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Light rail, RTD, Denver

Amid a shortage of employees, mandatory overtime, and frequent “dropped service,” the Regional Transportation District board of directors will consider less frequent bus and light rail service.

An Oct. 16 staff memo to the board outlined the severity of the problem: in 2019, 41 percent of light rail operators and more than two-thirds of bus operators were mandated to work on their days off.

During the last round of collective bargaining in 2017 and 2018, RTD instituted pay raises and less onerous shift schedules, which the agency said helped with recruitment. However, those changes also increased the number of drivers needed, which in turn led to mandated overtime.

The memo added that transportation operators appeared in low supply nationwide, with the trucking industry being short 60,000 drivers in 2018.

In 2019, RTD customers experienced 8,520 hours of dropped bus service, meaning runs that were canceled. While dropped service on light rail is newer, it still amounted to 285 hours in August this year.

In November, staff will present to the RTD board a plan that would permanently reduce the need for 58 operators. An RTD spokesperson would not yet say which routes might receive service cuts.

Board member Angie Rivera-Malpiede told CPR that she opposes reductions to service. "We're really trying to think outside of the box on what is it that we can do as an agency to get more folks to drive for RTD," she said.

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