Call-N-Ride on chopping block

Posted 2/3/09

No one was happy at a meeting of call and ride system riders and others who use the Regional Transportation District’s buses and trains to get …

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Call-N-Ride on chopping block


No one was happy at a meeting of call and ride system riders and others who use the Regional Transportation District’s buses and trains to get around.

With RTD proposing another round of cuts, changes and dissolutions, riders found themselves pitted against what they have come to see as a bean-counting bureaucracy.

At issue was the proposed end to Call-N-Ride in Highlands Ranch.

Of the 45 people at the meeting, many had fought the fight before.

In Highlands Ranch, one area of the community has regular bus service.

Another zone is under Call-N-Ride, where riders call the drivers up to two weeks before they need the service to get scheduled in. Most of the time, a ride can be arranged at the exact time needed, and sometimes the rider benefits by being flexible.

Last year, Highlands Ranch saw the end of Saturday Call-N-Ride service; the rerouting of the AT, or airport bus, away from Mineral Station, the University and C-470 Park-N-Ride and Lincoln Station.

Call-N-Ride users swayed the RTD board to keep the service, less Saturday trips.

They returned this year to keep the service they say gives their special needs teens the option of working and learning the skills of a semi-independent life.

Many would be able to use Access a Ride, but some would be left out of the transportation loop, parents said.

Some commuters within the zone also spoke to the need for some service so they could keep their jobs.

With fare increases last month, riders in the South Metro area are saying enough is enough.

The Highlands Ranch Call-N-Ride started in 2006. By 2007 an idea to expand the service area went forward and RTD officials say that move added riders.

Now the district is struggling with declining sales tax revenues and a need to trim $27 million from the budget. The current cuts could make $4.8 million of that difference.

Also up for cancellation is the 410 bus that connects Parker to Lincoln Station.

Removing the 410’s 42 daily trips would effectively cut service to Parker, and free RTD from the legal requirement to provide access a ride service to pre-qualified disabled users.

But nothing is a done deal, said Brian Matthews, a contracting services manager with RTD who led the public hearing in Highlands Ranch Feb. 2.

RTD board members Jack O’Boyle and Kent Bagley, who represent different parts of Highlands Ranch, were on hand to hear what riders had to say and to encourage the riders to communicate among themselves and to keep contacting other board members.

One commuter who uses the bus by choice to ride to Denver Tech Center, said the rates and inconvenience will drive riders away.

“In the 3 1/2 years I have been riding RTD, the cost has gone up 60 percent,” said Thomas Dickinson. “We can’t have that kind of increase. Riders keep riding. This is a dangerous kind of bean counting.”

Several parents spoke for their teens who use Call-N-Ride to get to jobs and school enrichment.

Since call and ride comes to the schools’ doors, and does not require that the students stand outside at a stop, it is allowable for the students to use the service.

Commuters have another service threatened with Front Range Express considering the end of commuter service between Colorado Springs and Denver. FREX connects downtown Denver, South Metro Denver, Castle Rock, Monument and Colorado Springs every weekday. On average, 800 people ride FREX daily.

Colorado Springs is facing an $8.7 million budget shortfall because of declining sales tax revenues. The city council will consider cutting the commuter service Feb. 11, when the council consults with the Pikes Peak Transportation Authority board.

While FREX operates 24,900 service hours annually, the elimination of the FREX service would effectively save only the cost associated with 9,100 service hours because of funding contributions from participating jurisdictions and the collection of fares.

Castle Rock already has agreed to contribute $300,000 toward the service for 2009. Riders going to or from Castle Rock from either Denver or Colorado Springs pay a fare of $6 each way. FREX collected approximately $700,000 in fares in 2008.

Any changes in service would take effect April 5.

E-mail your comments on the proposed changes to or fax them to 303-299-2227 no later than Feb. 9.


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