in the face of for this and there are things we can look at. There are mechanisms RTD has to finance, finance rail assets, for example, using certificates of participation, which is basically a secured loan against the asset itself. There are some things that we can look at doing if we found the right partner. And I would like the opportunity to work with my fellow board members and staff to find ways to to look at those types of options in a sustainable way. Something that won’t put us in the situation we’re in right now, because the situation we’re in right now is untenable. And we don’t want to create make that worse. So I completely agree with the comments that, you know, we’re going to need some some big help. And I think we need to be leaders in that area. And regarding equity, I would I would echo what Mr. Van Meter had to say there. I think many of us and certainly I’ll speak for myself, if not others have work to do in that area. And an exciting thing that’s happening tomorrow, and would encourage people to listen in to the RTD committee meetings in our Civil Rights Committee, we will be voting on an action item a recommended action to have the board actually trained professionally, and issue issues of equity on a believer quarterly basis. I certainly am a staunch supporter of that, especially speaking from somebody who has work to do in that area. So thank you for expressing that. And I hope that that has the support that it it will need to pass tomorrow. And I do expect it but but thank you for your comments.
All right, thank you very much. I don’t currently see any questions on the table. So I suppose we can move to item three on the agenda, which would be questions from the RTD representatives to city representatives who I see any questions from RTD friends.
Yes, I have one Mr. Mayor Pro Tem, I’m recognizing that I just arrived to this area and so forth. I’d like to garner a better understanding from all of you what my RGD due to be better partners. This has been some great dialogue that we had, but I’d like to gain an understanding of what the expectation is as relates to you and your constituents.
I will turn this over to Councilmember Barnes she had her hand up briefly.
Get rid of the big lumbering diesel buses and replace it with something more agile and more carbon neutral electric.
I have this is the second time today I will have been advocating for this policy but at least instead of Dairy is transit that is electric and small, that runs every 10 minutes instead of every half an hour or less, would have more riders and would suck up a lot less of those people’s valuable time. And it that I think is a change that you should be able to get funded from the federal government next month, or begin the job next month, you have a government that will look favorably on proposals like that now. And, you know, it did help everybody get cars off the streets.
Thank you very much, Councilmember Martin for that. And I want to share with you that we are looking at a zero emission bus fleet. And in reference to managing everyone’s expectations, having held from California and just gone through a process whereby transitioning my former agency’s fleet, it’s a large undertaking, and I and I’m a firm believer that that’s the direction in which we should go, but the investment in infrastructure to support it, and recognizing that we do have a service area in excess of 2300 square miles, looking at how we can get that, how we can maximize the charge with, you know, battery, electric buses or fuel cell. But I want you to know that that’s something that we here at the agency are assessing, and actually just had something done quite recently, where we look to see what the probability of that. So thank you very kindly for your comment.
Well, here’s a matter of equity, as you begin rolling out the program in phases, which I am sure will is what will happen. Start with the districts that are underserved. So start from the edges and work in this time.
All right, thank you, Councilmember Martin, with any other council members like to address the question from Miss Johnson and does not appear. So at this time. I guess my only statement is that I really liked what you’re talking about when saying that you have to look at many of these challenges from a more holistic point of view. I think that you’ve outlined in this discussion. Both council members as well as RTD representatives have outlined in this conversation that there are many different challenges facing the districts in this district, and district Oh, I believe, as well as some of the other outlying districts that are beyond just rail. I think we’re when we talk about equity and talk about routing, and all those things that these things all come from, you know, they all have to be addressed in a big picture kind of way while also addressing them, I think individually. And I do have optimism, that while we’ve heard lots of talk on both sides of the aisle for the last four years, about getting an infrastructure bill done at the federal level. Maybe we’ll see some movement on that the next four years, we’ll see. I mean, like, like we’ve said, There seems to be bipartisan desire to get that done. But it has not materialized to this point. And so I would, I think echo the the equity statements that were made, obviously, the elephant in the room is off is going to be rail for a while. And so we all understand that I don’t think that needs to needs to be belaboured any longer than then we’ve already spoken about. And so those are just kind of my thoughts on it is that it looks like you have a really good opportunity to kind of reimagine RTD, because you are all well aware that there are some kind of, I guess, image issues, and some deserve it, maybe some not so deserved. But that is the reality of where we’re sitting right now. And so my only thing I think, my other idea that would really I think benefit all of these initiatives is to actually have more regular discussions like this one. And I think at just about an hour now wasn’t too onerous, really. So I appreciate all of you for your comments. And I still don’t see any other comments from any council members. So it looks like we can probably wrap up right about on time. council members like to say one more thing.
