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RTD Snake Charmers Have Lakewood Council In A Transit Trance

Opinion Editorial
December 19, 2001

By Matthew Edgar, Bonnie Ferguson

Like a cobra mesmerizing a mouse, lobbyists from RTDs utopian light rail team have convinced the Lakewood City Council to enact a city framework plan, which will set guidelines for a 22-month environmental impact study along 13th Avenue. Light rail is the ultimate goal of the framework plan, which will cost $450 million.

RTD Board Member David Ruckman and Project Manager Dave Hollis attended two recent citizens workshops in Lakewood to lobby heavily for the plan. It calls for high-density residential development and the construction of a light rail line along 13th Avenue, where there is a long-established neighborhood of single-family homes. RTDs resulting written report overemphasized the pro-rail comments and ignored the plentiful anti-rail commentary heard at the meetings. The result was the Lakewood councils adoption of a framework plan which is fervently opposed by citizens groups such as Eiberhood and The 13th Avenue Citizens.

These groups have repeatedly asked RTD to notify them fully of all meetings at which the proposed Lakewood light rail line is to be discussed, but to little avail. At a recent meeting, representatives of the Lakewood Sentinel and Lakewood councilors also voiced the same concerns about RTDs less-than-thorough meeting announcements.

The plan that RTD is trying to sell to Lakewood is virtually the same as the Southwest Corridor project RTD implemented in Littleton, except that the Lakewood line would sometimes be within 50 feet of homes and elementary schools. Safety concerns have not been addressed despite the fact that more people are hit and injured by trains than buses. Despite citizen objections and input from Littleton residents that their system has many problems, Lakewood councilors continue to support an inefficient and overly expensive light rail system.

Several Littleton residents who spoke before the Lakewood council on Dec. 10th described how the completed light rail line in Littleton has increased the problems it was meant to solve. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, traffic on Santa Fe Avenue has increased by 35% despite RTD projections to the contrary. Lack of adequate Park n Rides in Littleton has caused overflow parking in nearby residential neighborhoods. Unsightly wires dangle menacingly above residential properties.

The majority of Lakewood and Littleton citizens commute from suburb to suburb, not from suburb to downtown Denver. Lakewoods traffic problems run north and south, not east and west. Assuming a Lakewood resident worked at Denver Technology Center, his total RTD commute time on trains and buses would be over two hours. In contrast, an automobile driver can drive from Lakewood to Cheyenne, Wyoming in one hour.

According to a letter written by RTD Project Manager David Hollis, the heavily publicized Southwest Corridor/Littleton light rail line was projected to have ridership of 23,000 per day, when the actual ridership numbers average 13,000 per day. Currently, 9,500 Lakewood residents ride RTD buses per day but RTD claims that 40,000 Lakewood residents will board the trains daily. According to former RTD Board Chairman Jon Caldara, it is common for RTD to inflate its ridership figures in order to receive funding from the Federal Transportation Administration.

One must question why the 11 members of Lakewood City Council, not to mention the massive city support staff, cannot see these obvious problems with light rail (increased traffic, parking congestion, unsightly wires), especially when there is a great example of those problems just up the road in Littleton. The only rational conclusion to this question is that RTD has lobbied the Lakewood Council into a pro-light rail trance; the councilors should wake up and see RTD for the predator that it is.


Copyright 2001, Independence Institute

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.

JON CALDARA is President of the Institute.

MATTHEW EDGAR is a Research Associate with the Independence Institute.

BONNIE FERGUSON is Head Volunteer with the Independence Institute and a Lakewood activist.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this subject can be found at: http://independenceinstitute.org/

NOTHING WRITTEN here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

PERMISSION TO REPRINT this paper in whole or in part is hereby granted provided full credit is given to the Independence Institute.