DENVER — The union representing more than 2,000 RTD employees didn't hold back when expressing frustration and outrage over the conditions at Denver's Union Station.
"It’s a hellhole. It is," said Lance Longenbohn, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1001. "It’s not safe for the public. It’s not safe for the employees. It’s getting worse."
Longebohn doesn't want to take credit for the phrase "hellhole," saying that's how an employee described the current environment. He says he has been fielding complaints from drivers and is concerned about their safety.
"They actually said to me it’s a good day if someone is not doing drugs on their bus," said Longenbohn.
The union released a memo from RTD that was sent to all employees on Nov. 29.
The memo, titled "Strategies to Address Unwanted Activities at Denver Union Station," details steps that RTD is taking to address current safety concerns, including drug use, drug dealing, vandalism, littering and violence.
As part of those efforts, RTD will partner with the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration to deploy special teams in the area of Union Station. The teams will be made up of three to seven members, plus a transit police officer who will patrol with them. The teams will be visible during daylight hours through the end of the year.
Agency transit police officers will also be paired up in teams of two or four to work in the area of Union Station seven days a week.
In addition, RTD is also working with a non-profit made up of unarmed volunteers called the Guardian Angels. The volunteers are expected to begin patrols in early December and will focus on Union Station and the surrounding areas, as well as the 16th Street MallRide shuttle and routes along the Colfax corridor.
RTD issued the following statement regarding safety and security efforts:
“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.”
Lori Greenly is a downtown resident and realtor. She also serves on the Safe, Clean and Compassionate Committee for the Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association. She says the issue downtown is one of accountability.
"I can see how they’re fed up," she said. "I don’t blame RTD, though. RTD has been given, you know, they can cite people, but they can’t do anything with that. They’re not empowered to do anything else, so how do you blame RTD?"