A Highlands Ranch bus line running through Wildcat Reserve Parkway is in danger of being cut in May after the Regional Transportation District announced in January a plan to relieve their operator shortage.
Line 403, which goes from the northwest corner of Highlands Ranch to the western edge of Lone Tree, is an underutilized service, said Jessie Carter, RTD's manager of service planning and scheduling.
When deciding which lines could be stopped, RTD looks at two performance measures, he said: subsidy amount and ridership. Net subsidy is determined by how much the route costs to operate minus how much it gains in fees.
While the net subsidy is at the same level or sometimes even higher than comparable routes, ridership, or how many people use the service, is not. In this category, route 403 is among the lowest with just 11.12 boardings per hour, according to RTD data from 2018.
According to the latest data from August 2019, ridership has gone down further to 10.4 per hour, Carter said. The average boardings per hour for all suburban local lines is 18.5 per hour.
“That's not the direction we'd like to see it,” he said.
The RTD board will vote on whether or not to halt the line during a March 24 meeting, Carter said. Residents will be able to offer feedback on the decision during a Feb. 25 public meeting at 6 p.m. at the Eastridge Recreation Center.
While the potential service cut is marked as temporary, it's not guaranteed to return, Carter said.
“It has been underperforming for a few years,” he said.
'Only option left'
Even if the line isn't the most heavily trafficked, some residents in HIghlands Ranch are concerned about losing the public transportation option.
Ankit Grover, a homeowner in the Firelight community, uses RTD services Monday through Friday to get to his job in Denver, he said. On some days, his wife is able to drive him to a light rail station to get downtown but at least three days per week, he uses the 403 line to get to the train. Most days, he also uses it in the evening to get from the light rail station home.
His home on Wildcat Reserve Parkway is at least 5 miles from two light rail stations, Grover said.
“(The bus) is the only option left for anybody who lives there,” he said
The 403 line is part of the reason he bought his home there in 2018, he said.
“If (RTD) removes this service I think people will have no other option but to own vehicles,” he said. “I don't think that's a desired thing to force people to own cars when they can have an alternative.”
Grover himself will likely have to purchase a car if the line is cut, he said.
“My monthly expense would increase,” he said. “I'm totally against owning any more cars. For me it doesn't really make sense.”
Grover would like to see the transportation district consider simply reducing the service rather than halting it altogether, he said.
“If they still have at least one or two buses on that route in the morning and evening that's good enough I think,” he said. “But they shouldn't really stop it all together … that doesn't really make sense, this is a growing city.”
Ron Winter, president of the Highlands Ranch senior club, is also worried about the possible change and how it could affect the community's older demographic.
“Transportation is one of the things we seniors are worried about anyway,” he said. “As Highlands Ranch continues to age, more and more people are looking for other modes of transportation.”
While Winter acknowledges the line may not be the most popular, he still sees cutting the line as taking a step backward, he said.
“Long-term, seniors are going to be looking for ways to get to that senior center,” he said, referring to the $12 million senior center that will soon be under construction.
Chances to provide feedback
The February RTD meeting isn't the only chance for residents to have their voices heard, the transportation district also has county representatives sharing opinions from the area through their Reimagine RTD program.
The two-year program has representatives from all over the metro area who have come together with the goal of completely redefining the mission, finances and operations of the transportation system.
Castle Rock Town Councilmember George Teal is one of the representatives.
“It is an organization in crisis,” Teal said about RTD.
Teal encourages residents to reach out to their elected officials with their comments or to him directly using his email gteal@CRgov.com, he said. The Highlands Ranch Metro District also plans to discuss RTD and the potential cuts during a Feb. 20 study session.
“This should be a call to action,” Teal said. “I'd really like to hear from people.”
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