RTD will add back third cars on light-rail trains after protests

Light-rail trains on four Regional Transportation District lines will resume running with three-car sets on weekdays after riders protested a decision to shorten them to two cars this week.

A spokeswoman for RTD said the decision to run smaller train sets on the D, E, W and H lines, which took effect Monday, was based on low average ridership per train, well below the longer trains’ capacity. But the continuing pandemic has changed some riders’ perceptions of how full trains should be, complicating decisions for RTD.

That’s especially so on commuter-heavy routes such as RTD’s light-rail lines, which have recovered more slowly on average than bus routes. The recent omicron-variant wave of COVID-19 cases set back some of those gains.

“We took a careful look at the number of customers riding per train. In so doing, we discovered that, throughout the day, the average number of individuals was 13 per train — not per car, per train,” RTD spokeswoman Laurie Huff wrote in an email. “In an effort to reduce power consumption, maintenance costs and wear and tear on equipment, we reduced the (train set) size to match our ridership numbers.”

Some riders lodged complaints, citing health and other concerns, especially when more riders than average were on board.

RTD has reversed the decision to run shorter trains, she said, and three-car sets will return beginning Monday.

“We respect the comments and concerns that customers have voiced about this decision, and we want to be responsive to them,” Huff said.

Face masks are still required aboard public transit vehicles. On Thursday, federal authorities extended the requirement by a month, through April 18.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would work with other agencies during that time on a revised policy that could offer more flexibility based on COVID-19 levels in a transit provider’s community and other factors.

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