DENVER — The Regional Transportation District (RTD), which manages public transit in the Denver area, has a temporary plan to prevent temporary route cuts.

Hire temps.

At a hearing on Monday at the Colorado state capitol, RTD General Manager Dave Genova and RTD board chairman Doug Tisdale gave a service update to members of the General Assembly. It was, in fact, the General Assembly, that created RTD 50 years ago.

As RTD considers cutting routes until additional bus and light rail operators can be hired, lawmakers asked directed questions about the struggle to hire.

"What is the strategy to get from Point A to Point B, from where we are now to where we are fully staffed," asked Rep. Matt Gray (D-Broomfield).

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"We're looking at even additional measures as we're able to put those on, some of them that we're talking about, most recently, is working with organizations that provide temporary personnel," said Genova.

Temporary bus drivers.

Temporary light rail operators.

Temporary employees.

"They're people that have former transit experience, so they've already operated in a transit environment, either buses or trains," Genova told Next with Kyle Clark. "We'd have to develop a program to where we'd have a great level of comfort of anybody operating our equipment and operating on our system. So, while it may not be the full seven weeks, it would still be pretty substantial training that we'd put them through."

Genova said operators start at about $20 an hour and max out at $25 an hour. Operators can get bonuses for working split shifts or six-day-a-week overtime shifts.

"The key to retention is going to be if we're able to reduce the overtime," said Genova.

That's why RTD is considering service cuts. Instead of surprising riders with cancellations during the day, they will be canceled ahead of time.

"Before any reduction in service will be implemented, there will be outreach to all of the affected communities," said Tisdale.

He said, even though the board has not voted on the issue yet, any temporary cuts will be required to come back to life.

"The board has committed to [having] this sunset, so that we will give it a stated amount of time and look to staff to be able to deliver those results, and that at the end of the sunset, we take away those temporary reductions in service," said Tisdale.

"We don't know what a temporary service reduction may look like at this point in time," said Genova.

The issue needs to be considered and voted on by RTD's board. Genova said he thinks customers would prefer knowing ahead of time that a bus or train was not arriving.

"As long as what they know is scheduled arrives, I think they want us to be reliable 100% of the time," said Genova.

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RTD drivers have to manage potholes, yet during Monday's hearing, a lawmaker asked about managing RTD drivers and pot.

"You mention the shortage, and I've talked to other folks in the industry, they say the requirement of having the drug test policy is a huge barrier, especially with the younger generation," said Sen. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson).

"We believe there is an impact there. The hard thing for us, though, is it's hard to measure that because we don't know how many people are not applying for jobs because they will not be able to pass the drug test," said Genova.

RTD operators need to pass a pre-employment drug test. Operators are also tested randomly, for cause and after an accident. Drug tests clean of marijuana are required federally.

"It would be very interesting, as we see legalization of marijuana becoming more and more prevalent across the nation, for those rules to somehow address that testing, so that we wouldn't have that barrier," said Genova.

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