At RTD, safety is a core value – and it involves everyone

Some safety managers might tell you that no news is good news – that if no concerns are coming in from employees or riders about safety issues, everything’s working perfectly, right?

Not for RTD, and not for me, as one of the people responsible for making this huge transit system operate as safely as possible. When I first arrived at RTD after managing safety systems for the private sector and the military, we hadn’t had anyone formally report a safety concern to our transit agency for years. That’s changed – and that’s good.

We are now hearing from employees or riders at least once a week, and that’s a reporting culture that we want to encourage and grow as we observe Rail Safety Week for RTD. However, we must continue to build trust, by listening, sharing and providing feedback to continue to improve. We can always do more. Remember: If you see something that concerns you, say something.

What does a safety concern look like? It could be an icy or slippery spot on the ground; questions or concerns about equipment, policies or procedures; a worker on an RTD project without a hard hat; or the behaviors of people around rail stations or bus stops. We want to hear about it. A lot of small incidents can lead to a big incident, and we need to keep those tragedies from happening.

Safety is never an afterthought at RTD. It’s a core value inherent in everything we do, and it affects the way we do business more than anything else. For example, RTD is now in the middle of a review of our system scheduling in light of operator shortages and workload demands. Are we asking operators to work too many hours to stay safe? Have metro Denver’s population and traffic growth made past schedules unrealistic? We want the public’s input on questions like these as we strive for safety improvements.

Positive train control, a high-tech, federally mandated program considered one of the biggest transit safety initiatives in decades, is another behind-the-scenes effort that affects the whole system. PTC can automatically stop commuter rail trains from hitting other trains and it can slow trains when speed limits are breached. The safe implementation and regulator’s certification of our PTC and wireless grade crossing system also delayed the opening of the highly anticipated G Line to Adams County, Arvada and Wheat Ridge, because we were the first in the nation to fully integrate the new technology. Those are some of the tradeoffs that are made to ensure safe operations, and we hope the public comes to understand how we put safety first.

We need people to join us in this effort. RTD’s safety and performance are affected not only by our riders and employees, but also by every other driver and pedestrian out there on the road who may feel that they are competing to get to their destination as quickly as possible. While RTD’s rail system is now 25 years old, we’ve been opening new lines almost every year and bringing new machinery and new crossings to parts of metro Denver that aren’t used to transit culture. Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers all need to look up and look out for others, just as our operators are trained to do.

To share your thoughts or concerns around safety, call RTD at 303-299-6000 and let us know. Or send us a tweet. Or a message on Facebook. With a transit system as large as ours, we know there are areas where we can make improvements, and we’re counting on you to help us continuously improve the safety of our system and the communities we serve.

Mike Meader

Mike Meader

Mike Meader is the Chief Safety Officer at RTD. He has more than 30 years of experience in managing safety programs, security programs, assets, operations and personnel at the regional and corporate level.