Parker residents will not have a chance to vote on whether or not they want to continue being part of the Regional Transportation District, or RTD, after a bill to allow the decision was indefinitely postponed in a state Senate committee hearing Feb. 1.
The State, Veterans & Military Affairs committee halted the bill with three members voting against it and two voting in favor.
“I have concerns about the health of RTD at large but also I don’t know what the best path forward is,” said Julie Gonzalez, the chair of the committee. “I’m not convinced this is the right path forward.”
Several representatives from Parker and Douglas County testified during the hearing in support of the bill including Mayor Jeff Toborg, Councilmember Cheryl Poage, Councilmember Todd Hendreks, Commissioner Abe Laydon, Commissioner George Teal and Jim Maloney, the town’s attorney.
“This is about local control,” Toborg said during his testimony. “It’s not about politics, it’s not about disliking RTD, it’s not about transportation, it’s about local control.”
State Sen. Jim Smallwood sponsored the bill, which would have allowed Parker residents or the town council to initiate a vote to decide if Parker would leave RTD in 2050 or when the district would refinance its debt.
“There has been a concern that there is sort of an inequity between the amount of taxpayer funds that are provided to RTD through the citizens of Parker, Colorado and the benefits that they are receiving,” Smallwood said in the hearing.
Parker’s town council has expressed frustration with RTD, saying that the town hasn’t received nearly enough service for the amount its residents pay in sales tax. Toborg said that in 2021, the town paid $15 million to RTD and received less than 20% in a return on investment.
A spokesperson for RTD said the district has not yet calculated sales tax gathered from the town and that it’s difficult for them to quantify the dollar amount of services provided to an area.
The same bill was presented to the Colorado House of Representatives last year — sponsored by Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Acres Green) — but was indefinitely postponed after RTD made promises to improve service.
Parker’s elected RTD Director Julien Bouquet spoke against the bill Feb. 1, saying that the district has made progress since the last time the bill was introduced. Bouquet pointed to the return of the P bus route and the 483 bus route, both of which serve Parker.
“It makes zero sense to take away a transit organization in a growing community,” Bouquet said.
Two representatives from the Colorado Cross disability coalition spoke against the bill as well.
“I’m concerned that there is nothing that replaces public transit after RTD,” Bouquet said. “I’m most concerned about our transit-dependent riders in the town.”
Senators James Coleman (D-Denver), Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D-Boulder) and chair Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) voted against the bill. Senators Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa) and Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) voted in favor.
Toborg did not respond to requests for comment from Colorado Community Media.