RTD To Stop Collecting Fares, Allow Rear-Door Boarding To Fight Coronavirus

RTD Hiring During Cononavirus Outbreak
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An RTD #15 bus advertises for workers on East Colfax Avenue in Denver on Thursday March 20, 2020. during the coronavirus outbreak.

In a reversal, the Regional Transportation District will soon allow passengers to board buses from the rear door.

RTD’s bus drivers had been pushing for that, in order to keep distance between themselves and passengers as coronavirus cases continue to increase in Colorado. RTD will also stop collecting fares on all buses and trains, as well as suspending service on the 16th Street Free MallRide and the Free MetroRide.

“It’s important that we be strategic and practical in our operational changes, not reactionary, so our team will continue to monitor information as it emerges, be nimble and make decisions that we deem to be the most prudent and responsible,” interim General Manager Paul Ballard said in a press release.

The changes will go into effect Sunday. As recently as a board meeting Tuesday, RTD had indicated they would not allow rear-door boarding over security concerns. 

RTD’s Chief Safety Officer Mike Meader told the board that two other transit agencies, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Metro Transit in Minneapolis, had told him they’d seen an increase in “aggressive behavior” after implementing rear-door entry. But spokesmen for both agencies disputed that.

“Metro has not found that to be the case,” WMATA’s Ian Jannetta wrote in an email.

In Minnesota, Metro Transit's Drew Kerr said he didn't know of any employees who'd spoken with RTD prior to Thursday. "Our experience with rear-door boarding has been positive," he added.

In Friday’s release, RTD said it had received “revised guidance” from RTD’s safety consultant, WSP. 

“This recommendation is a based on a risk-based approach, with the risk and costs of infection being higher than other potential risks,” WSP’s Lurae Stuart wrote in an email that RTD released. 

RTD is also installing signage on its vehicles asking riders to practice social distancing.