Reimagining RTD, As Requested

RTD wants to know what the ticket to your future is.
RTD wants to know what the ticket to your future is. vxla at Flickr

RTD recently celebrated its fiftieth year of service with some nostalgia, some hoopla, and a decided lack of cake and piñatas. But a celebration it was, and as part of that milestone, RTD wants to look forward as well as back — specifically in an effort it's calling “Reimagine RTD.” The two-year endeavor will try to “understand and forecast the current and future transportation needs of the Denver metro region,” according to an RTD press release.

The most recent event meant to promote the “Reimagine RTD” idea is a presentation by renowned travel consultant Jarrett Walker, author of Human Transit...but it’s closed to the public. Because, you know, baby steps. Still, we were interested in opening up the discussion to everyone — so to start the conversation, here’s a short list of some far-flung ideas as to how RTD might be reimagined for the future…and beyond.

click to enlarge TEAGUE BOHLEN
Teague Bohlen
The Great Public Scooter Takeover of 2020
Now that scooters are ridiculously ubiquitous in the more densely populated sections of Denver, RTD folks could do worse than to just throw up their hands, garage most of the buses and put a fleet of RTD-branded scooters out there for people to hop on and ride — apparently wherever they want to. The wrong way on a one-way street? Sure. Sidewalks? Whatever. Bike lanes? The freeway? The aisles of Home Depot? Whatever, man. They’re scooters. There are no rules. (Okay, there are, but no one pays attention to them.) Jump on this now, RTD: The wild west gold rush is back on, only scooter-style.

If we can’t have flying cars, maybe single-user transportation is the way to go. And if we can all maneuver around each other with the current variety of transport on busy Denver streets, adding a vertical aspect to the equation can’t cause that much more havoc, right? It should even free up some of the used space already on the earthbound streets, right? This is a great idea, as long as we can, you know, keep from crashing into the cash register building.

A Bullet Train to the Plane
Japan’s bullet trains have a maximum operating speed of about 200 miles an hour…which means that Denver International Airport, sitting as it does far too close to the Kansas border, would only be about five minutes or so from downtown instead of the current 25 (or more). Of course, there’s the issue of public safety, yadda yadda yadda, but think of the lovely breeze the new A-line bullet train would make as it zoomed through Denver’s neighborhoods!

Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!
If for no other reason, because the early seasons of The Simpsons were classic and deserve remembering. And because we still miss Phil Hartman.

Self-Driving Vehicles
If you’ve been on RTD’s mass-transit options in the past few years, you know that it always seems to be hiring. There are even signing bonuses for new drivers, which is perhaps the only way in which being a bus driver is like playing pro baseball. But here’s the thing: With all the advances in self-driving cars, we must be just as close to self-driving buses, especially since they’re on standard routes. It must be tech that we’re even closer to adopting for rail travel, what with the tracks and all. Yes, the robots will one day rule us all — but until then, they’d better get us to our destinations on time.

Electric Streetcars
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could use a renewable energy source to power streetcars that connected almost every part of Denver to almost every other part of Denver at such an affordable price that more than half of residents used mass transit on a regular basis? Ah, if only the future of transportation could be more like 1915…
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen