RTD survey finds people are apprehensive to use transit during pandemic but agency hears what’s important for people to feel safe

RTD’s COVID-19 online survey in early May shows that people feel less safe about hopping on public transportation compared to some other activities like going to the grocery store or visiting family and friends as stay-at-home orders lift and people reassess their comfort with traveling to their destinations.  

The survey also reveals, however, that many of the safety measures riders say they would like to see before returning to RTD are in place or under way, RTD’s leadership noted after sorting through the results. Many of those who said they’ve relied on RTD in the past said they want RTD operators and passengers to wear masks, to see safe social distancing on buses and trains, and to know that vehicles are sanitized thoroughly and regularly.  

All of those are core elements of RTD’s coronavirus operations plan, which continues to be updated and refined in close conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

In addition, RTD has distributed thousands of masks and face coverings for employees. RTD implemented rear-door boarding when available to limit contact, and temporarily suspended fare collection to ease boarding and spacing.  

Extra buses are being staged along routes that are experiencing more ridership to be dispatched as necessary to help maintain vehicle passenger limits of 15 passengers on standard buses and 20 passengers on larger buses. RTD is also adding more buses on some of its busiest routes as more people return to work and move around the region.  

The survey of nearly 2,700 RTD users online and through social media found public transit to be more worrisome to many customers than other suggested activities such as shopping at a grocery store, visiting friends or family, or exercising outside. They added they would become more comfortable using RTD in the future if the above concerns were addressed, as well as:  

  • Availability of an effective vaccine 

  • Availability of more testing 

  • A significant drop in the number of new cases 

  • Those experiencing homelessness not sheltering on vehicles or at stations 

Among those who have not used RTD in the past 30 days, most said they will “wait to see what happens with coronavirus” before riding again.  

RTD interim General Manager and CEO Paul Ballard said everyone at the agency understands public concerns about mass transit and safety, and he added that he is confident RTD is working on the right things to eventually make riders comfortable again. RTD leadership and staff have projected that moving back toward pre-coronavirus ridership levels could take a long time, and are reshaping operating plans and longer-term budgets with that consideration in mind.  

To read the entire feedback summary, including a detailed breakdown of the findings, click here.