DENVER (KDVR) — Bold moves by the Regional Transportation District to clean up a public transit system wracked with drug use and unsanitary conditions are yielding results.
Over the past year, FOX31 has received complaints from RTD train and bus riders who passed through the Union Station stop with references to the Chestnut Pavilion’s underground bus concourse. Loitering, trash and open drug use left many concerned for their safety.
“We’re not going to want to keep coming if they’re just laid out on the floor,” Kendra Pikes told FOX31.
The concourse has been transformed, with RTD customers moving about without having to navigate trash or people sleeping on the floor. RTD’s security officers are posted at the entrance to restrooms, where a sign warns no more than two people are allowed at one time.
“It feels fantastic,” RTD rider Freya Chavoustie said.
RTD cleanliness survey shows positive results
A “Customer Excellence Survey” just released by RTD found that 75% of surveyed riders feel satisfied with service and a double-digit increase in positive opinions on cleanliness.
“You can go to the restrooms without people, you know, in the restroom doing stuff that they’re not supposed to be doing,” Pikes said.
RTD told FOX31 that 1,816 surveys were completed by bus, rail and paratransit customers across the entire service area during all times of the day, providing a 95% confidence level in results.
The changes come faster than many expected after testimony was heard in a summer RTD Board of Directors meeting about filthy conditions related to homelessness, violence and drug use.
“We heard that loudly and clearly in June, and we still have work to do — it’s not perfect, and we know that. We want to make sure that when somebody steps aboard that bus or train that they do feel safe, that they’re safe from being a victim of crime,” Stuart Summers, RTD’s chief communications and engagement officer, told FOX31.
Only 18 sworn police officers patrolled RTD platforms in August of 2022. That number has grown to 43, with an additional 16 officers assigned to work on background checks.
More RTD officers are in training, with 30 RTD police academy slots reserved for January of 2024.
The next chapter of improvement for the system includes a crime prevention environmental design project that provides landscaping for safety.
More would recommend RTD, but not for bus service
This is the third year that RTD has conducted a comprehensive survey of customers, community members and stakeholders to identify ways to improve the system.
RTD issued a statement saying other improvements from 2022 include the percentage of customers who described communication materials as high quality and said fares were reasonable.
RTD’s net promoter score, which rates how likely someone would recommend the service to a friend or neighbor, increased by 5 points, although it decreased by 3 points for bus service. The fact that both scores remain above zero indicates RTD has a greater approval rating than disapproval.
RTD provides public transportation to more than 3 million people across more than 2,000 square miles in eight counties.