July brought a return to fare collection and regular boarding procedures on the RTD fleet (front door boarding on buses, all door boarding on trains). Throughout the pandemic, staff has been all-hands-on-deck to provide safer service and ensure that RTD remains financially solvent. Still, the risks and repercussions of COVID-19 remain.
Read the news story and my reactions below.
There has been substantial progress in baseline safety measures. All drivers on recent rides I took had gloves, masks, and sanitizers readily available. None were wearing face shields during the drive, though RTD indicates they have been provided. Likewise, most riders seemed to be aware of and observing the mask policy (with the exception of the MallRide).
More changes need to be made for the safety of all parties. This is especially important given that RTD management estimates that the polycarbonate barriers protecting drivers will not be fully installed until late September or early October. Here are some possible additions to the current safety measures:
Open windows to increase ventilation (have only observed this on one recent ride)
Install spacing indicators on floors/seats to identify optimal distancing
Increase use of existing audio systems and number of visuals on board to remind riders about mask and social distancing policies.
Provide (and advertise) free masks on board
Explore staffing shifts with the union to accelerate the production and installation of polycarbonate barriers (shout out the shop technicians who are already going above and beyond in this regard)
Drivers have performed valiantly throughout the pandemic. Their already complex job has become even more demanding as they now manage critical safety measures—not to mention the physical risk they are taking every day at work. Celebrating their courage is a nice first step, but it is not enough. They deserve hazard pay.