RTD union calls Denver Union Station a ‘lawless hellhole’

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Trash, drug use and violence out in the open at Union Station’s RTD train and bus stops have employees demanding something be done about it.

The union representing 2,000 workers for RTD and First Transit, RTD’s largest fixed-route contractor, alerted the community of the conditions in a Wednesday press release, calling Union Station a “lawless hellhole.”

“It’s not safe to come to work when you have to inhale smoke from drug pipes,” the union said. They join riders and even some who are homeless in calling for action.

‘They have no respect’

Union Station is a staple of downtown Denver transportation and services shuttle buses, light rails and commuter and Amtrak trains. According to the union, RTD passengers and employees in recent months have faced loiterers, encampments and illegal drug use while boarding buses, trains and light rail.

“I had another operator tell me that she considers it a great day when nobody is seen smoking methamphetamine or using heroin on her bus,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001 President Lance Logenbohn said.

Videos obtained by FOX31 show an employee confronting drug users at the Union Station stop near the Chestnut Pavilion and another of a man fighting police.

These are the kinds of conditions RTD employees must face daily, Logenbohn told FOX31.

“We’re here to do our job. We’re not here to necessarily tell them how to fix it, but they need to figure it out,” Logenbohn said

One homeless man, who said he lost his job during the pandemic, said that “because they closed down Civic Center, there’s not many other places to go.”

He agreed that an increased police presence is needed at the station to control trouble makers.

“They have no respect for themselves or for anyone else,” he said.

Union Station has high crime concentration

The Problem Solvers also found the Union Station area has Denver’s second-highest concentration of violent crime.

As do RTD’s employees, who “heroically risked their own health to get first responders and other essential workers to work during a pandemic,” Longenbohn said in a press release. “They now face an increased risk of being assaulted on the job and every day they have no choice but to endure Denver Union Station because that is where RTD forces them to be.”

The union urged for more to be done for the safety of RTD passengers and employers.

“RTD passengers deserve better. The public that likes to enjoy lower downtown deserves better,” Longenbohn told FOX31.

The union said this is not the first time the union has alerted RTD management of its concerns.

The union pointed to a Nov. 29 statement from RTD General Manager and CEO Debra Johnson, who acknowledged the “unwanted activities, including illicit drug use and the sale of those drugs, vandalism, prolific loitering, and acts of aggression and violence” that occur within Union Station and said she “witnessed these activities first-hand.”

They also said that on Oct. 19, during a tour of the facility, Union Vice President Ronald Short and Chief Operations Officer Michael Ford “had to walk in very close proximity of a group of people actively smoking drugs in an aluminum foil pipe just to get into the bathroom to inspect the conditions” at Union Station.

How is RTD responding?

In a statement to FOX31, RTD said employee safety is a top priority, and they are stepping up security.

Johnson said RTD is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration in the deployment of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams to help detect and deter suspicious or dangerous activity.

RTD will also add increased transit police patrols during peak times on the Union Station platform, as well as along the 16th Street MallRide and along the Colfax Avenue corridor.

Here’s the full statement from RTD:

Recognizing the safety and security of RTD’s employees and customers is paramount, the agency is enhancing security measures in response to an increase in unwelcome activities that are impacting Denver’s central core, and in particular the area surrounding Denver Union Station. RTD is supplementing its transit police operations through strategic partnerships with the federal Transportation Security Administration’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams and the Guardian Angels nonprofit organization. Leveraging these partnerships, and through increased transit police patrols during peak periods, the agency will significantly bolster the security presence at Denver Union Station, its bus concourse, and adjacent rail platforms and transit pavilions, as well as on 16th Street MallRide shuttles and other bus routes along the Colfax corridor.

RTD

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