Off Limits

Must see TV: By the end of this summer, there will be no more boring waits wondering where your bus is. Instead there will be boring waits knowing where your bus is. That's because, like transit authorities in several other cities around the country, including New York, RTD is getting real about its route and bus-schedule information. Within the next few months, the district will install thirty video-monitor kiosks at community centers, libraries, park-and-rides, perhaps even grocery stores across the metro area; new software will link the monitors to RTD's Web site and allow would-be travelers to check the status of their specific rides. The system takes advantage of a global positioning system ("automatic vehicle locating system," in RTD parlance) that uses transmitters on the buses and satellites to pinpoint the location of every RTD vehicle; the software will give customers "interactive ability" with that information, which is updated every thirty seconds.

"Currently, we have the ability to give route and schedule information, but it's a static display. It's not interactive yet," says RTD spokesman Scott Reed of the half-dozen $6,000-each kiosks already installed around town. But once it is, RTD customers should quickly realize the benefits of being wired. For instance, if the No. 15--the "Zoo Bus," as it's known--is running late on Colfax Avenue, you'll be able to call up its current location and know just how long you'll have to listen to the monetary pleadings of the Soft-Talking Woman, downtown's most famous female panhandler, who was featured front and center--but unidentified--in a recent Rocky Mountain News photo accompanying a story on the joys of commuting by bus.

Reed is one of those commuters. "It's frustrating to stand in the snow and not know when your bus is coming," he says.

Now when you stand in the'll know.

The bear facts: Okay, you missed your chance to get a Bronco bear (mate him with Glory, the All-Star Beanie Baby, and create your own sports team!)--but there's more, so much more, out there. The News is still peddling its special 1998 "EL-YEA!" edition, for example; another local opportunist is selling a card that sports a "genuine facsimile" of John Elway's signature. And the Danbury Mint, known for its commemorative Barbies and Gone With the Wind plates, is kicking off its new series of sculptures honoring "football's greatest stars" with a lovely Elway figurine. "Viewed from any angle," the ad for the $65 masterpiece crows, "the lifelike detail is exceptional." Except that the real-life Elway is more than six inches tall.

Danbury also offers a stunning, $47.50 replica of "the legendary home of the Denver Broncos": Mile High Stadium, "one of the NFL's loudest venues...perhaps America's most recognizable football stadium." Until August 2001, that is, presuming the stadium district manages to find a director who can get busy blocking that pesky protected view. But the Danbury offer makes no mention of Mile High's imminent demise; nor do officials at the Connecticut company, where product manager Mike Tario says it's corporate policy not to talk to the media. (The NFL licensing department is just as shy.) The Danbury ad for the mini-Mile High is not so reticent, boasting that the model is correct down to every detail, including the ad-packed scoreboard and, presumably, the unequal number of women's restrooms. "Mile High Stadium will be admired by all who see it," Danbury pronounces, blissfully ignoring the beating the doomed facility has suffered at the hands of Broncos owner Pat "The Great Patsby" Bowlen.

Not so very long ago, you may recall, Patsby was saying that if taxpayers would pretty please build him a new pigskin palace, he wouldn't need to raise ticket prices. "A ticket increase is not going to solve our financial problems; a new stadium is going to solve our financial problems," he told the Denver Post on March 10, 1998. But what a difference a year--and a $300 million subsidy--makes!

Last week, season-ticket holders learned that the average cost of their seats is going up 25 percent, prompting howls from the peanut gallery--and a class-action lawsuit filed late Friday. In their suit, longtime season-ticket holders Robert and Joanne Heidrick (33 years) and Mike Kanderis (15 years) claim that the price hike violates the terms of the lease between the Broncos and the city.

Hmmm...was that the same lease that was supposed to keep the Broncos at Mile High well into the 21st century?

That loophole, however, is not the one that provides the hook for the suit. The plaintiffs are pointing to a convenant in the original 1977 lease that Broncos charges at the stadium "shall not exceed similar charges in comparable facilities made by other owners of a franchise in the League without the written permission of the Mayor first."

Cries for a "three-peat" don't count.

A pressing engagement: Two weeks ago it floated to the surface of the bilge that is newsroom gossip, and since then, the rumor that Scripps Howard has a March 15 deadline to buy the Denver Post for $60 million has washed across the country and back again. The rumor had Channel 7 reporters skulking around the Denver Press Club looking for someone, anyone, coherent enough to offer an intelligent quote for the cameras. (No luck.) Last Wednesday, Michael Howard--Scripps scion, former Rocky Mountain News editor and current alleged columnist for the paper--even showed up on Channel 4 to discuss the possibility. Perhaps that's what inspired the memo that went out to the Rocky's newsroom last Friday noting that all questions regarding the rumor be directed to editor John Temple or president and general manager Bob Burdick. Even if the rumor doesn't signal the end of the newspaper war--and we're betting it doesn't--it's still inflicted collateral damage on staffers at the two dailies, who realize that a one-paper town wouldn't be big enough to fit all of them.

For the record, Post owner Dean "That's Absurd" Singleton has denied the rumor and claims that the ultimate victory in the newspaper war will be his even if Scripps officials said they're willing to pour up to $30 million into the Denver newspaper battle in the next year, as Singleton says they did.

Also for the record, Rich Boehne, executive vice president of Scripps, denies Singleton's claim. "The $30 million just isn't true, in every sense," he says. "We never said that to anybody. Call every analyst, and you'd never see that." As for the rumor that Scripps may buy the Post? Pointing out that Scripps is a public company, Boehne notes that he "can't really comment on rumors."

Singleton's veracity, though, is fair game.
Whatever may happen by March 15, the dailies are undeniably serious about selling themselves--for prices as low as a penny a day--to Colorado readers. And their aggressive efforts are catching. While US West politely says it'll block "magazine subscription" offers as one of the benefits of its new "No Solicitation" anti-telemarketing service, Ken Salazar's office is more forthcoming: The Colorado attorney general's recorded information line now lists newspaper and magazine solicitations as the top consumer complaint in the state.


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