RTD Values - Safety
At RTD, we know you rely on us to get you around town. That’s why we keep safety at the center of everything we do. With a dedicated safety and security force, specially trained employees, and standards for keeping our equipment in good condition, we are here to provide a safe ride every time to our customers.
- More than 400 security team members to serve you.
- More than 300 hours of specialized operator training to operate any vehicle.
- Two dispatch centers with 911 certified operators who can connect you with emergency response resources whenever needed.
- More than 12,000 cameras across our stations to deter criminal activity and secure footage to aid in investigations.
RTD Senior Manager of Safety and Environmental Services Shirley Bennett is responsible for ensuring the safety of all customers, employees and facilities, and making sure that the agency complies with all safety and environmental regulations.
It’s a huge job, but it’s a role that Bennett’s childhood helped her prepare for.
Bennett is the daughter of a coalminer whose father was involved in two cave-ins and an explosion, and those experiences shaped her perspective on the value of creating safe environments.
Bennett always told her father that she’d find a career that involved saving lives. Her passion for safeguarding others brought her to RTD.
The notion that perception influences reality is one of the driving forces behind the work that Bennett has done with the agency for the past 39 years.
“When a passenger boards a bus, they should know and feel that the system is safe, the driver is trained and practices safety,” Bennett said. “If the passengers don’t feel safe, they aren’t.”
For the first 17 years of her career with RTD, Bennett was one of few employees whose work was primarily focused on ensuring safe operations. Back then, other employees played a part in upholding safety standards, but it was Bennett who set the foundation for the Safety Department.
Over the years, Bennett’s work has grown to become RTD’s lead priority in the continuous effort to deliver safe, clean, reliable, courteous, accessible, and cost-effective service to nearly 3 million people throughout the Denver metro region.
For Bennett, focusing on safety means saving lives, preventing injuries, and changing minds and mindsets. The role and overall awareness of safety has changed over the years at RTD thanks to her decades of work and commitment.
“Safety is getting real respect and a position within the district,” Bennett said. The agency’s focus on safety covers everything from bus, rail, and maintenance operations to including a “safety moment” in routine staff meetings.
Although Bennett and her team work daily to promote safety in all RTD services and facilities, passengers are RTD’s first line of defense against situations that could jeopardize the safety of others and anyone sharing the road with an RTD bus.
Every passenger can play a role in promoting safety on the roads and rails by being aware of their surroundings, familiarizing themselves with RTD’s code of conduct, and reporting unsafe conditions and hazards.
The 2,342 square miles that RTD buses and trains cover every day represent one of the largest public transit service areas in the country, and keeping such a vast system safe is no small task.
RTD works around the clock every day with people, partnerships, and high tech equipment to ensure the safety of the agency’s buses, trains, and stations.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers, an extensive video surveillance network, 911-certified public safety dispatchers, and strong relationships with Denver metro law enforcement authorities are among the tools that RTD’s security command centers use to ensure the safety of the RTD transit system and facilities.
This round-the-clock endeavor is led by RTD Chief of Police and Emergency Management Bob Grado. He says that being a police chief is a dream that he’s had since he was in second grade, and working for RTD is the fulfillment of that goal.
“What’s really neat about this job is number one, I work with incredible people and this gives me a variety — it’s not just driving around in a patrol car and doing one thing,” Grado said. “We’re doing so many different types of services for security and law enforcement, it’s very interesting.”
Grado came to the agency more than seven years ago and has 31 years of experience in law enforcement. He began his tenure as a commander of the integrated security operations division before being named the agency’s police chief in 2017.
He oversees a force of eight internal RTD transit police officers who collaborate with a network of about 250 private security officers and 265 police officers from throughout the Denver metro region.
Grado’s department also oversees the transit system’s video surveillance network, and five dedicated employees in the video investigations unit help handle roughly 10,000 inquiries about surveillance footage per year.
In addition to handling hours of surveillance video and emergency phone calls, RTD’s security command center also monitors emergency text messages from passengers in real time to ensure an immediate response.
Grado’s top safety tip for RTD passengers is to look out for suspicious activity and to understand that help is just a phone call or text message away.
From afar, Jerome Hall is a tall and serious-looking man, but after meeting him you learn that he is a down-to-earth, patient, and friendly man with a great smile. Hall is one of more than 660 accident-free operators with RTD, but at 37 years’ accident-free, his record is untouchable, and for some, unbelievable.
Today, he is participating in a photoshoot, and as we approach the operator break room, his supervisor jokingly says, “He’s been waiting for you. He was just saying ‘When are they coming, my uniform is starting to wrinkle!”
On the way to the vehicle where his photo will be taken, one of his coworkers learns that he’s been accident-free for 37 years, and jokes, “That’s amazing! I’ll have to ask him how he got out of driving a bus for 37 years.”
It is unbelievable, but true. Since 1979, Jerome Hall has been driving RTD buses weighing more than 11 tons (on average) around a City that experiences all four seasons – from sunny days to blizzards. With the average RTD bus accumulating approximately 50,000 miles a year, we could estimate that Jerome has probably driven around 1.85 million miles as an operator during his career, and has taken a countless number of people around town.
Originally from Louisiana, Hall came to Denver to visit his sister, and fell in love with the city, and decided to move to the Mile High City. Hall’s first job in Denver was at a local automotive factory, but he became a bus operator shortly after.
“I knew I enjoyed driving, was comfortable on the road and all – and I liked being outdoors, meeting people, and seeing the sunlight all day long,” Hall said.
