District E covers suburbs east of Denver, including parts of Aurora, Centennial and Greenwood Village. Paul Rosenthal is running unopposed.
What's your elevator pitch for why voters should choose you?
Rosenthal - It is in my DNA to be in public service. I've always enjoyed helping people. At the legislature, I was one of the most inclusive House members, bringing people and organizations to the Capitol who have never been there or who have never received recognition for their hard work until then. For the past 11 years, I've taught at a youth correctional facility, so I know how some families in our community are struggling and how they rely on services such as RTD.
RTD is in serious trouble, but I'm not daunted — I have lifelong experience listening to diverse community voices and incorporating them into my own to advocate for them while making tough decisions from an equity perspective.
How would you define success for RTD?
Rosenthal - Like most transit agencies in the country today, RTD is struggling to sustain itself. Current projections are that revenues & ridership may only recover by 2026. That's too far out. If elected, I will work to push RTD towards the following goals:
- Ensure the safety of riding on RTD by more frequent cleaning, and RTD needs to do greater community outreach in order to draw riders back to trains and buses.
- The ReImagine RTD input and planning process needs to move forward so that the agency positions for the future, with more frequency to popular routes, as well as greater efficiency, reliability, financial responsibility, and transparency.
- Retain, appreciate, support, protect from COVID19, drivers and mechanics so that RTD's employees are motivated to stay with the organization and perform optimally.
- Create fast and frequent RTD-run shuttles (similar to Access-a-Ride) & expanding relationships with Uber and Lyft in neighborhoods to better collect and drop off riders in connection with major rail and bus routes.
- More passes, especially to individuals and families struggling financially, with the ultimate goal of a no-fare system.
- Continue rail expansions & create Bus Rapid Transit on Colfax Avenue
- 100 percent electric buses in the next 10 years.
- Connect RTD system with a statewide rail network that must eventually be built.
Naturally funding is critical to all these ambitious endeavors, but also leadership, political will, and building coalitions and support with elected officials throughout the region and at all levels of government. RTD will have to expand use of P3's by partnering with private businesses. Additionally, I will lobby our Congressional delegation, especially US Senator Cory Gardner (a good friend of Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell and Pres. Trump) that they need to get RTD another payment to support its daily operations. Sen. Gardner and our Congressional delegation also needs to secure the $2.2+ billion for the northwest line to Boulder and Longmont, plus hundreds of millions to complete extensions on other lines and Bus Rapid Transit on various lines. The RTD Board is considering tapping the FISA funds in an account for network expansion — I support using some of those funds to reduce cuts. It is also contemplating laying off and/or furloughing drivers and other employees. That should be last resort. I support cuts to pay to RTD employees earning over $60,000 per year.
What should RTD prioritize as it tries to rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic?
Rosenthal - See above answer.
What is your personal experience and expertise in transit?
Rosenthal - When I worked at various jobs downtown, I would regularly take the light rail. I occasionally take light rail and buses now. However, I work in Watkins, east of Aurora, so there is no transit there, so I must drive there.
How much should RTD weigh potential climate impacts in its decision-making?
Rosenthal - RTD, like every government and private business, must prepare for the changes now underway in our climate. Now more than ever transit is a critical transportation solution so that people reduce their use of gas-powered vehicles. I plan to work hard to change all of RTD's buses to electric ones over the next 10 years. Currently, it has several dozen of them operating on the 16th Street Mall.
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