With more than 70% of eligible Colorado residents having received a vaccine and Front Range residents increasingly returning to offices, schools and other hubs of activity, RTD is reinstating several …
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While there are no plans to bring back the GS Route, RTD is looking at bringing back another route that brings people into Golden. According to the proposed service changes, the agency is proposing to bring back three hourly weekday trips in both the morning and evening rush hours on Route 20, which goes between NREL in Golden and Union Station.
With more than 70% of eligible Colorado residents having received a vaccine and Front Range residents increasingly returning to offices, schools and other hubs of activity, RTD is reinstating several of the bus routes that were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But unfortunately for many Golden residents, the GS route between Golden and Boulder is not yet slated to be among them.
At a community meeting held to present the proposed service changes and seek public feedback on them, RTD service planner Nataly Handlos said that the agency is “not currently looking to restore the GS.”
However, Handlos also said RTD is getting quite “a bit of input” regarding the GS that would be taken into consideration and asked those members of the public who depend on the GS to suggest what would be “the most useful trip times” if the GS were to be reinstated in a more limited capacity.
Several Golden and Boulder residents then chimed in to do just that, with many suggesting that they would like to at least see the service resume in the morning and evening rush hour periods.
Several of those residents pointed out that demand for GS service will likely have returned to near pre-pandemic levels by the time the service changes that are effectively adopted go into effect in September. That’s largely because many of the entities served by the GS, including universities such as Mines and CU-Boulder and government agencies such as NREL, will be returning to in-person work in August.
Boulder resident Seth Haines commented that he is hoping that when the US Geological Survey returns to in-person work at its facilities in both Golden and the Federal Center in Lakewood, he will again be able to count on the GS route he has long depended on.
“The GS bus is critical for this commute for those of us in Boulder. I’ve been riding the GS (previously G) for 16 years and it has always been well used and has been particularly well used in recent years,” he wrote.
That sentiment was echoed by several commenters who said they have planned and structured their lives around the GS, including one who said “without it, my commute is just pretty unfathomable.”
But while the meeting suggested there is plenty of demand for bringing back rush hour GS service, Handlos said there are factors that would make doing so challenging.
“These a.m. and p.m. trippers are actually some of our most expensive services to have,” she said.
That’s because the timing of the trips means they cannot be interlined or “hooked” to other routes and must stand alone, which means that bringing back the GS would require “at least” four additional bus operators who would need to be working those routes at the times when operators are needed the most.
“Then at the same time when the operators are out there just for a couple of hours, we still have to pay them for a part-time shift,” she said.
As RTD looks to increase its operations, finding operators has been a continual challenge as the agency continues to be impacted by a bus and train operator shortage that was plaguing it before the pandemic and only seems to have worsened.
RTD spokeswoman Tina Jaquez also said that while the agency has received hundreds of millions of dollars in funds from the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan, the agency is still expecting it will face financial challenges in the coming year.
“So we have to be mindful of that when we are looking at service and how we move forward over the next year or so,” she said.
In making decisions about which routes to reinstate, RTD has focused on reinstating routes that “more often serve communities that rely on transit for travel needs,” Handlos said. That’s because RTD must comply with Title Six of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires that taxpayer dollars not be spent in a way that encourages or entrenches racial discrimination.
But at least one meeting attendee said she’s worried that by being slow to bring back service on the GS and similar commuter-heavy routes, RTD is squandering an opportunity to positively impact commuting habits in the long-run.
“Given hybrid schedules are going to be more and more common, there’s a huge opportunity to impact how people are getting to and from work/school — if the schedules they need aren’t available at the times they need this summer, travel habits will likely not change, and an incredible opportunity for change will be lost,” wrote that commenter, Alicia Zimmerman.
Any service changes that are eventually adopted by RTD later this summer will take effect on September 5.
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