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RTD Seeks to Slash Service on Longmont-Denver Bus Route

September 23, 2018

An RTD bus going to Denver's Union Station stops at the Eighth Avenue and Coffman Street bus stop to pick up riders in October 2016.

If you go

What: Longmont meeting about LD changes

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Longmont Public Library, 409 Fourth Ave.

What: Lafayette meeting about LD changes

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 3

Where: Lafayette Public Library, 775 W. Baseline Road

The Regional Transportation District will hold meetings in Longmont and Lafayette over the next two weeks to gather feedback about proposed cuts to the LD bus routes that runs from Longmont to downtown Denver.

RTD officials say the grant-funded routes have low ridership and must be cut as RTD struggles amid driver shortages. Boulder County officials say that the route is an important way for residents to get back and forth to Denver and forcing people to transfer buses halfway through will hurt ridership even more.

Currently, the LD1 and LD2 buses carry riders from local stops along Main Street in Longmont, southward on Highway 287 to stops at the Lafayette Park and Ride and others along the way to the intersection with U.S. 36. The bus stops at the U.S. 36 stops. then heads southeast to meet up with Interstate 25 south to Denver Union Station. There is limited Saturday service and no Sunday service.

A separate LX bus carries Longmont riders from Longmont, south on I-25 to Union Station. The LX route only operates on weekdays and is geared toward work commuters. all southbound routes leave Longmont for Denver before 8 a.m. and most of the northbound routes leave Union Station between 4 and 6 p.m.

Under the proposed plan, Longmont riders who use the mid-day and evening all-stop LD service will need to make a transfer along U.S. 36. Riders who are riding only between Longmont and Broomfield will see an increase in bus service and LX riders won’t be affected.

‘Overall ridership’ low

Judy Lubow — who represents Longmont, Lafayette and Broomfield on the RTD Board of Directors — said the proposed changes were difficult to understand, even for her.

“What I got, basically, is that instead of having one-seat service locally like we have now, Longmont and Lafayette are no longer going to have that one-seat to Denver,” Lubow said. “Outside of rush hour, everything is going to stop at either U.S. 36 and Flatiron Station or U.S. 36 and Broomfield Station.”

To get to Denver from the U.S. 36 stations, riders would need to catch a Flatiron Flyer bus, which runs at relatively short intervals along U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver.

RTD Spokeswoman Laurie Huff said that her understanding from staff was that the LD non-rush hour buses were often not close to full.

“Overall ridership on this route is low. It is higher during peak times (5:30 to 8 a.m. and departure between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.), between 40 to 50 boardings per hour on weekdays. It is lower during off-peak times, in the single digits midday on weekdays,” Huff wrote in an email.

The LD routes are funded through a Boulder County grant that is set to expire in January. Huff said her understanding is that RTD would have cut the routes long ago if it wasn’t for the grant funding due to low ridership.

“Our service planners have to give great consideration on where to allocate the people we have, the operators, the vehicles, all of that,” Huff said in a phone interview. “Certain standards have to be met if the different routes are going to continue to be offered. I was told very frankly that if this was not grant-funded, we would have cut it already.”

‘Pattern of reduced service’

Staff in Boulder County’s Transportation department, however, pointed out that riders are using the mid-day LD routes to get to Denver.

George Gerstle, Boulder County transportation director, forwarded rider counts that show that 161 people per day are boarding the LD south-bound buses between Longmont and the Highway 287 juncture with U.S. 36 in Broomfield.

Of those 161 riders per day, 41 are boarding before the bus reaches Broomfield and riding all the way to Union Station during the mid-day hours. Under the proposed changes, those 41 riders per day would need to transfer to a Flatiron Flyer bus to get all the way to Denver.

Gerstle said the proposed changes would significantly impact Boulder County bus riders, particularly those in eastern Boulder County.

“Forcing people to transfer really reduces the odds of anyone taking the bus. We view it as a real problem and we are fighting it as hard as we can,” Gerstle said. “We realize that RTD is having financial problems but they don’t seem to be working with us to solve those problems. There are ideas on how to reduce the service in a less problematic way.”

Gerstle said that viewed in light of the elimination of the Rockies Ride and service cuts in Boulder and Lyons, Boulder County is hit particularly hard by RTD cuts.

“It does seem to be a pattern of reduced service throughout Boulder County,” he said.

Lubow said she is vehemently opposed to the proposed changes as well but she doesn’t think RTD is “picking” on Boulder County.

“My feeling is that it’s not so much being singled out. It’s because there are significant driver shortages and other problems and the routes that weren’t doing that well are being seriously looked at for being cut,” Lubow said.

Still, Lubow said she is lobbying RTD with all her might to not make the proposed cuts. She plans to be at both the Longmont and Lafayette meetings and urged Boulder County residents to make their voices heard to RTD.

She added that the cuts are not acceptable in Boulder County because RTD has still failed to deliver on the Northwest Rail , which was promised to Boulder County in the 2004 FasTracks tax increase.

“The elephant in the room is the Northwest Rail. We’re not an ordinary district, we’re just not, because we didn’t get our rail,” she said.

“It’s being done out of the needs of the whole district, but we’re being asked to shoulder more of a burden than we should have to, especially in light of the fact that we’re not getting our Northwest Rail until god knows when.”

Karen Antonacci: 303-684-5226, antonaccik@times-call.com or twitter.com/ktonacci

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