Parker-RTD Split Won’t Start This Year After Sponsor Withdraws Bill

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
RTD’s F Line light rail train crosses Ridgegate Parkway near Parker. While light rail trains continue to roll, Parker has lost its two bus lines — and that has town officials talking about starting the process to leave RTD altogether.

The sponsor of a bill that would allow the town of Parker to start the long process of leaving the Regional Transportation District withdrew the legislation on Tuesday.

Town officials have complained that the suburb on the southeast fringes of the Denver area does not receive enough transit service. RTD collected $11.5 million in 2019 and delivered only $3.4 million worth of service, according to data RTD provided to the town.

RTD cut all its fixed-route bus service routes to Parker at the beginning of the pandemic last year when many passengers stayed home. The agency focused its resources on denser corridors closer to the city core, where ridership did not drop as much.

Two of RTD's elected officials spoke against HB21-1252 at Tuesday's House Transportation Committee meeting, saying they were fighting to bring more service back to Parker. The 483 bus that connects Parker with the southeast light rail lines will return with hourly service in June, contingent on a routine board vote Tuesday evening.

“The solution is not for Parker to leave RTD, but rather we at RTD deliver a reasonable amount of service to the town," RTD board member Julien Bouquet said.

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Acres Green, said that pledge convinced her. She moved to indefinitely postpone the bill, which the committee approved.

“I really do appreciate what I heard from RTD. I really want to make sure that we give this a chance to play out," she said. "I really do want to make sure that RTD has every opportunity to do what they’ve committed to do.”

Ransom warned she will reintroduce the bill next year if Parker does not see improved service before then.

Public transit is not as cost-efficient in sprawling suburbs like Parker as it is in denser cities. Transit agencies like RTD often must decide whether they should stretch their resources to cover more places or focus them on denser areas with higher ridership potential.

Such decisions will likely come in the fore in the coming months as the agency tries to recover from the pandemic.