RTD Bus & Rail

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RTD No. 4018 A Line train, USTH.jpg
Denver LRVs in snow, on Stout St in downtown.jpg
RTD's three modes of public transit
Owner Regional Transportation District
Locale Denver Metropolitan Area
Transit type Bus
Commuter rail
Light rail
Number of lines 127 Bus
2 Commuter Rail
7 Light rail
Number of stations 53 (light rail)
Daily ridership 209,100 (Bus)[1]
86,900 (Rail)[1]
Headquarters 1600 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80202
Website RTD Denver
Began operation 1969 (Bus)
1994 (Light rail)
2016 (Commuter rail)
Reporting marks RTDZ
Number of vehicles 969 (Bus)
172 (Rail)
System length 76 mi (122 km) (light & commuter rail) (58.5 Miles of light rail) (29 Miles of Commuter Rail)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification Overhead lines, 25k V AC 60 Hz (commuter rail)[2]
Overhead lines, 750 V DC (light rail)
Light rail at 16th and California in downtown
16th Street Mall shuttle bus

RTD Bus and Rail (branded as TheRide) is a transit system in the Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area. Operated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD), it currently runs 124 local, 16 express, 16 regional, 16 limited, and 8 skyRide bus routes plus some special services. It also includes 7 light rail lines and an additional 2 commuter rail lines with 71 stations and 87.5 miles (140.8 km) of track.[3]


RTD Rail
System diagram
Wheat Ridge / Ward
Arvada Ridge
Olde Town Arvada
60th & Sheridan / Arvada Gold Strike
Eastlake / 124th
Clear Creek / Federal
Northglenn / 112th
Thornton Crossroads / 104th
Commuter Rail
Maintenance Facility
Original Thornton / 88th
Pecos Junction
Commerce City / 72nd
41st & Fox
48th & Brighton / Nat'l Western Center
38th & Blake
40th & Colorado
30th & Downing
Central Park
29th & Welton
27th & Welton
40th & Airport Blvd / Gateway Park
29th & Welton
61st & Peña
25th & Welton
Denver Airport
 A  Denver International Airport
20th & Welton
18th & California | 18th & Stout
 F   H 
16th Street Mall#MallRide Amtrak  A   B   C   E   W 
Union Station
16th & California | 16th & Stout
16th Street Mall#MallRide
Pepsi Center/Elitch Gardens
13th Avenue
Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Theatre District - Convention Center
Auraria West
Colfax at Auraria
2nd Avenue & Abilene
Decatur - Federal
10th & Osage
I-25 & Broadway
Aurora Metro Center
Louisiana & Pearl
Elati Light Rail
Maintenance Facility
University of Denver
Lakewood - Wadsworth
Oxford/City of Sheridan
Nine Mile
Littleton Downtown
Federal Center
 C   D 
Red Rocks College
Arapahoe at Village Center
Jefferson Co. Gov't Center - Golden
Dry Creek
County Line
 E   F   R 
Sky Ridge Medical Center
Lone Tree City Center
RidgeGate Parkway


Bus service in Denver dates back to 1924, when Denver Tramway began the first bus between Englewood and Fort Logan. Buses had completely replaced the previously expansive streetcar system in metro Denver by 1950. However, cars were becoming a larger part of life, and ridership was declining. From 1969 to 1971, Denver Tramway required the sponsorship of the City and County of Denver to continue service. In 1971 with aging equipment, low revenues and lackluster ridership, the Denver Tramway Company transferred all of its assets to city-owned Denver Metro Transit.

In 1969, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) was created in the 47th session of the Colorado General Assembly to provide public transportation to five additional counties in the metropolitan area. It acquired privately owned companies, improved service frequency, and expanded to routes that commercial carriers previously operated such as airport buses.[4]

In July 1974, Denver Metro Transit became part of RTD, and under the new banner, ridership began to increase.

Light rail[edit]

RTD's first light rail line, a 5.3-mile (8.5 km) section of what is now the D Line, opened on Friday, October 7, 1994. It operated with free service for that half day and the first weekend, with revenue service starting on October 10.[5] It was estimated that more than 200,000 passengers rode the new system during its two-and-a-half-day opening weekend, when the fleet comprised only 11 Siemens SD-100 rail cars.[5]

Since that time, several additional light rail lines have been opened. An 8.7-mile (14.0 km) southwest extension to Mineral Avenue in Littleton opened in July 2000, and the 1.8-mile Platte Valley extension to Denver Union Station opened in April 2002. An additional 19-mile (31 km) Southeast Corridor extension along I-25 to Lone Tree and a branch along I-225 to Parker Road were completed in November 2006 as part of Denver's T-REX project.