So this is just a thought. Thank you. Mayor Pro Tem Rodriguez. I was wondering if there’s ever been any analysis done on and I will just use Longmont but a local municipality as to how much money do we as a city pay not not into fast tracks, but into RTD in a year versus the cost that RTD what it costs RTD to run a local service, for example, would it be more profitable for RTD to allow a local municipality to come up with their own local transportation with RTD, giving back the tax dollars. And it would only it would only make sense if you could offset it with what it would cost RTD to run that, run that bus service in the municipality, municipality, because I bring this up, because we are paying the RTD tax, but we’re also putting in approximately $500,000 a year to pay for the farebox. So we don’t really get the service we need in the parts of the city that we need it in. And that that is a discussion that we’re having, as well with the Economic Development Partnership here. So I was wondering if there would be worth rtds time to look at that and see, see if that would be an equitable solution, just a just an idea.
I’ll just address that. Council tech, and thank you for all your work on all these issues. And I wanted to jump in and say, you know, we were able to keep the the corpus of devices this year, like came up, you know, and, and, obviously, you can hear why I’m excited to work with Eric. But I want to say also that you have been very well represented by Judy lubao for the last few years. And I wanted to just mention, I appreciate her leadership and representation. But in terms of that, you know, one of the things the accountability committee has been talking about is and our staff and and Miss Johnson and some of us on the board is how do we get a more a more proactive voice with our local governments and in service? And, you know, I know that, that you’ve had a very successful program with ride three Longmont, where you bought up the fare box. And and those are all, in my opinion, things that we could be looking at, I think you asked a good question. Not that. Not that necessarily an area would take it over. But how can we work better? How can we, you know, make sure that that people are feeling like they’re reasonably served and, and looking after opportunities, as Ms. Martin was saying to, to look at other types of service besides a big bus potentially, in in some areas and, and those sorts of things for so I appreciate your your comments there.
All right, thank you very much. It does not appear that anybody else has any more comments at the moment. So I suggest we adjourn. Anybody have a problem with that at this time?
Mayor Pro Tem, I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of RTD. And I also did want to say I would love to do more of these conversations. I think they’re critical. I think it’s been a missing piece. And that’s that’s nothing to say anything about folks in the past or anything like that. I thank my colleagues from RTD for being here. You know, Thank you, Director geislinger. I know we’re gonna be seeing folks in multiple districts here together. And I would welcome the opportunity to do this continually. So please reach out to me on a one on one. But please, let’s let’s do this again soon.
I agree. Thanks. Yes. And if I can say as well, I appreciate the opportunity and recognizing that stakeholder engagement is pivotal is pivotal, excuse me, in relationship to all of our success, I welcome the opportunity as well and support my board members in that same vein, and I know Mr. Van Meter who is no stranger to any of you. We support this endeavor going forward. So please, let’s leverage the opportunities that we have for before us because I think there’s many a bounce. So thank you very kindly for the opportunity.
All right, thank you very much. I’d like to thank the staff for helping us set this up. Thank the transportation advisory board for being here on the meeting with us and absolutely thank all the RTD representatives for coming in and speaking with us and sharing your vision for what you think our TDs to look like in the future. And as well as always, thank you to my council members. With that, I guess I’ll talk to you all the future day. We are adjourned.
Good evening, everyone.
Good evening. Thank you.