Campaign Issues

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Campaign Issues

Committed to Communication, Collaboration and Cooperation to Provide Safe, Clean, Reliable, Courteous, Accessible and Cost-Effective Public Transportation to People Throughout the Denver Region.



QUESTION:  What makes you the best choice for this office?

         Experience and results.  I’ve been deeply involved in transit and public transportation for 20 years: as RTD Director; as RTD Board Chair; as Executive Committee Member and Board Director at American Public Transportation Association; on the E-470 Authority Board; on the Executive Committee at DRCOG and at Metro Mayors Caucus; Mayor of Cherry Hills Village; Chair of APTA’s Transit Board Members Legislative Committee and more.  I oversaw the G Line opening and the E/F/R Extension into Lone Tree.  I lobbied Congress to secure additional COVID relief funding.  I enjoy a direct personal relationship with the head of Federal Transit Administration at USDOT.


QUESTION:  If you’re elected, one single issue will be at the top of your agenda?

         To Take All Reasonable Steps to Ensure Fiscal Sustainability.  Sales tax revenues, farebox revenues, ridership and service are all way down due to the pandemic.  Deficits for 2021 are projected to be as much as $215 Million and to continue thereafter.  Dramatic steps need to be taken now to keep even reduced service.  My budgetary experience is helping us chart a course toward fiscal sustainability.  By making some really hard decisions, we can achieve that fiscal sustainability next year and going forward.  And the, as the economy strengthens and the pandemic subsides, we can restore service and maintain fiscal sustainability.


QUESTION:  If you’re elected, what must you accomplish in order for you to consider your term a success?

         Expand our RTD culture of providing safe, clean, reliable, courteous, accessible, cost-effective service throughout the region.  Continue communicating, collaborating and cooperating with our constituents and stakeholders.  Restore all scheduled service and increase ridership on our system.  Implement Bus Rapid Transit service on Broadway and on SH 119.  Restore our credibility with riders, taxpayers and elected officials in the communities we serve.  Guarantee transparency in every aspect of governance, operation and maintenance.  Achieve greater fiscal restraint and additional sources of revenues without raising taxes.  Provide a safe, secure and inclusive environment for our workers and our riders.


QUESTION:  Given the light rail R Line’s low ridership compared to RTD’s other light rail routes, what, if anything, should be done about the R Line?

         Aggressively promote increased ridership on the R Line through all practical means.  Partner with the City of Aurora to encourage and facilitate the rapid creation of transit-oriented development at the R Line stations, emphasizing housing and commercial development and making ample parking available, which will organically add riders.  Coordinate scheduling so that the R Line and the University of Colorado A Line create a convenient and inexpensive ride from South Denver to the airport.  Reduce fares on the R Line pursuant to the special fare program that I created for the opening of the N Line, making it cheaper to use.


QUESTION:  Especially in light of the pandemic’s effect on tax revenue, how will you work to address RTD’s budget shortage?

         Continue to spearhead RTD efforts to balance our budget while acting humanely to assist displaced workers and reduce impacts on our riders.  I am leading the efforts of Transit Board Members across the country, through the American Public Transportation Association, to secure additional federal funding for RTD’s operations and for 2,000 transit agencies throughout the US.  I have directed RTD senior leadership to provide severance and placement assistance for separated workers due to any reductions in force.  I am pledged to ensuring fiscal sustainability in a reasonable and responsible manner that will continue to serve our core mission of moving people!



QUESTION­:  What changes in RTD operation do you anticipate over the next two years?

         Pandemic-induced revenue losses in ridership, farebox recovery and sales tax receipts have necessitated reduced service and threatened layoffs.  As we emerge from the contagion, we will see significant changes in RTD operations: restoring service as demand returns; increased sales tax revenues as the economy stabilizes; increased ridership as businesses reopen and riders feel safe in returning to public transportation; bringing back laid-off operators and staff.  Guiding and planning for all of this will take my skilled efforts, using the benefit of my 20 years of experience in public transportation, addressing similar problems—and producing positive results—over the course of two decades.  Public transit is not just “transportation.”  It is a complex system regulated by federal, state and local regulations and subject to an intricate set of financing mechanics, all of which I have extensively worked with as an elected official for many years.


QUESTION:  What is your plan to increase revenue/address budgetary issues facing RTD?

         I pledge to use my 20 years of experience in the public sector, and my 45 years of experience in the law, to create positive economic results that will ensure RTD’s fiscal sustainability.  It bears repeating that sales tax revenues, farebox revenues, ridership and service are all way down due to the pandemic.  Deficits for 2021 are projected to be as much as $215 Million.  With my fellow RTD Directors, we are putting in place dramatic steps to maintain at least the current reduced service we offer.  My budgetary experience, with Cherry Hills, with DRCOG, with RTD, and with numerous Fortune 500 companies and dozens of banks I have represented, is helping us chart a course toward fiscal sustainability.  In addition, I have been working directly with leaders in Congress and at the US Department of Transportation to create a second round of COVID emergency funding to aid public transportation.  By making some really hard management and operational decisions now, and securing much-needed federal funding, we can achieve that fiscal sustainability next year and going forward.  And as the economy strengthens and the pandemic subsides, we will restore service and maintain that fiscal sustainability.


