On October 13, Partnership affiliate FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities partnered with 9to5 Colorado to host a non-partisan public forum for the candidates running for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors for District M, which encompasses parts of Lakewood, Arvada, Wheat Ridge and Golden. District M also includes segments of two FasTracks corridors - the West and Gold lines. The forum was led by Lakewood resident Linda Stopp and gave audience members an opportunity to ask candidates Natalie Menten and Matt Cohen questions about their concerns. The candidates discussed their positions on a variety of issues, from how decisions about where bus shelters are placed to community input processes and the FasTracks budget shortfall.
The following reflections from various community members in attendance reveal the importance of the forum for fostering community involvement and ensuring that the needs and well-being of all members of the community are attended to.
Aurora Randolph, university student: “I learned a lot, but I also realized how much I don’t know. I recognized how important the entity of RTD and the board of directors really is. It was a great event and really interesting. It was interesting to see how community conversations take place around transit. I was surprised that RTD doesn’t have an affinity for public input."
Linda Stopp, Lakewood Resident: “I learned a lot. I heard distinct voices, a mix of statements and a difference between the candidates. I know can make my decision between the candidates. I really realize how important the RTD board is and how we need to get more people to know more about it.”
Dan Sunquist, Bus driver and mechanic, Regional Transportation District: "I have worked for RTD since 1993.In the late 1990s, RTD couldn’t hire enough bus operators, so they had maintenance workers do an 8 hour shift, and then take a shift driving afterwards. I would drive the same route for a few days several weeks in a row and start to get to know my passengers. People were going to work and didn’t have enough money to pay for the bus fare until they received their next paycheck on Friday. I could tell they were going to work because they had their lunch pail. Proud men were practically choking them up to say they couldn’t pay. I’ll pay double, triple on Friday. These people were working full time and couldn't afford bus fare. As a driver, you start seeing the human impact of public transit ... and how crucially important it is in these economic times.”
Peter Hoffman, District M resident: "I use the bus, primarily #1 from Lakewood to downtown. I use it to go to Auraria Campus, 16th St. Mall, Civic Center, the Capital. I learned a lot from this forum. I learned a lot from both candidates - that both are sincere. It’s interesting that Cohen doesn’t see himself as a public representative. Menten is very focused on the bus but doesn’t use the bus. I like Cohen’s “last mile” stance. I do believe that great cities have great transportation. I traveled around the world and always use public transportation. I use it everywhere I go."