RTD Service and Safety Changes in the Northwest Metro Region

Earlier this week, we welcomed RTD Directors Lynn Guissinger and Judy Lubow, and RTD Lead Service Planner Nataly Handlos, to our second COVID-19 webinar to discuss recent safety changes and the upcoming 40% service reduction (effective Sunday, April 19) on RTD public transit.

Five weeks ago, the world was very different for RTD. They were struggling to hire drivers, looking at modest service changes, and having what now seem like minor budget issues. Today, we’re all living through a worldwide experiment in commuting as the pandemic hits transit and local governments.

Ridership by the Numbers

Prior to COVID-19, RTD carried approximately 350,000 people per day (prior to March 12) and now carries approximately 100,000 people per day – primarily essential service workers dependent on public transit to get to and from work.

Most of the ridership today is local routes:

  • Flatiron Flyer: carried 12,000 people on March 11 and 2,000 people on April 8.
  • Light rail: carried 103,000 people on March 11 and 27,000 people on April 8.
  • Commuter rail: carrying 40% of traditional ridership.
  • Local service: carrying about 179,000 on March 11 and 87,000 people on April 8.

The bulk of RTD’s revenue comes for sales and use tax from fares and is taking a huge hit from the decrease in ridership. They are working hard to adjust their operations to support both revenue generation and its ridership.

COVID-19 Service Plan

The reduced service plan goes into effect on Sunday, April 19 – approximately 40% less service than traditionally offered. Most services will be running on a Saturday schedule with some adding additional morning and evening trips.

The reduction in service is in response to a significant decrease in ridership, and reduced service levels will remain in effect until further notice. RTD will continue to evaluate ridership and service as demand warrants.

Northwest Area Impacts

Most of the routes in our local region will operate Monday-Friday on the current Saturday service level and service span schedules. Some routes will have additional trips or operate earlier/later than typical Saturday service levels and spans.

We’ve highlighted routes in the northwest metro region here on our COVID-19 resource page and you can find information all routes here.

FlexRide and Access-a-Ride

The RTD team quickly put a plan into action to make sure their Access-a-Ride customers – mostly elderly and those with disabilities – would be able to get groceries delivered. They’ve served approximately 7% of those customers with deliveries – thank you!

All subscription-reserved trips are suspended as of Sunday, April 19 and reservations will be treated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book a trip, customers may call 303-292-6560. Get all the details here.

Keeping Employees and Customers Safe

In order to protect the health of RTD staff and the public, RTD is pursuing certain health precautions during COVID-19. These precautions are a moving target and change quickly, so please visit the RTD website for the most current information.

  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizers as they become available.
  • Rear-door boarding and suspension of fares implemented.
  • Area behind the operators and wheelchair area roped off.
  • Minimizing number of riders on buses and trains – approx. 15 passengers per bus; 20 on larger buses; 30 on trains.
  • If necessary, buses will bypass stops and call for backup if they do not believe social distancing (6-foot spacing) can be maintained.
  • Adding more buses on most popular routes; staging buses in those areas as available; using additional train cars on popular lines.
  • Transit police enforcing Customer Code of Conduct, which prohibits sleeping on vehicles and requires deboarding at end of line or route.

Partners in Safety

This issue is very important to RTD. It’s not solely RTD’s responsibility to keep the public safe, but it’s every rider’s responsibility to keep themselves safe.

  • Passengers should only take essential trips, wear masks while riding transit.
  • Practice proper hand-washing hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette.
  • Don’t board a vehicle if it appears to be full; another bus isn’t far behind.
  • Social distancing is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Public encouraged to use good judgement.

Ongoing RTD Communications and Outreach

RTD is placing prominent, proactive, and timely info on RTD website and temporary signage on all RTD vehicles and facilities in English and Spanish. Daily email updates are being shared with Board members and all RTD staff including daily recorded employee message, and periodic email updates are distributed to customers, elected officials and key stakeholders.

Federal Stimulus Package – CARES Act

Some good news! $232 million is the Denver metro area’s share of a $25 billion relief package for US public transit systems authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last month.

Ongoing Challenges

  • Continued shortage of masks and some cleaning supplies
  • Riders not respecting social distancing
  • Some people riding the system without deboarding

Watch or listen to the replay here to hear the Q&A session, including EcoPass reimbursements, 16th Street shuttle use, an update on the Northwest Rail Line, and the search for a General Manager.

Thank you to RTD for joining us to discuss these important changes to our region!