RTD: Meet the three men running against Westword cover girl Claudia Folska
Claudia Folska's resume is impressive. In college, she started a nonprofit. After graduate school, she biked from Pakistan to China. This past spring, she earned a dual doctorate from the University of Colorado. And best of all, she once groped Arnold Schwarzenegger -- a feat she jokes that she could get away with because she's blind. Now Folska, who's the subject of our cover story, "Fare Treatment," is embarking on a new challenge: running for RTD Board of Directors.
RTD races don't usually get much love. Listed at the bottom of the ballot, they're an afterthought for most voters. "If we had a dog catcher race, we'd be right above that," says current board member Bill McMullen.
But some argue that ignoring RTD is a mistake. After all, the Regional Transportation District has a $445 million annual operating budget and is looking to spend billions more in the coming years on a massive expansion. "It just flies under the radar," says Roger Sherman, a former RTD board member. "The level of scrutiny and the level of participation and the level of interest in these races isn't commensurate with the amount of money and the real impact RTD has on the region."
RTD has been important to Folska since she moved to Colorado more than a decade ago. The quality of Denver's public transportation system played into her decision to relocate here from southern California, she says; because she's blind and can't drive a car, buses and trains are the main way Folska gets where she needs to go.
That's one thing that sets her apart from her opponents: mortgage banker Jeff Bjorlin, lawyer and libertarian blogger Dave Williams and former Jeffco school board member Vince Chowdhury. All four are running to represent RTD District E, which includes parts of Denver, Aurora, Greenwood Village and Centennial.
www.rtd-denver.com A map of RTD District E.
Folska's platform, which is described in detail in "Fare Treatment," includes finding funds to complete the enormous FasTracks project by 2020, increasing RTD ridership and making smaller, common-sense changes that she says will make the system more user-friendly.
For instance, Folska would like to change the ticket vending machines at RTD stations. The sun glare on the screens makes them impossible to read for sighted people and for blind people, the machine will speak instructions if you push a button. But to tell which button to push, Folska points out, you have to see it.
So what do Folska's competitors believe?
Continue reading for more about their platforms.