By Angie Rivera Malpiede
Public transit has become the catalyst and backbone to help solve the most difficult systemic issues facing Denver: education, climate change, good jobs and affordable housing.
As part of that effort, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board last year adopted an ambitious and actionable five-year strategic plan, something that had not been done before.
The plan details RTD’s aspirations and the steps it will take to attain those goals. It articulates the organization’s vision for partnering with the surrounding community, pursuing customer excellence, becoming a regional employer of choice and achieving financial success.
I am proud to have been part of that process. This is a year when I could seek reelection to the RTD Board for a fourth term. But I will not. Instead, I am called to go back into the community to work on transportation issues at the local level.
The insights I carry have renewed the focus and passion I bring. Transportation is my life’s work. Establishing sustainable transit options for people of all socioeconomic levels compelled me to accept former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s appointment to the RTD Board in 2010 for two terms, a dynamic time when the agency reopened Denver Union Station and built the new A Line to Denver International Airport.
It drives my work with the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities, for which I manage the Sustainable Development Initiative, and Northeast Transportation Connections, a nonprofit that provides transportation solutions to the communities of northeast Denver.
Public transportation can affect all kinds of issues around one’s livelihood, including access to food, work and medical care. I carried this passion and perspective with me when I rejoined the RTD Board in January 2019 for a third term.
And what I have seen since that time, including while serving as chair for two years, is that transportation has become a critical issue for society — far beyond what most people had considered to that point. Over the past two-plus years, the experiences of weathering a global pandemic and the racial fallout from the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have changed the way we think and feel.
Leading during this extraordinary time, I learned to take a deep breath, consider my instincts and trust the incredible team of professionals at RTD, an agency that has served its community for more than 50 years.
During my most recent term on the RTD Board, the group’s accomplishments have been notable. We hired a seasoned interim general manager to keep us on course while seeking the agency’s next permanent leader.
And, with the selection of Debra A. Johnson as RTD’s current general manager and CEO, we named the first woman in this role — a woman of color — in the agency’s history. The decades of experience she brings from working in some of the biggest cities in the United States continually proves invaluable as RTD plans for its future.
We have taken the issues at Denver Union Station straight on, making changes to the physical infrastructure in the bus concourse and surrounding areas. These facility enhancements — which will cost between $10 million and $15 million and be enacted over the next year-plus — are designed to improve the safety and security of RTD’s customers, employees and all who use the agency’s services and facilities.
RTD launched a project webpage I encourage you to visit that is updated frequently as work progresses. I know how important it is for this station, the busiest in our system, to feel welcoming for everyone who travels through the space, lives in the surrounding neighborhood or works in downtown Denver. RTD will host public meetings where you can let us know what you think about this important project.
We are hiring a new RTD chief of police and will announce the addition of this critical leader as soon as a selection is made. We will also continue to come back to the public with updates related to Reimagine RTD and the agency’s systemwide fare study and equity analysis, with any potential changes to the fare structure and pass programs to be considered by the board early next year.
If you have not done so already, please get involved in these initiatives, which will directly affect your experience on our system. Being your RTD director has been an extraordinarily rich experience for me. I was incredibly honored to have served as Board chair during the pandemic, a time when the agency’s dedicated employees worked tirelessly every day for the good of the community.
I hope you are as humbled as I am about all that we have accomplished and moved forward. I cannot thank you enough for the faith you put in me to serve on your behalf.
Angie Rivera-Malpiede represented District C during after being appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2010, and she was elected to the board in 2018. The district covers all of North and West Denver as well as sections of Jefferson County.