RTD employees take on new roles amid pandemic

Since COVID-19 hit, RTD is far from doing business as usual. The agency has had to adapt to the pandemic in creative ways. One way is having newly hired light rail operators clean light rail cars on the line.

“With the [stay-at-home] directive the governor imposed [in March], training was postponed until RTD had the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment),” said Rolando Medina, head of light rail operator training. 

This collaboration between Light Rail Operations, Light Rail Maintenance and RTD’s union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1001, resulted from successful talks that Light Rail Superintendent Gary Schafer had with the ATU in repurposing the students to help clean the vehicles.

Keeping the vehicles sanitized is critical to fighting COVID-19. With nearly 200 rail cars, RTD had a limited amount of staff to clean them. 

RTD’s Light Rail Service and Cleaning division trained these new operators how to mix the cleaning chemicals, use the proper PPE for the chemicals and clean, wiping down the inside of the trains from the top down.

Beginning March 30, trainees began working two shifts, one in the morning and the second in the afternoon. At any one time, 35 students are sanitizing the vehicles along the system. They wipe heavily used surface areas such as hand rails, stanchions and the operator cab at the end terminals. You may see them at one of RTD’s busiest stations – Broadway & I-25 Station – wiping ticket vending machines.

The feedback about cleaning the trains from new hire operators has been quite positive, Rolando said. 

“The students understand the situation the District is under,” he said. “This program is helping the students see the operation from the passengers’ perspective and will give them a level of preparedness that will benefit them in class.”

RTD’s Light Rail training department resumed training for most operators on May 11. 

Another way employees are helping out is filling 24-ounce spray bottles with a cleaning agent called Sanitrol. Bus operators spent a day last week getting this critical task done. 

Sanitrol is the substitute for Lysol and is used by bus and rail operators to disinfect their cab areas. It’s effective in that it has a one-minute contact time to kill a multitude of viruses, including the novel coronavirus, and it continues to be effective up to 14 days on surfaces it is applied to once it has dried. 

These tasks are mission critical to be able to support our community during these unprecedented times.