Guest opinion: City should vote to keep buses running |

Guest opinion: City should vote to keep buses running

Ed Cortez
Guest Opinion

The weight of leadership and responsibility always falls on those who take the mantle with skill, fortitude and experience on behalf of those they represent.

In this case, it is a decision that the Glenwood Springs City Council will be making on Monday, April 6, to consider an emergency order to terminate RFTA service in Glenwood Springs, which would drastically affect the poor, minorities and the most vulnerable of our community.

At the April 3 RFTA board of directors meeting, Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes and Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt voted to end RFTA service completely. The vote failed.

Mayor Godes later announced that the Glenwood Springs Council would convene on Monday to consider the shutdown of RFTA service in Glenwood Springs altogether.

The question I ask is, “Is shutting down RFTA service in Glenwood Springs at this time a wise move?” It seems as though the Glenwood Springs City Council will be taking responsibility in areas where they have no expertise, contrary to current recommendations by state and local health professionals.

I say let’s talk.

First consider this: By shutting down RFTA service, the city of Glenwood would be shutting down an essential service to the city and region that would impact those who depend on mass transit for their livelihood and survival.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the health departments of Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties are still defining public transportation as an essential service for those who are traveling to jobs working for essential services (groceries, doctors, medicines or have no other means of transportation). Public Health Order 2024 defines public transportation as a critical government function and a critical service.

Deputy director of the Pitkin County Public Health Department Suzuho Shimasaki in a recent article stated department officials feel RFTA is taking appropriate precautions to keep people safe while still operating. The health order crafted by Pitkin County specifically deemed RFTA an essential service, she noted.

As a seven-year RFTA bus operator, I have driven Glenwood Springs routes for years. I know the riders and their destinations. Except for students, the bulk of the passengers are minorities and the poor who depend on RFTA. Mayor Godes was quoted saying about Mondays’ meeting, “This is an opportunity to hear from people that are going to be impacted. Pick up the phone, send us an email — let us know.”

What the Glenwood Springs City Council needs to realize is that the bulk of Glenwood Springs riders live day to day as a shadow community afraid to publicly speak out and shed light on their concerns. In an April 3 Glenwood Springs Post Independent article, council members Shelley Kaup and Steve Davis seemed to have their minds made up before listening to real-life facts.

What the Glenwood Springs City Council has to realize is that making critical decisions requires strong leadership, political will, accurate information and patience.

Please listen to state and county health department professionals, RFTA professionals and input from RFTA employees who are putting their heath on the line every day for the common good.

Please vote to continue bus service in Glenwood Springs.

Ed Cortez is president and business agent for the Amalgamated Transit Union 1774, and a Glenwood Springs resident.

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