As both a longtime Northwestern Denver resident and a self-sabotaging, economically disadvantaged proletarian, public transit development in Colorado is something I pay a lot of attention to. I’m on my second car and I didn’t learn how to drive until I was 19, which was almost ten years ago, and I didn’t own a car until I was almost 21. From about 15 on, I rode Denver’s buses and trains for work, play, and everything in between. One conclusion I think many of my fellow riders can agree on is that RTD, Denver’s Regional Transport District, is fucking horrible.
Much of my early usage with Twitter was primarily to antagonize the intern running the RTD account. Buses very rarely run on time or don’t come at all. More often than not, a trip with more than one transfer is going to get screwed up, and that makes using public transit as a way to reliably commute almost impossible. Unless you’re planning on leaving an hour earlier, which compounds how horrific RTD’s metro transit routing network actually is: an accurate anecdotal estimation is that for every 10-15 minutes it might take to drive somewhere, you can count on at least an hour on a bus. My commute is about a thirty minute drive. Once you factor in the walking, due to the fact that both my destination and my home don’t have have any direct bus service, using public transportation for my commute takes nearly three and a half hours. One way. Inclimate weather? Go fuck yourself.
RTD means Rather Try Driving. RTD means Really? Try, Dickheads. RTD means Removing Time and Dreams.
Many employers in the Denver metropolitan area will outright not hire you if you explicitly state that you ride RTD to work. Making RTD’s problems even worse, up until a new union contract got them some of the best concessions in nearly 50 years, it was a shitty place to work; driver positions went unfulfilled due to wage stagnation and worker morale and service was abysmal. Numerous times in the last year, I’ve been on buses where drivers got lost because they didn’t know the route, went off on passengers (sometimes deservedly), and even left in the middle of a shift. Huge turnover rates meant new trainees, who don’t have the confidence to move at the speeds needed for passengers to make it into the already razor-thin transfer time margins, which means we’re all late.
Without trying to pile on, while RTD does run an Access-A-Ride program for elderly and disabled passengers, a huge problem is the loading and unloading of passengers in wheelchairs, using walkers, or just slow from being old on the regular lines. RTD is great if you’re trying to go into town to visit a museum or take in a day at the ballpark. If you’re trying to make it to work in a reasonable timeframe, you will develop a resentment towards the elderly for making you late, despite the fact that whoever is planning the transfers is giving the buses about 90 seconds of buffer time. Linda, Harriet and Elmer trying to get to a Tuesday Morning and getting me fired means that after three drinks I start advocating turning Australia into an international retirement community and we never have to look at someone over the age of 75 eat shit on a bus ramp ever again.
With the population explosion essentially destroying the drivability of Denver’s main highways and assuming they’ve developed a bit of a complex due to a decade-plus of having one of the worst transit reputations within its city tier, RTD has been hard at work trying to expand and fill service gaps. Denver, despite spending ten years somewhat successfully marketing itself as “Nu-Portland”, still has trains that barely run beyond midnight, when they run at all. The much-maligned A-Train to Denver International Airport and the now-two-years late G-Line, which would connect the Northwest suburbs of Arvada and Wheat Ridge to Union Station, have both been delayed and ordered to undergo time-consuming, expensive, extensive, and loud safety testing after attempting to utilize a wireless safety system for road crossings.
This one isn’t even RTD’s fault. Federal regulators deemed the system too safe, based on the assumption that Denver residents are so fucking stupid that because the crossing arm stays lowered for longer than traditional systems, drivers would attempt to move around the arm. That nightmare appears to be ending, although no timetables are being drawn up because of how many times the rug has been yanked from under passengers as well as RTD itself.
The (non)opening of the G-Line is something that has actually fucked up the last two years of my life. I enrolled in a vocational program as a newly carless person and ended up relying on carpooling with other benevolent, generous students when it was initially delayed. I subsequently took a job substantially further away than I was comfortable with on hopes of the new service date and ended up with a four-transfer hell commute that forced me to buy another car. This isn’t even scratching the surface of how poorly-planned expansion has helped contribute to the crisis-levels of affordable housing in Denver. By building the expansion lines through poor and working-class neighborhoods in conjunction with the influx of young yuppie tech workers who trend towards not owning their own vehicles and work primarily in concentrated corporate commercial centers located on rail lines, commuter stations have turned into hubs of redevelopment and priced many people not just out of their neighborhoods, but out of the city and state entirely.
Once again, as it goes too often in Denver, what was sold to taxpayers more than ten years ago as a way to help alleviate traffic congestion in the face of growth and assist Denver’s public transit rider base, largely poor and working-class people, increase reliability and get to work has cynically turned into another enrichment scheme for condo developers and accommodation to rich, disproportionately white newcomers looking to crush code and blaze mad kush. Longtime residents and RTD passengers are pushed over the wayside, despite paying for the system and watching it go over budget and behind schedule year after year. As the stucco monstrosities creep from the edges of the Highlands and further into the northern suburbs, expect both the city and state governments to further acquiesce towards building a richer, whiter, and out-of-state tax base. We’ll get the transit system we deserve once we’re all forced to relocate to Oklahoma and Denver’s census only has room for men that cuff their jeans and wear ankle boots and women running mommy blogs about DIY kale baby food and working part-time at a cakepop store.