Denver RTD expands Customer Experience Elevator Program to six light-rail stations

July 3, 2024
The expansion comes following the success of a 90-day pilot of the program, which was designed to assess the potential benefits of reprogramming elevator doors to rest in the open position.

The Denver 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 Denver 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, Denver 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. 

Denver RTD says 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, Denver RTD saw year-over-year decreases in maintenance calls at the elevators. 

In an assessment report made available this week, Denver RTD notes 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 percent combined reduction in total calls for service and a noteworthy decrease in narcotics activity inside the elevators. 

The agency 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. Denver 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. 

“[Denver] 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 [Denver] RTD’s employees and customers.” 

The operational adjustment to station elevators is part of Denver RTD’s Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) efforts across the entire system. During the past year, Denver RTD has upgraded lights, improved landscaping, added TV monitors that display security feeds and installed smoke detectors in public restrooms across its service area. The agency notes 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,” Martingano said. “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. Denver RTD notes 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. The outages caused the elevators to be closed to the public for periods of time in 2023, impacting Denver RTD’s year-over-year comparison. However, the agency says 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, Denver RTD says 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 percent reduction and Southmoor Station saw a 58.4 percent 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. Denver RTD used a contracted elevator technician to modify the programming at the three locations. The agency says that In total, it took a technician three hours, resulting in a total cost of approximately $700 to the agency. Denver RTD estimates that expanding the program to include the agency’s 79 public-facing elevators will cost approximately $61,350.