Transit Police

RTD to expand elevator program after pilot shows a clear reduction in reports of illegal activities, maintenance calls

Tara Broghammer

The agency's 90-day pilot concluded June 16 resulting in reduced reports of criminal activity after reprogramming doors to remain open at rest

DENVER (July 2, 2024) –– The Regional Transportation District (RTD) will expand its Customer Experience Elevator Program to now include six light rail stations following the success of a 90-day pilot. The pilot launched in March and was designed to assess the potential benefits of reprogramming elevator doors to rest in the open position. The RTD Transit Police Department (RTD-PD) led the agency’s efforts to develop and implement the operational adjustment that is focused on limiting and deterring illegal and unwanted activities inside public elevators.

Between March 17 and June 16, RTD closely tracked data and feedback for elevators at Colorado, Nine Mile and Southmoor light rail stations. The pilot specifically focused on high-usage elevators that historically garnered a large number of customer complaints, security-related incidents and operational disruptions due to illegal and unwanted activities. The elevators were reprogrammed to better support customer access and availability.

Data collected during the 90-day pilot was compared with baseline metrics from the same time period in 2023. An assessment of the pilot’s data found a significant reduction in the number of security-related incidents and disturbances at the three pilot locations. Additionally, RTD saw year-over-year decreases in maintenance calls at the elevators.

In an assessment report made available this week, RTD notes that the overall reduction in incident reporting or calls for service – requests made by RTD employees, customers, the public or other agencies for police assistance – as a strong indicator of program effectiveness; leaving the elevators at default open status has helped the agency improve employee and community concerns related to personal safety and security. For instance, Southmoor and Colorado stations experienced a 121% combined reduction in total calls for service and a noteworthy decrease in narcotics activity inside the elevators.

RTD will continue the operational adjustment at the Colorado, Nine Mile and Southmoor stations, and the program will now expand to Colfax, Lakewood•Wadsworth and Sheridan stations. RTD owns and operates a total of 79 public-facing elevators, and plans are being developed to further expand the program beyond the six light rail stations.

“RTD is extremely pleased the pilot program correlates with effectively reducing overall incidents and calls for service at the pilot locations,” said RTD-PD Deputy Chief Steven Martingano. “An overarching initiative is to create a transit environment that is a personally safe and secure, welcoming, convenient and enjoyable experience for all customers. The recommendation by our police department to extend the program instills a greater sense of security for RTD’s employees and customers.”

The operational adjustment to station elevators is part of RTD’s Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) efforts across the entire system. Over the last year, RTD has upgraded lights, improved landscaping, added TV monitors that display security feeds and installed smoke detectors in public restrooms across its service area. CPTED is a multi-pronged approach to reducing crime and deterring offenders at stations, stops and facilities.

“The program indicates that the environmental design tactics that RTD-PD is employing are highly effective and replicable, and the efforts can be used across our transit environment to further enhance safety,” said Martingano. “The agency anticipated a reduction from this 90-day pilot, and it’s incredibly satisfying to see something that streamlines use of agency resources.”

Key findings

Year-over-year comparisons for Colorado and Southmoor stations saw a notable reduction in calls for service during the pilot. Colorado Station calls for service dropped by more than half when compared to the same period in 2023, and Southmoor Station calls were cut in half.

Between March and May 2023, the elevators at Nine Mile Station were intermittently out of service and not operational. These outages caused the elevators to be closed to the public for periods of time last year, impacting RTD’s year-over-year comparison. However, the largest percentage increases at Nine Mile Station during the pilot were due to medical incidents and calls for welfare checks.

At all three locations in 2023 and 2024, the leading reason for calls was related to narcotics activity, which dropped by more than half at Colorado and Southmoor stations each. Colorado Station saw a 62.6% reduction, and Southmoor Station saw a 58.4% reduction in narcotics activities compared with the same time in 2023. The agency also saw reductions in loitering at these stations during the pilot program.

The total cost to implement the pilot program was negligible. RTD used a contracted elevator technician to modify the programming at the three locations. In total, it took a technician three hours, resulting in a total cost of approximately $700 to the agency. The agency estimates that expanding the program to include the agency’s 79 public-facing elevators will cost approximately $61,350.

Early findings from RTD’s elevator pilot program inspired another transit agency, LA Metro, to start an identical program.

To review RTD’s Customer Experience Elevator Pilot Program assessment report, visit the Transit Police webpage and scroll to the Resources section.

Total calls for service: March - May

By Tara Broghammer