The Regional Transportation District’s top staffer, General Manager and CEO Dave Genova, will retire.
That’s according to a press release from the agency sent late Friday.
"After serving RTD for nearly 26 years, this is a difficult decision," Genova said in the release. "However, I am eager to pursue personal interests and have been planning for retirement for the last several years."
In a letter sent to the board members Friday and shared with CPR by board member Natalie Menten, Genova said he anticipated stepping down in January 2020.
Genova earns about $300,000 a year in the position he took over in March of 2016. That was just weeks before the agency’s flagship A Line commuter train from Union Station to Denver International Airport opened. Three other rail lines and the popular Flatiron Flyer bus line to Boulder also launched during Genova’s tenure.
But mechanical and regulatory issues on the A Line meant it blared horns at crossing gates for the first three years of its operation, irritating neighbors to no end. That issue also led to a two-year delay of the G Line to Arvada, tarnishing the district’s otherwise noteworthy accomplishment of opening so many new lines so quickly.
In recent months, a crippling driver shortage has made service unreliable and led the agency to propose “significant” service cuts to give its drivers a break.
At a press briefing Thursday on those proposed service cuts, Genova said that proposal has strained relationships between him and the 15-member RTD board, which he reports to.
"Believe me, I'm not a popular person with our stakeholders and with our board right now, for bringing this kind of suggestion,” Genova said.
In the letter to board members announcing his retirement, he wrote "I am confident in RTD's future."
Board member Angie Rivera-Malpiede said Genova's announcement did not come as a surprise.
"It's been a real intense year of issues that RTD has been dealing with," she said. "He's probably the most gracious and kind man I've ever had the honor to work with. But I also think that there's a time when you know that it's time to move on. I really wish him all the luck in the world."
Board member Natalie Menten said Genova's announcement had her "a bit flustered," because she believes RTD needs to move quickly to cut service and address the operator shortage issue.
"I don't blame anybody, but the board, really, for not having taken that action," Menten said. "And this will certainly set us back a step."
While Genova has been a public target for RTD's troubles in recent months, Menten said the root of the issues the agency faces go back more than a decade. In 2004, voters approved what was to be a $4.7 billion plan to build more than a hundred miles of light and commuter rail.
That plan hit huge roadblocks as the Great Recession ate away at anticipated sales tax revenue, and commodity prices rose unexpectedly. The much-desired train to Boulder and Longmont met a major setback in 2011 when the Burlington Northern Santa Fe raised the price for access to its track to more than a $500 million.
"Some of these [problems] are partly due to the promises made in 2004," Menten said.
RTD will soon finish about 70 percent of the projects in the 2004 plan, called FasTracks, once the N Line to the northern suburbs opens -- that's expected to be sometime next year. But the remaining lines won't be finished for decades unless the agency finds additional funding streams.