The Regional Transportation District plans to maintain its regular bus and train schedule despite an order from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock for residents to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.
“RTD provides crucial connections for many essential workers throughout the Denver metro area,” the agency said in a statement. Hancock’s order begins at 5 p.m. on Tuesday and expires on April 10. RTD cautioned that its employees would “monitor operations, be nimble and make adjustments as necessary.”
Like other transit agencies, COVID-19 and the resulting event cancellations, school shutdowns and work-from-home directives have caused ridership to plummet. RTD estimated that it experienced a 60% decrease after the onset of the pandemic, while systems like Chicago’s elevated rail had upwards of a 75% drop.
Hancock’s order does mean that RTD will suspend eligibility assessments for new Access-a-Ride customers. The agency reports that it is also disinfecting bus and light rail vehicles daily as part of its response.
Some members of RTD’s board of directors felt that maintaining normal service levels would be counterproductive during the pandemic. Director Shontel Lewis, District B, posted on Facebook on March 15 that RTD should “not wait until people die or become infected.”
“I feel strongly that we should reduce RTD services significantly and incrementally and eventually completely shut down for a period of time,” she wrote. “I’ve emailed all board members, I first emailed staff to learn if they would support incremental reduction leading to temporary closure. Some express concern and some support."