QUESTION:  This agency has struggled to meet the needs of its riders/potential riders, as evidenced by the rather meager ridership gains in recent years. How will you entice more riders?

         Let’s put this into perspective.  Before the pandemic we at RTD were providing something like 100,000,000 rides per year, or 8.3 million rides per month.  That was one of the highest rates on any transit agency in the country.  At the height of pandemic, that reduced to a rate of just over 3 million rides per month, which paralleled the loss of ridership lost by other agencies in the US.  While we have seen some slow increase in daily boardings, the number is still low.  The first step I am taking is to ensure that we provide the cleanest possible vehicles to ride in.  Second, to communicate that fact to our riders so that they will feel safe.  Third, to ramp up service as quickly as demand requires and staffing allows. Fourth, to create a promotional fare program to allow residents from Highlands Ranch and Arapahoe County ride the system for a local (rather than a regional) fare.  Fifth, to highlight and promote our TransitWatch app so that riders know they are always able to communicate instantly with our security force and safety ambassadors (“With TransitWatch, you’ll never ride alone!”).


QUESTION:  What is the plan for the fare structure?

         The other Board Directors and I have already determined that there will not be a fare increase approved in 2021 or in 2022 (as had been previously scheduled).  The next time that we will even consider a fare increase will be in 2023.  That means that our current fare structure will remain in place for at least the next two years.  And our discounts will continue.  To refresh your recollection: active duty military ride for free; children five and under ride for free; youth from 6 to 19 enjoy a 70% discount; College Pass holders ride for free; age-advantaged individuals (65+) enjoy a 50% discount; Medicare recipients enjoy a 50% discount; persons with disabilities enjoy a 50% discount; persons with an Access-a-Ride card ride our scheduled service for free; persons enrolled in the income-qualified LiVE Program enjoy a 40% discount; persons who purchase a MyRide card or purchase tickets electronically receive a 20 cent discount.  Not to mention the ECO and NECO Pass discounts.  Everybody else pays full fare, which is $3.00 for local fare, $5.25 for regional fare, and $10.50 for an airport fare.  Please note that our $3.00 fare (or whatever discounted fare you pay) allows for unlimited riding—in any direction, on buses or trains—for three hours.  $10.50 buys you an unlimited day pass in any direction on buses and trains.  And don’t forget that every resident of the District enjoys free parking in our Park-n-Ride lots for the first 24 hours.  After that, you only pay $2.00 per day. 


My First Priority Upon Re-Election as Your District H Director:

         Take All Reasonable Steps to Ensure Fiscal Sustainability

         First, some headlines, then some detail.

         –Sales tax revenues are way down due to the pandemic.

         –Farebox revenues are way down due to the pandemic.

         –Ridership and service are way down due to the pandemic.

         –Deficits for 2021 are projected to be as much as $215 Million.

         –Deficits are projected to continue past 2021.

         –Dramatic steps need to be taken now to keep even reduced service.

         –My budgetary experience is helping us chart a course toward fiscal sustainability.

         –By making some really hard decisions, we can achieve fiscal sustainability next year and going forward.

         –As the economy strengthens and the pandemic subsides, we can restore service and maintain fiscal sustainability.

Now the details.

          RTD faces a daunting financial shortfall for 2021 and beyond.  If we took no action, we were advised that we are facing a budget shortfall of as much as $215 Million in the next calendar year.  Our operating budget runs about $750 Million per year, so this is a huge portion of our budget and is a very large number no matter what the total budget is.

         The reason for this unprecedented shortfall is really two-fold: a projected decline in sales tax revenues and a decline in farebox revenues.  Let’s give you some detail.

         Sales and use taxes collected throughout the almost 2,400 square mile District we oversee typically constitute something like 65% of our gross revenue.  That sales tax is comprised of $.006 (6/10ths of a cent) for our “Base System” and $.004 (4/10ths of a cent) dedicated solely to FasTracks.

         Farebox revenue (also called “farebox recovery”) makes up over 15% of our gross revenues.  That includes the money you drop in the farebox on the bus, the tickets you buy at King Soopers or a ticket vending machine, the passes you buy at work, the MyRide cards you buy, and the money you load on your ticket app on your smartphone.