After completing his operator training, Hall’s first route was the Route 15 which today runs along Colfax Avenue and into downtown Denver – but in 1979, he mentions the route was along Colfax from Tower Road all the way into the City of Golden.
“It was a long, long drive, and full of people, so I learned a lot about the City and the people pretty fast,” said Hall.
Hall notes that his first few years as an operator had its challenges, but overall his love for the City and the good people he encountered on the job every day made the job worthwhile.
At the photoshoot, he is supposed to be the star of the show, but he is more concerned with our comfort. He asks if we need more air conditioning or if we want the doors open, and we instantly see why he has been such a successful operator for RTD. He is genuinely concerned for others. Perhaps that’s why he is such a successful operator.
According to him, he just has a natural knack for the job, stays alert, studies his route as best he can, and always prepares for the weather.
Hall notes, “I’ve never been stuck in the snow while driving, but I always try to stop in places where I know I won’t get stuck – I drive slow, keep my eyes open, and try to not stop at the top of hills.”
Today, Hall enjoys driving Route 30L and Route 0 the best, but you can spot him just about anywhere.
Whether they are fielding phone calls, answering questions or sorting through lost items, the close to 100 individuals staffing RTD’s Customer Care division are called upon every day to work through situations related to safety. Consequently, they agree, being safe – and advising others in doing so – is a necessary priority.
“Many of us ride RTD, and our safety is important to us,” said Juan Hernandez, a sales and information representative who joined the agency 15 years ago. It is an RTD priority, he added, that all team members remain safe and healthy so they can do their jobs.
From a passenger perspective, when you travel, “you want peace of mind, and you want your trip to be uneventful,” noted Dawud Taylor, a sales and information representative who has been with RTD for nine years. Bus riders expect that operators will treat the vehicles they drive as they would their own, with utmost respect and caution.
Mindfulness around safety procedures guides the approach taken by Lost and Found staff to cataloging the thousands of items left behind at RTD properties and on vehicles. Recognizing the potential hazards in slipping a hand inside an unfamiliar bag, for example, Hernandez and his colleagues wear gloves while dumping contents onto a table, and they work with a biohazard container and a wastebasket nearby.
The team working at Lost and Found – a function of the RTD sales outlets at Civic Center Station and Downtown Boulder Station – processes items from all four RTD transportation divisions and five contracted divisions. They most often receive items within a day of being lost, and items typically are claimed within two to three days. While staff aims to house lost items as long as possible, after five business days the odds increase that an unclaimed bike, cell phone or backpack will be donated to a charitable organization. In 2016, about a quarter of all lost items ultimately were reunited with their owners, while more than half went to groups such as St. Francis Center, Project ReCycle and Lions Clubs International.
What’s the best safety tip for riding RTD vehicles? While these may be second nature to some, they’re worth another look:
“Remain seated until the bus comes to a complete stop, and read all warnings on the bus,” Hernandez said.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” added Elizabeth Gallegos, a sales and information representative for two years.
Finally, said Taylor, check for all belongings – including keys, wallets, bags and bikes – before exiting.
The role of a Transit Security Officer is to provide security services for RTD around the clock and at several stations across the Metro area. In addition to keeping an eye out for customer safety, they are also valuable ambassadors who help customers navigate the RTD system, inspect fares, and focus on customer service. They serve as a safe place for customers to ask questions and seek help.
Today, there are more than 400 police and security officers who work for RTD across several locations.
“I love that customers want to get to know me and make me a part of their day.”
Rose has been on the Fare Task Force for one year, and was excited to move to Denver from New York.
“I like that I am a minority female representing women in an industry that is typically dominated by males.”
Ybarra has been a Transit Security Officer for nearly two years and sees safety and security as being vitally important to our customers, so they can feel safe while riding public transportation.
“Safety is important because our passengers want to feel as if they can get from point A to point B with minimal interruption from RTD as an organization as well as from other passengers.”
Gibson is a one-year veteran, and recently completed his Police Force entrance exam at the end of August.
Did you know that RTD has a K-9 unit?
It’s headed by Transit Police Sgt. and K-9 Handler Amy Homyak. Her charge is Thor, a 2-year-old English cream golden retriever.
The Department of Homeland Security awarded funding to RTD making the adoption of Thor possible. Thor is originally from a humane society in Alaska where he would have been euthanized, but the Rocky Mountain Canine Academy flew him from Alaska to Colorado to become part of the RTD security team in the fall of 2016.
In May 2017, Homyak and Thor finished a 12-week training academy and then completed certification through the National Police Canine Association.
“RTD needs a K-9 unit because we have an open system with no screening,” Homyak said. “Thor gives us a huge advantage in our deterrence and detection work. Thor’s presence can help prevent a disaster before it occurs.”
RTD is among many large transit agencies around the United States that has a K-9 unit, according to Polly Hanson, the director of transit security and emergency management for American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
“K-9s and their handlers, in addition to fixed security measures (e.g., closed circuit television, etc.), are extremely effective at providing a strong, visible and psychological deterrence in all locations of the system,” according to APTA.
Thor spends as much time patrolling RTD properties as possible. He rides the University of Colorado A Line, makes the rounds at Union Station, responds to platforms as needed, and of course, is an excellent customer service helper.
“Dogs leave a positive impression for the riding public,” said Polly Hanson. “The dog has the potential to get invited to schools and groups to educate passengers about transit security.”
So please have some peace of mind knowing that Thor is working hard to keep you safe.