The Regional Transportation District plans to require fares to enter the underground bus concourse at Union Station in downtown Denver.
In recent months, the terminal has seen an increase in crime, including drug use and violence. Some people also use it for a place to sleep, charge their phones and stay warm in winter months, as Denverite reported in December.
The paid fare zone, complete with turnstiles or similar devices, will require infrastructure changes and will be implemented no sooner than a year from now, RTD’s General Manager and CEO Debra Johnson told the agency’s board of directors on Tuesday night.
Entry gates would mark a “significant change” to how the terminal has operated since it opened in 2014, she said.
“I do not want to create an environment that does not appear to be inviting. However,” she said, pausing for a moment. “We have a very fine line we need to walk because we are not trying to penalize people.”
Johnson also outlined a series of more immediate steps to increase safety and security and discourage loitering in the bus waiting area. Within the next six months:
- Electrical outlets, which some people use to charge their phones, will be deactivated or covered
- Increased cleaning
- Lights will be fixed
- Pre-recorded messages will be played in English and Spanish with information on services, fares, and public safety
- Enter/exit labels will be installed on sliding doors
In the next six to 12 months:
- Lighting will be upgraded
- Monitors displaying security camera feeds will be installed at main entrances so that personnel can see activities throughout the facility
- Commuter rail platform stairs will be converted to exit only
- Barriers installed to prevent access between elevators and glass walls at Wewatta and Chestnut pavilions
- New floor decals will encourage movement and discourage loitering
- Smoke detectors installed in restrooms
Denver Police have also increased patrols in the area recently, arresting about 500 people between January 1 and late February.
“While these changes, along with an increased police and security presence, will have positive ripple effects throughout the transit system, the unwanted activities impacting the agency are a byproduct of complex societal issues that RTD alone cannot solve,” Johnson said. ” And that is why mitigating these challenges will require an all-in effort among RTD, community, municipal, and legislative partners.”
These planned changes come after security was tightened at the ritzier, privately run Union Station Great Hall in 2020.