The union representing the bulk of Regional Transportation District operators are holding two rallies on Friday to educate riders about the potential hazards of front-door boarding, which is scheduled to resume on July 1.
“The biggest problem facing bus and train operators right now is passengers who are not wearing masks,” said Lance Longenboh, the president and business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001. “While the union wants RTD to return to front-door boarding and fare collection, it must be done safely. Our demands are for shields to protect operators from droplets; personal protective equipment like disinfectants, gloves and the facemask of the operator’s choosing; requiring passengers to wear masks; and enforcing proper social distancing.”
RTD suspended fare collection and allowed passengers to board through the rear doors of buses beginning on April 5 due to concerns of passengers infecting drivers with the coronavirus by walking past them and depositing money in fareboxes. The agency is scheduled to resume the normal procedure on July 1.
“The agency asks riders to be its partners in safety by wearing a face covering and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others while riding or waiting to board vehicles,” RTD wrote in a bulletin to riders. “RTD also requests that the public use judgment in deciding whether to board its buses and trains, depending upon the number of passengers already on them.”
The latest advisory from the Federal Transit Administration, updated on May 17, still called for rear-door boarding, physical separation between passengers and barriers on vehicles to the extent possible.
Local 1001’s membership includes approximately 2,500 employees of RTD and contractor First Transit. The two rallies occur at Central Park Station from 7-9 a.m. and Denver Union Station from 10-noon.
On Friday morning, RTD sent a statement from interim general manager and CEO Paul Ballard, who said there is "a growing body of research from around the world that indicates that people are not contracting COVID-19 by riding transit. If we all hold ourselves accountable and follow the safety protocols we’ve become accustomed to, we can be partners in safety.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Paul Ballard.