RTD’s First Layoff Notices Will Go Out This Week

RTD Buses Trains Central Park Station Coronavirus
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An RTD driver in a face mask waits at RTD’s Central Park Station Thursday morning, April 9, 2020.

The Regional Transportation District will send out its first round of layoff notices starting on Wednesday. 

The Denver-area transit agency said it must right-size its workforce to match its budget and ridership, both of which have fallen significantly since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March. RTD plans to cut about 400 positions, starting with bus and rail operators this week.

“These are tough times requiring tough decisions,” CEO and General Manager Debra Johnson told her staff in a company-wide call Tuesday. “But, as you can imagine, being the leader of this organization … it is our obligation to be good fiscal stewards of taxpayer dollars and to address our financial challenges head on.” 

Johnson wouldn’t give exact numbers of operators who would be cut, citing ongoing negotiations with the Amalgamated Transit Union 1001. The agency has said previously that just under three-quarters of the layoffs will affect represented workers, which include drivers and mechanics.

Operators notified this week will stay on until January when a new service plan kicks in. Then, another wave of notices will go out to more operators and administrative staff. Operators on RTD's contracted commuter lines — the A, B and G lines — will not be affected, Johnson said.

Some staff held out hope that a coronavirus vaccine or another federal stimulus package, like a compromise bill announced Tuesday, could help prevent at least some of those cuts. Johnson said those are good signs. But she added that with the $232 million RTD received from this spring’s federal CARES Act running out, RTD can’t afford to continue on its current path.

“I do think that we will bounce back from this,” she said. “It would be my ultimate pleasure if in fact we could reinstate every single employee.”