On Rocktober hopes, Amazon and RTD lawsuits

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 10/10/18

Another Rocktober is in the books. After losing to the LA Dodgers for the Western Division title, our Colorado Rockies persevered in beating the Chicago Cubs in a 13-inning marathon (four hours and …

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On Rocktober hopes, Amazon and RTD lawsuits

Posted

Another Rocktober is in the books.

After losing to the LA Dodgers for the Western Division title, our Colorado Rockies persevered in beating the Chicago Cubs in a 13-inning marathon (four hours and 55 minutes) to be the National League wild card.

What a game!

The intensity wore Ann and I out as we watched Kyle Freeland and a bevy of relief pitchers hold the Cubs to six hits and a single run in the 2-1 victory.

Too bad we couldn’t carry that momentum on to Milwaukee to knock off the Brewers, but Rocktober was nice as long as it lasted.

Vying for king of retail crown

Do you remember that, for the longest time, a lot of us thought Walmart would rule the world of retail? I sure remember, first with the regular size stores and then later the super Walmart stores with the full line of groceries. More recently, Walmart introduced the Walmart Neighborhood Grocery store, adding to the number of stores sprinkled all over the place.

Well, Walmart is quickly becoming a distant second in the retail game. Amazon is charging ahead with creative approaches to offer every item under the sun, including groceries. And now we have the potential of cashierless stores.

Are we headed toward Amazonville across America?

Amazon is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 AmazonGo cashierless stores by 2021. The concept would be a convenience store that sells freshly prepared food as well as a limited grocery selection — similar to a 7-Eleven franchise — or a place to simply pick up a quick bite to eat.

Amazon unveiled its first cashierless store in Seattle in 2016 and subsequently announced two additional sites in Seattle and one in Chicago. Two of the new stores only offer a limited selection of snacks while two other stores also have a small selection of groceries.

Shoppers use a smartphone app when they enter the store. After scanning their phones at a turnstile, they can select what they want and then exit the store without stopping at a cash register. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what the shopper has selected and bills them, eliminating checkout lines. Such a system would have an expensive front-end cost.

Amazon’s focus on brick and mortar stores

The AmazonGo cashierless concept already has Walmart, Target, Kroger, 7-Eleven, Subway and others worrying about how this might play out. Amazon has become the world’s largest online retailer with a huge variety of merchandise and quick, convenient delivery.

They acquired Whole Foods Market entering the grocery business and has approximately 20 bookstores around the U.S.

Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has said that he is very interested in brick-and-mortar stores as long as they bring something different. He does not want to offer something that is already in the marketplace.

Based on his previous creative track record, the AmazonGo cashierless stores will be a trendsetter and offer the customer a quick, efficient shopping experience. It will be interesting to see how the concept evolves.

Big lawsuit against RTD over train crossing software

It was inevitable; Some thought it would happen some time ago.

The legal battle between DTP, the Denver Transit Partners consortium, and the Regional Transportation District has begun.

DTP has filed a lawsuit against the district seeking reimbursement for the cost of flaggers at train crossings on the A Line, B Line and G Line as well as penalties that RTD has imposed over the two-plus year struggle on train crossing software.

DTP contends that new design requirements at train crossing were imposed by RTD after the contract was awarded. Fundamentally, the DTP consortium is saying that the new requirement centers on bicyclist’s safety.

Supposedly, a Public Utilities Commission staffer expressed concern that cyclists could find the safety-equipped crossings to be “confusing” to traverse them. Subsequently, RTD supposedly then imposed “exit gate delay” technology at all crossings that would have the ability to detect bicycles. No such technology existed at the time or had been required by federal railroad regulators according to the lawsuit.

One partnership goes sour

While the lawsuit does not quote a dollar amount the DTP consortium is seeking, it has to be in the millions of dollars when calculating the cost of all the flaggers hired for more than two years of work.

If DTP were to win this lawsuit, it would have a significant financial impact on RTD’s budget and reserves. It is unfortunate for all parties and certainly including the public that this situation took place. This public/private partnership was the first of its kind in America and I hate to see it go sour over the disputed requirement.

New partnership supports the students

Westminster Public Schools (WPS) continues to expand its outside resources to support students. Recently, the Boys and Girls Club and the school district announced their new partnership at Hidden Lake High School and now Scholars Unlimited and the district have struck a cooperative arrangement along with the City of Westminster and Hyland Hills Parks and Recreation District.

Students from Harris Park and Mesa Elementary Schools will benefit from the literacy program which Scholars Unlimited will administer. It is an after-school program which includes participation in a variety of enrichment activities including the arts, STEM topics and recreation.

It takes a village

Westminster Public Schools should be recognized for this collaborative approach to bring more learning opportunities to students-in-need. Furthermore, it is great to see the City of Westminster and Hyland Hills being partners in such endeavors.

Everyone has a role to play in providing every opportunity for students to excel and learn. These are the leaders and workers of the future and we want them to succeed.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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