DENVER — The Regional Transportation District's A Line commuter rail is a convenient way to get to and from Denver's airport, but lately, it's gotten a bit of a bad reputation.
"You want to be able to use the train, but when they don't go on time, it doesn't really help anything," said RTD customer Andrew Chiricosta.
The A Line has been plagued with delays and cancellations. Friday alone, the agency had canceled at least 14 trips as of 1 p.m., according to its online service alerts, because each ride lacked a "federally required second crew member."
"If they are not able to come to work or miss a shift, and we're not able to fill that second crew member position, we have to drop the trip," said Tina Jaquez, RTD's public relations manager.
The company contracts its A Line transit security officers through Allied Universal, and they must be armed and trained in commuter rail procedures as part of an agreement with Denver Transit Partners, which operates the A, B and G lines.
A spokesperson with Allied Universal said the staffing shortage is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Jaquez, the number of staff the security company provides RTD was down about 30% Thursday. Because of the strict requirements to work the A Line, RTD can't pull transit officers from just any line.
"If they're down staff, and if they're down staff that is trained to be on a commuter rail line, then that's where we have the shortage," she said. "It's a challenge for all of us because we want to provide the level of service that we have scheduled."
While RTD works to find some other way around the staffing problem, and the requirement that transit officers on the A line be armed, Jaquez recommends signing up for the agency's alerts so customers know as soon as possible if there's a delay or cancellation.
"RTD sends service alerts as soon as we are notified that the second crew member position cannot be filled. If we are able to fill the shift after the alert has been sent, we then send an updated email to notify customers that the trip will run. Two trips are never canceled in a row; we will instead move staff to cover trips to ensure trains run every 30 minutes," Jaquez said.
Between Sunday and Thursday of this week, RTD dropped at least 14% of its A Line rides. So far this month, however, that number is just 11.6%. The agency may move to 30-minute intervals, instead of 15-minute intervals, when necessary.
Below is a full statement from Allied Universal:
We truly appreciate our front-line heroes who keep our neighbors safe on a daily basis and thank them for their dedication during these challenging times
Allied Universal security professionals work closely with Regional Transportation District transit police and other partners to keep people and businesses safe in the Denver community by averting threats and responding to emergencies.
Like all businesses across the country, the Allied Universal team has been impacted by staffing challenges as the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to cause significant disruption to labor markets. During this challenging time, thanks to the bravery and dedication of our security professionals, we’ve continued to support RTD and other partners despite heightened risks due to the pandemic. We are grateful to the partnership with RTD and other partners that have worked collaboratively to address staffing shortages as it has truly taken a united effort.