Colorado Public Works Journal, Winter 2024

54┃ Colorado Public Works Journal Laurie Huff is Senior Specialist, Public Relations, Regional Transportation District and can be contacted at RTD FASTRACKS Laurie Huff RTD is installing higher quality air filters on its buses RTD has begun upgrading the air filters across its bus fleet, a change that improves air quality inside these enclosed spaces by trapping smaller particulates, including pollen, bacteria, mold, smoke and various types of dust. Last fall, the agency’s master mechanics began installing MERV13-equivalent electrostatic filters on the Gillig and longer, articulated New Flyer coaches seen on local routes, and soon will add them to the MCI buses used for regional and SkyRide routes once a suitable filter design has been finalized. As of early March, 162 of the approximately 1,000 buses in RTD’s fleet carry the higher quality air filters. They are also being added to new buses as the agency receives these vehicles and prepares them for service. All of RTD’s buses, with the exception of its MallRide vehicles, previously included air filters with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of six or seven, which trap particles down to three microns in size and include dust mites, mold and pollen. Filters with MERV-13 or higher ratings can trap particles between 0.3 and 1.0 micron in size. “Improving air quality is part of RTD’s commitment to a cleaner, healthier environment for our customers and operators,” RTD Technical Services Manager Bill Weidenaar said. “By upgrading to MERV-13-equivalent filtration, we are capturing and removing a greater number of contaminants from the air, whether that be viruses, smoke or dust.” RTD made the decision to upgrade its bus air filters after reviewing testing that showed filtration at a MERV-13 level to be effective for transit, and upon testing an electrostatic MERV-13-equivalent filter on an RTD New Flyer articulated bus. After 13,439 miles, airflow through the filter, made by Lumin-Air, was reduced 2%. Such a result demonstrates that these filters can last about 24,000 miles – four times longer than the current interval for changing them out. The electrostatic filters attract contaminants while allowing greater airflow than standard filters, noted RTD equipment engineer Nick Rorres. The MERV-13 filters allow more air to pass through while trapping more bacteria, he said. “These kinds of filters have been used for decades in laboratories and hospitals, and it was just a matter of time before they expanded into transportation,” said Rorres, who studied airflow on RTD’s buses during the pandemic. “I think as COVID-19 winds down and we head into cold and flu season, they definitely offer an extra level of protection.” While eliminating risk in an enclosed space is almost impossible, Rorres added, “reducing circulation of contaminants will help, without a doubt.” Laurie Huff is Senior Specialist, Public Relations, Regional Transportation District. and can be reached at RTD FASTRACKS Laurie Huff A new era of comfort: new light rail seat covers being installed In the coming days, a notable change is being introduced on RTD’s light rail cars that has been in the works for more than two years: new vinyl-covered seats. The grey and multicolor-striped wool blend fabric that has carried countless thousands of customers over decades is on the way out, to be replaced by a blue pattern that represents RTD’s stops and connectivity across the system. The design, chosen earlier this year by employees, also emphasizes the agency’s brand colors. Vinyl seats are easier to clean than wool, more resistant to stains and better able to withstand high volumes of people sitting on them over time, noted Phil Eberl, General Superintendent of Light Rail Vehicle Maintenance. Cleaning the backs and bottoms of wool seats on one rail car took one employee’s entire shift every day, he said. Vinyl can be wiped down by comparison – and in far less time. “Shampooing and cleaning the old seats is seriously labor-intensive and time-consuming,” Eberl said. “There’s a reduced maintenance cost and effort with vinyl.” RTD staff worked with a vendor last week to install the new vinyl seats in the first train car. The plan moving forward is to complete one car per week until RTD’s entire fleet of approximately 200 light rail vehicles has been converted. The new seats support agency efforts to create a welcoming transit environment and will enhance the overall customer experience. In the 2023 RTD customer satisfaction survey, train cleanliness ranked ninth in importance. When rail debuted in the Denver metro region 30 years ago, seats covered in wool were seen as plush and welcoming to customers, initially lasting five or more years, Eberl said. Since then, he noted, wool fabric is wearing more quickly and the colors are fading faster. Vinyl holds its appearance for many more years. Further, Eberl said, as the world moved through the COVID-19 pandemic, cleanliness began to be equated with safety. These seats, he said, “are going to look and feel brighter and cleaner.” Even with the best effort, he said, wool seats hold odors where vinyl does not. A similar seat transition is being planned for RTD’s buses, with a timeline for that project still being developed. New RTD light rail vinyl seats designed by RTD graphic designers Phil Eberl, RTD General Superintendent, Light Rail Maintenance