The System Performance Demonstration, or SPD as RTD liked to call it, was meant to make sure the A Line was, in essence, ready for prime time.
For five weeks, RTD along with the project’s concessionaire Denver Transit Partners, wanted to see if the train line could handle the rigors of a regular schedule. So they started running trains at the same times they would run after opening day, with no passengers on board.
The SPD began in mid-March. According to the contract with Denver Transit Partners, the goal was to hit 95 percent or above on what’s known as an availability ratio. The number took into account, among other things, how often the trains were on time and how many scheduled trips were completed.
The contract states RTD wanted Denver Transit Partners to hit a score of 95 percent or above on 21 consecutive days during the SPD.
It also wanted to hit more than 97 percent on seven consecutive days.
Once the testing started, it became clear hitting those goals would prove difficult if not downright impossible.
On March 14, 2016, the availability ratio was 59.63 percent.
The following day it hit 64.25 percent.
Records analyzed by 9Wants to Know indicate that while the scores did eventually get better, the tests never put the line anywhere near the goal.
In fact, only six times did the testing phase get above 95 percent. Again, the goal was 21 days in a row. It hit more than 97 percent only three times. None happened in succession.
RTD spokesperson Scott Reed explained Wednesday the numbers were, in essence, “stretch goals.”
“We knew going in it was going to be almost impossible to hit that,” he said.
According to the reports, March 20 was another bad day. The results were “poor and well below the standard.”
Five days before opening day, the trains were on time less than 56 percent.
Two days before opening day, the availability ratio dipped to 80 percent.
Reed said it’s customary to open rail lines without everything functioning perfectly. “What we look for in the testing phase are issues that can’t be addressed in operation -- real showstoppers. And we did not see that,” he said.
It’s true, many of the problems that occurred during testing have been remedied. A problem with the two phase breaks that exist on the line are no longer an issue, according to RTD. The phase breaks represent temporary, but completely planned, loss of power on the line as the trains transfer from one power source to the next.