RTD’s troubled trains may need those software updates you’re always clicking “Later” on

They also said other railroads would like to copy them.
3 min. read
RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova speaks during a press conference the agency’s downtown headquarters, Dec. 18, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

During a press conference Tuesday, Regional Transportation District General Manager and CEO Dave Genova could not say whether a technological fix truly exists to end the saga that is Crossing-Gategate.

For anyone unfamiliar with the issue:

  • The A Line, B Line and unopened G line all intersect with streets along their routes.
  • The crossing gates to keep cars and people from stepping into the train's path stay down a little too long sometimes, which the feds really hate -- not because it's inherently dangerous for passengers, but because drivers and pedestrians may get impatient and cross when they shouldn't.
  • RTD insists the trains are safe, but the Federal Railroad Administration hates the delays so much, it won't let RTD open the G Line, which is now about two years behind schedule.

RTD submitted a plan to the agency aimed at patching the problem, but there will be no overhaul of the tech, Genova said, only an update to the software that speaks to the gates.

So is this, like, an innocuous update to your Audubon bird-watching app?


Asked whether the tech actually exists to fix the problem at this point or if RTD is betting on the good graces of the feds, Genova would not say. "There's a variety of different items that we will be advancing and working towards," he said. "It's not just one thing."

The RTD chief insisted the agency is using "state of the art technology" and that other railroads are "really interested in doing the same exact thing that we are doing with our technology." He pointed reporters to the "action plan" submitted to federal authorities.

According to the plan, one of those things is "training and mentoring" operators... who are already trained and mentored when they get the job. But, as Genova said, "Professional development, just like it is for all of us, is an ongoing adventure."

RTD and Denver Transit Partners, which built and now operates the commuter rail lines, are suing each other. The consortium is seeking $80 million, but project director John Thompson refused to answer questions from a reporter about what that taxpayer debit would cover. Genova would not comment on litigation either.

But he had plenty to say about the A and B Lines' flourishing ridership -- 26,200 people combined on an average day -- and their 97 percent "on-time" rate (within five minutes of the schedule). Everything's fine!

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