April 3rd – RTD Update to COVID-19 Pandemic

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*From RTD newsletter

For the safety of their employees and riders, and in response to the rapidly changing spread of COVID-19, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) is making some notable operational changes starting Sunday, April 5.

Beginning at the start of the service day on Sunday and until further notice:

  • RTD will switch to rear-door boarding and exiting on its buses, which provides another layer of social distancing between operators and riders, limiting proximity to those who might be infected. Passengers with disabilities should continue to board RTD vehicles at the front, where a wheelchair lift is available, if needed. RTD’s over-the-road coaches used on Regional routes have front doors only. So, those passengers will still board and deboard from the front.
  • Fare collection will be suspended on all buses and trains across the RTD system. We are working through processes for refunds and exchanges on applicable fare products.
  • Service will be suspended on two downtown Denver routes, the 16th Street Free MallRide and Free MetroRide, which have experienced low ridership.
  • RTD will move as many of the MallRide buses as possible to regular routes, to take advantage of the ability of these buses to offer multiple-door boarding and exiting. In addition, drivers on MallRide buses work in an enclosed compartment that provides separation from passengers.

Social Distancing

Being mindful of social distancing, RTD has been monitoring passenger loads on its bus and rail services. Bus operators seeing larger crowds forming along their route have been asked to call bus dispatch, so that additional buses can be deployed as they are available. However, social distancing is happening naturally across the RTD system, with very few riders on each bus or rail car.

RTD also asks that the public use judgment in deciding whether to board vehicles, depending upon the number of passengers already on them. The agency is installing signage on buses and trains asking riders to respect social distancing, which is everyone’s responsibility.

COVID-19 Service Plan Starts April 19

The RTD Board of Directors recently approved two service changes – a COVID-19 Service Plan and the May Service Change, which we’ve been working on to address their operator shortage.

Starting April 19, they will implement a schedule which follows a Saturday schedule plus Regional bus service and Sunday light rail service schedules, as outlined in the May Service Change plan. This is in response to a significant decrease in ridership resulting from the spread of COVID-19. The reduced service levels will remain in effect until further notice.

RTD will continue to evaluate ridership and service needs and reinstate service as demand warrants from Saturday and Sunday service to the regular service levels outlined in the May service change.

Prior to implementing a major service change like the service reduction plan starting April 19, RTD must work through work assignment processes with the union, integrate the changes into their information systems and inform the public. RTD intends to retain its operations staff during the service reduction. Those who aren’t assigned regular routes will cover open trips or shifts for operators who call in sick, as well as participate in refresher training. Taking this approach will keep the agency’s workforce intact for when the pandemic subsides and service levels can be restored.

RTD/CBD Manufacturer Team-Up

While obtaining masks, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer continue to be in short supply and high demand, RTD has forged a partnership with a Colorado Springs-based CBD company. HD Distribution is now manufacturing hand sanitizer and shipping it to customers all over the world, including RTD. The distributor is one of several that RTD is working with to source hand sanitizer, which remains one of RTD’s top personal protective equipment needs.

RTD Board meetings move to call-in only format

The RTD Board of Directors is holding its Board meetings using a telephone town hall format during the COVID-19 stay-at-home and social distancing orders. This is an easy way to listen in on Board business. To listen in, call 855-962-1128 (no passcode is required). The public will continue to be able to address the Board at its monthly meetings. Callers interested in doing so should dial *3 once connected, placing public speakers in a queue and allowing the Chair to call on them in turn.

RTD Telephone Town Halls

RTD is hosting a series of telephone town halls April 16 through May 21. These events will cover updates from RTD Board members and leadership to discuss the agency’s response to COVID-19, ongoing safety considerations for riders and staff, as well as updates on RTD projects. The community is invited to participate over the phone or online to ask questions and hear the latest information. A list of events and details on how to participate will be available the week of April 6 here.

RTD Sales Outlets

With the April 19 COVID-19 Service Plan, RTD will be making the following sales outlet changes:

  • Boulder Junction at Depot Square Station: This sales outlet will close parallel with the COVID-19 Service Plan, as there will be no bus service to/from the BJDS bus concourse.
  • Denver Airport Station: This sales outlet will reduce its hours 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, beginning April 5. Notification has been made to DEN employees. Passenger air traffic is down by 90%, and DEN has closed the north security screening location. In addition, RTD bus and rail traffic is down as well.
  • Civic Center Station, Denver Union Station and Downtown Boulder Station will continue with its current hours, 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.
  • Ticket/Pass sales, EcoPass card, Lost and Found and general information traffic are all down considerably at all outlets, mirroring the decline we are experiencing system-wide.

RTD to Receive $232 Million in Federal Funds

RTD is pleased to share that they are expected to receive $232.2 million through the federal stimulus package – the CARES Act.. The funds are 100% federal with no local match required, and can be used for expenditures from Jan. 1, 2020 forward, with a desire for the funds to be used as soon as possible. The funds are expended on a reimbursement basis, so once the agency spends funds they then are reimbursed. The funds can be used for any operations costs associated with COVID-19, including expenses related to protective equipment, cleaning supplies, salaries and any other operating costs.

Grocery Delivery Available to Access-a-Ride Customers

Kudos to RTD’s paratransit staff, who have come up with a great way to help their Access-a-Ride customers. Home grocery delivery service is now available to current Access-a-Ride (AaR) customers. RTD is offering this service during the COVID-19 state of emergency to provide Access-a-Ride customers with a food delivery option that does not require leaving home. No fare is required for customers to use this service. Grocery pickup is available from King Soopers, Safeway, Community Ministry Southwest Food Bank, Senior Hub Senior Solutions and Adams County Food Bank. Access-a-Ride customers can continue to book trips for essential purposes, including to purchase groceries. Customers must place their grocery order themselves and schedule a pick-up with AaR one day in advance. Details are on the Access-a-Ride webpage.

Hang in there, and be safe.