It’s a new initiative and they’ve already got some people through the training and on the job, the first having started in December.
RTD has done some baselining of various factors in the zip codes identified in the corridor, including the crime rate, the foreclosure rate, the unemployment rate and the education level. “As we lay this program down in those areas, we want to see what impact this program has in those factors,” Washington explains. “That allows us to go to the police department here in Denver or the justice department saying, ‘You know what? The crime rate has gone down in this area as a result, we believe, in this program we have. We need some grant money.’”
He adds, “Every FasTracks Project has language in the package, this commitment requiring of the contractors that get this work, we’re asking them to commit a certain percentage of the jobs they will have to this program.” He says, “We just did a Union Station deal so folks are coming to the table and they’re saying, OK, we know you want this, you’re making it a requirement, so we’re going to have to do it.”
At the FTA funding signing they held on August 31, he says, “I turned to the DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and said we want this in very federal project document so in other words, if you’re chasing federal money, there should be some type of program like this that is a requirement at the federal level.”
MAX: Staff Training
While helping train people in the community to get jobs, RTD is working with a couple of other transit agencies to better train their own team. Washington says MAX (multi-agency exchange) started as a conversation at a conference.
Log Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) President/Executive Director Gary Thomas and Washington were thinking about having agencies that were having similar capital expansion programs to have 8 or 9 people from each agency, visit with the other agencies for a training-type program.
Each agency assigned the point people from their respective agency and then each of the three agencies went through a nomination process and some interviews to pick the individuals.
“We said that we would make the trips three times during the year and I volunteered to host the first one,” Washington says. “We put together a curriculum of what we wanted to cover, the areas we wanted to cover, the idea being Transit Economics 101: looking at project management, bus operations, security, labor relations, all of these things.”
The groups from Metro and DART came out to RTD for about a week in August and Washington says it was a great success and the next scheduled visit is LA in February.
After a year of the program they agreed to evaluate the program, with the idea being to look at if they continue the program and if they add another agency to the program.
Challenges for RTD
When Washington talks about the challenges facing the RTD, it’s a lot of what we’ve been hearing across the country: funding, training the next generation and aging equipment.
With all the technology out there, how do you manage it and how do you use it? Washington says, “My IT guys get ticked off at me all the time because they come and they say, hey look, we need this, we need that … a lot of times it turns out to be more ornaments on the tree.
“I always say wait a minute, tell me how much of the current system’s capability you’re actually using. I give the example of the TV remote,” he says. “The TV remote, you probably use maybe 2 or 3 features on that frickin’ thing: channels, volume, on-off switch, but there’s probably a hundred different features on that remote. That’s technology.