RTD proposes cuts to portions of Aurora’s R Line with ‘poor productivity’

Aurora city leaders “strongly oppose” the proposal, arguing in a letter to RTD that the line hasn’t been running long enough to determine whether a reduction is necessary

AURORA | After less than six months of operation, the Regional Transportation District is considering service reductions to the R Line, which runs through Aurora along Interstate 225 with stops at major economic hubs.

The cuts would include stops south of Anschutz Medical Campus and near the VA Hospital, a portion of the city that local leaders say is rich in potential ridership, and was previously disconnected from the rest of city.

RTD is proposing the reduction during off-peak hours south of the Florida Station only. Weekday service would run between high traffic times, 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. There would be no weekend service.

“The line connects the southeast corridor, a major employment, services and residential hub to central Aurora, the Aurora Health One Campus, Metro Center, the Anschutz and Fitzsimons Innovation Campuses, and Denver International Airport to the north via simplified and direct train routing service provided continuously throughout the day and night,” the city pointed out in a brief about the proposal, making the point the R Line cuts would again divide parts of the city.

Service through central Aurora, between the Peoria Station and the Florida Station, would maintain service every 15 minutes, according to the proposal, and passengers in route to the Denver Tech Center wouldn’t be affected if traveling during peak times — RTD otherwise advises a possible transfer to the E or F lines at the Southmoor Station.

The proposal isn’t set in stone yet. RTD will hold public input meetings for all proposed line service changes across the metro area.

So far, Aurora city leaders “strongly oppose” the proposal, arguing in a letter to RTD that the line hasn’t been running long enough to determine whether a reduction is necessary.

“The R Line needs one to two years of delivering service to the east and southeast metro communities before assessing performance using service standards and any consideration of service cuts,” read the letter, signed by Mayor Steve Hogan. “It is simply too early to know what true ridership is until residential and other impacts are fully in place.”

An RTD public relations manager said it’s typical that RTD looks at ridership after a line has been operating for six months.

RTD said the R Line has similar usage compared to other lines, but the poorest productivity.

“Productivity increased slightly from 38 passengers per hour in January to 41 (per hour) in the May runboards — not a trajectory sufficient to warrant the level of service currently provided,” the RTD proposal said.

The city also points out that many investments have been made on the assumption that the R Line would be running at full capacity.

“Approximately 2,500 residential units are being constructed, or staged for construction, over the next 18 months together with a variety of mixed-use projects, including some hotels to be located at R Line stations,” the letter said. “Cutting service during mid-day weekdays (six hours out of a 13-hour period) and entirely on Saturdays and Sundays ensures that a new rail line will never realize its full potential, and instead will fail.

“The proposed R Line service cuts would impose two very inconvenient train transfers and a doubling of travel time for riders making trips between the southeast corridor and the heart of Aurora. It seems these changes would also impact those wanting a direct and easy way to get to the country’s sixth busiest airport.”

The city’s letter also alleges that RTD hasn’t made a worthy effort in marketing the R Line, and would like to see “an aggressive advertising campaign implemented.”

RTD officials said the R Line’s marketing campaign was treated just like any other line. There was an advertising campaign in place, as well as a media day where local news media could profile the opening of the line. Other lines are under a consideration for service changes.

The R Line public meeting is scheduled for the proposal at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 in the Aspen Room at the Aurora Municipal Center.