Editor's note: this story has been updated.
A survey sent to riders of the Regional Transportation District on Monday referenced its ongoing operator shortage and the cancellations to service that result from it.
“We want to hear from you because your voice matters,” the e-mail read, providing a link to a survey. The online poll asks riders about their transit habits, but then asks them to choose between two options for their transit system.
Option 1: Keep the current service levels. The frequency of trips would remain the same as it is now, but on-time performance and reliability would vary each day. Notifications of canceled trips may not always be sent in advance.
Option 2: Implement a temporary service reduction which would reduce the number of bus and train trips each day to offer riders greater reliability and on-time performance.
The only other choice is "no opinion."
An RTD spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the questions were worded to lead respondents into choosing the option mentioning “greater reliability and on-time performance.” Nor did they respond to a question about how riders should indicate nuance in their answers — for example, if someone agreed with service cuts, but did not want paratransit to suffer.
E-mails were also sent to a half-dozen RTD directors.
“I did not get this survey but have the same reaction" about potentially skewed wording, wrote Kate Williams, District A, who chairs the Operations & Customer Services Committee.
Board Chair Doug Tisdale took no issue with the way the questions were written.
"The two options are framed in a direct fashion: maintain the status quo (which necessitates intermittent and often unpredictable ad hoc service reductions) or reduce service on a planned basis (allowing certainty as to any reductions). As written, these options will provide the Board of Directors with concrete information as we consider the possibility of a temporary service reduction," he said.
Tisdale did acknowledge, however, that an option to explain one's response would have been helpful.
"I’m okay with the wording. Does it capture nuance? No," said Jeff Walker, District D. "The way I look at it: time is of the essence, and discerning nuance in possibly thousands of responses could delay action."
Last month, RTD announced that many operators worked mandated overtime to cover for a lack of employees, and that dropped runs would occur in the absence of temporary cuts. A fuller proposal to the board is forthcoming.