         Our independent outside financial advisors (the Leeds School of Business at CU) advise that our sales tax revenue will continue to be depressed for several years while the economy slowly recovers from the pandemic-created recession.  Financial projections change a lot and are never 100% accurate, but we must use something for planning purposes, and we believe the Leeds School is the best forecast available to us in the Denver Region.  The only good news on this front is that sales tax revenues have been coming back more rapidly than originally projected at the onset of the pandemic, but they are still much lower than our pre-pandemic budget projections.

         As for farebox recovery, we have experienced a 60% drop in ridership since the pandemic hit.  We responded by instituting a Pandemic Service Plan, which reduced the total service we were providing by about 40% from pre-pandemic levels.  So, it’s a double whammy: fewer people are riding the system out of safety concerns and there are fewer buses and trains for them to ride.

         So we have suffered reduced revenues and we have reduced service to respond to reduced ridership, but we have maintained 100% of our staff: operators, mechanics, and administration.  We must address that issue.

         I, along with other Directors, have instructed our staff to address our shortfall within the construct of certain guiding principles that are set forth here.

         #1 Keeping riders, employees and the region healthy and safe: We will strive to keep our communities connected and our riders, employees and region healthy and safe.

          #2 Service reductions should not be our primary response. We’ll be creative: We will take a balanced approach to budget reductions and do so in such a way as to align with our mission. Accordingly, service reductions should be minimized to minimize the impact to our customers. We will strive for a well-rounded approach by incorporating reductions in overhead, breaking down silos and engaging partners, and seeking creative approaches to service delivery.

          #3 We’ll prioritize mobility for people who most depend on transit during the pandemic: We will strive to maximize mobility during the pandemic for those customers who most depend upon our services to access essential jobs and other necessities, while also keeping our communities and activity centers appropriately connected.

          #4 We will support and value all our employees. We acknowledge our frontline employees who directly promote our mission to the public and who have borne the brunt of mandating in the past. We also acknowledge those fulltime employees in the lower wage categories, because a humane work environment is valued by RTD.

          #5 Being data-driven and informed by collective wisdom and expertise: We will use a thoughtful, responsible approach to decision-making for the COVID period, while planning for the midterm financial period and post-pandemic future, by incorporating the best available data, expertise, and wisdom, including through the Re-Imagine project, the accountability committee, and stakeholders.

          #6 We’ll be actively transparent and seek input: We will take active measures to be transparent and seek input regarding our use of CARES Act money as well as in the decision-making process for measures we adopt to respond to ongoing COVID financial impacts.

         I am pledged to ensuring fiscal sustainability in a reasonable and responsible manner that will continue to serve our core mission of moving people!


How I Addressed the RTD Operator Shortage Issue

         One Problem Solved; One New Problem Encountered.

          Prior to the pandemic, I had already worked collaboratively with the Board in crafting creative and effective solutions to address and eliminate the operator shortage, ensuring that we had enough operators to drive all of our buses and trains on all of their scheduled service.  We had made great progress in this effort, cutting the shortage by more than half, with a fully staffed system in prospect for May of this year (2020).  The number of “dropped runs” (buses or trains that did not operate because no operator was available) had been greatly reduced and was on its way to zero percent.

         Then the pandemic hit.

         Responding to a 60% loss in ridership from pre-pandemic levels, we reduced our scheduled service by 40%.  The goal was to keep as much service going as we reasonably could, providing much-needed service to essential workers and others—people who needed to get to work, to medical appointments, to the grocery store, and more.

         We did all of this without laying off any operators.  The reduced service levels meant that we no longer had dropped runs.  We had enough operators to staff all of the now-reduced scheduled service.  In fact now, as a result of the service cuts, we actually have more operators than we can schedule for the available runs.  And that is our new issue: addressing how to assist our frontline workers and avoid massive layoffs.

          I am pledged to ensuring that we maintain as many workers as we can and provide assistance and placement for any workers that may be subject to layoffs while providing for an easy and immediate return to their RTD jobs as service levels ramp up.


How I Would Address COVID Revenue Loss:

         Restore Lost Revenues from the Pandemic

         I have already discussed much of this above in my comments regarding my first priority upon my re-election as Your District H Director.  The goal is to increase ridership as soon as we reasonably and safely can.  I have encouraged and supported all our efforts to guarantee that we have clean, safe, virus-free vehicles to move people.  And we are doing that.  That will address farebox recovery.

         I am also leading the efforts for increased federal funding for transit agencies across the country, and especially for the RTD in the Denver Region.  I serve as the Chair of the American Public Transportation Association’s Transit Board Members Legislative Committee, working directly with members of Congress and the US Department of Transportation to provide additional COVID relief funds through new legislation.  We are making great efforts through our tireless communication, collaboration and cooperation.

         I urge you to vote to re-elect Doug Tisdale as Your District H Director on the RTD Board so that I can continue all these efforts!