FAQs on RTD’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
As RTD upholds its core value of safety, it is especially important during these difficult times that we focus on keeping our passengers and employees safe and healthy. We provide a vital service and are a lifeline to many people in the community, and it is crucial that we continue operating for the public that relies on us. The situation changes daily, and we are in close contact and cooperation with state, regional and local authorities about best practices, safe operation and communication with the public.
RTD is receiving questions from riders and employees about safety and changes to operations due to COVID-19. We are answering some questions here as FAQs. Please continue sending us your questions and comments through RTD’s public media channels, and we will continue to answer them.
Thank you for your patience and cooperation, and please bear with us as RTD continues to make decisions and consider changes that will prioritize public safety.
Why is RTD continuing to operate service when so few people are riding?
While we have seen a large drop in ridership during the COVID-19 crisis, RTD’s buses, trains and paratransit services remain a vital lifeline for essential commuters, health care workers, public safety employees, government employees, grocery store workers and any number of other continuing operations across the metro region. On March 18, RTD announced that it is experiencing a 60% reduction in ridership, a figure in line with transit agencies around the nation, which are seeing 45%-80% drops. We are still providing 139,000 weekday trips for people who must work or take care of others, and for whom other options are severely limited. In addition, while paratransit service requests are also down, we are still providing more than 1,000 Access-a-Ride trips a day. We must keep these facts in mind as we consider making service changes in reaction to the crisis. Finally, making changes to service doesn’t happen quickly: It takes time to work with the union to reassign work and integrate the new service plan into RTD’s various information systems.
Are your buses and trains and stations being cleaned?
Yes, all vehicles are being cleaned every day in accordance with public health recommendations from the CDC and state and local public health providers. We have redirected our cleaning crews to prioritize wiping down surfaces, hand railings, hand grips and common areas. While people may see some trash on the floor of their bus or train, that doesn’t mean it isn’t being disinfected every day. Our cleaning crews are doing their best to do an overall cleaning, but as directed, they are making wiping down surfaces with disinfectant their top priority.
How can RTD safely maintain social distancing on mass transit?
RTD requests that all passengers follow the 6-foot separation guidelines recommended by public health agencies. The agency is allowing the first row of seats to be roped off to help with social distancing on some buses. Because of social distancing now happening naturally from lower ridership, we have not instituted any mandatory distancing rules on buses or trains.
Are you closing waiting areas?
No, but we do request that passengers take the first bus or train available to them when they arrive at our locations. Please do not arrive early or linger at stations for longer than the 10 minutes recommended by health agencies and national transit experts.
Are any changes being made to Access-a-Ride?
At this point, we have not made reductions to Access-a-Ride, an important paratransit service. However, the number of trips has continually dropped as schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities that are primary consumers for paratransit services have closed. Some requests are down by nearly two-thirds. Paratransit buses are disinfected in the same manner as other RTD vehicles and facilities. To reduce demand for staff and better serve customers who need this service, we are moving from five-day advance booking to next-day only. Please contact 303-292-6560 to book Access-a-Ride trips that are still required. This change will remain in place until Gov. Jared Polis lifts the state of emergency declaration he made March 10. For more detailed information on our paratransit operations and adjustments, visit RTD’s Access-a-Ride webpage.
Are special services for seniors still operating?
SeniorRide -- rides to planned senior events and locations -- will not be operating for at least three weeks, as all participating venues have discontinued their events. SeniorShopper service is still operating, providing shopping transportation for seniors who would otherwise have difficulty riding fixed route service or driving. This weekday-only service picks up groups of 10 or more people at senior housing complexes and community centers, but passengers of any age can use the service. More information about these services, including locations and schedules, can be found here.
Are you providing personal protective equipment to operators and other employees?
We continue to provide supplies to our front-line employees such as operators, cleaning crew and sales outlets staff. Obtaining supplies is taking extra time due to the high demand throughout the country, but we are getting them out to employees as soon as they become available.
Why were administrative offices closed when operators still have to go out?
A top priority during a public health emergency like this is social distancing, and that includes distancing at work if possible. Operating and maintaining buses and trains requires those employees to remain on site. We are grateful for their essential, continued work. RTD’s administrative personnel are working from home in accordance with public health guidelines.
Why isn't hand sanitizer available on vehicles and at stations?
While we would like to offer hand sanitizer on our buses and at our stations to all our passengers, sanitizer is in high demand and difficult to get. We are allocating the sanitizers to our front-line employees as they become available for distribution.
Do you expect long-term impacts on RTD as a result of the COVID-19 situation?
RTD’s responsibility is to meet day-to-day transit needs for the metro area while also planning for the future. It’s hard for the agency to see far into the future right now. We take service change issues very seriously, even in “normal” times. We believe our responses to the operator shortages we had been experiencing before COVID-19 arrived have improved our ability to plan for emergency service changes now, through better scheduling and contingency planning with our union operators.
A large portion of RTD’s budget comes from fare revenues and sales tax revenues. The COVID-19 distancing and quarantine rules will affect both: Sales tax revenues will drop and we’ll see those reports monthly from the state, and we are already experiencing a drop in fare revenue. These factors will have to be taken into account as we make decisions about our short and long-term plans.