As of April 2013, the system had 170 light rail vehicles, serving 47 miles (76 km) of track.[3]

Commuter rail[edit]

With the passage of FasTracks, RTD began planning for a series of commuter rail lines. The first 23.5 miles (37.82 km) of which, the A Line servicing Denver International Airport, opened on April 22, 2016.

Current services[edit]

Primary services[edit]

The primary RTD services are scheduled bus and rail routes.[6] Most bus routes are divided into Local and Regional service levels. Light rail and commuter rail services are divided in four zones: A, B, C and airport. Local service is travel within two consecutive lettered zones, and regional service is within all three lettered zones. The airport zone applies for bus or rail travel into and out of Denver International Airport.

The current commuter rail lines are:

  • A Line: Union Station to Denver International Airport
  • B Line: Westminster to Union Station

The current light rail lines are:

  • C Line: Littleton/Mineral to Union Station
  • D Line: Littleton/Mineral to 30th/Downing
  • E Line: Lincoln to Union Station
  • F Line: Lincoln to 18th/California & 18th/Stout
  • H Line: Florida to 18th/California & 18th/Stout
  • R Line: Lincoln to Peoria
  • W Line: Denver Union Station to Jeffco Government Center

With the opening of the Southeast Corridor, many regional bus routes that provided service from the North Metro to Denver Tech Center were replaced by service to Union Station and light rail from Union Station to the Belleview light rail station. Several regional bus routes to and from the South Metro were also eliminated by the openings of the Southeast & Southwest Corridors, replaced by feeder routes to light rail.

Former services[edit]

  • G Line: Running from Nine Mile station to Lincoln station, this line was suspended May 3, 2009. With the completion of FasTracks I-225 corridor, the route resumed service as the R Line in 2017.[7]

Special services[edit]

Special bus services are offered for various purposes.[8] Some of the more popular special services are:

  • "call-n-Ride", which provides curb-to-curb service in specific areas. This is similar to taxis.[9]
  • "access-a-Ride", which provides transportation for disabled people.[10]
  • "FREE MallRide", the 16th Street Mall shuttle; as its name implies, rides on this service are free. The shuttles use compressed natural gas (CNG)/electric hybrid engines.[11][12]
  • "Free MetroRide", which complements the FREE MallRide by offering no charge service from Union Station to Civic Center Station via 19th Street (eastbound) and 18th Street (westbound).[13] MetroRide uses diesel buses from New Flyer.[14]
  • "skyRide", which provides direct service to Denver International Airport from various locations around the metro area.[15]
  • Sporting events service:


As of January 2016 Fares
Local Regional Airport
Cash $2.60 $4.50 $9
Discount $1.30 $2.25 $4.50
Ticketbook (10 rides) $23.50 $40.50 N/A
Discount Ticketbook $11.75 $20.25 N/A
Monthly Pass $99 $171 N/A
Discount Monthly Pass $49 $85 N/A

These fares apply only to the primary services. Special services typically cost more, up to $13 each way for some skyRide routes. Free transfers are available between services going in the same direction, of the same type or cheaper. Passengers may pay for an upgrade to transfer from a lower fare service to a higher fare service, regardless of whether one is special service and the other is not. Discount fares are available with proof of eligibility to seniors over 65, students ages 6 to 19 (and still in high school), people with disabilities and/or who receive Medicare.[18] Kids below 6 ride for free with fare-paying rider; limit is 3.


Bus stations[edit]

Major bus stations provide termini for Express and Regional routes. Many Local and Limited routes stop near these stations, making transfers between routes relatively easy. Of the three major bus stations in the RTD system, only one—Union Station—is also served directly by light rail trains. None of the three major bus stations is a Park 'n' Ride facility.

Interior of a RTD light rail train.
Station Name Address Phone Number
Civic Center Station 1550 Broadway, Denver, CO 80202 Lost & Found 303-299-2288
Union Station (rail and bus) 1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver, CO 80202 None
Boulder Transit Center 1400 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO 80302 Lost & Found 303-442-7332

Civic Center Station is connected to Union Station via the Free MallRide and Free MetroRide shuttle services.

Market Street Station (16th and Market Street), a major bus station in the RTD system, was closed permanently on May 11, 2014, after thirty years of continuous use. All bus routes that formerly served Market Street Station were re-routed to the renovated Union Station, four blocks to the northwest.

Light rail stations[edit]

Light rail stations serve the light rail system and many of these stations have gates for bus service also. As of 2014, there are 46 stations on the six lines in the RTD Light Rail system. RTD has adopted specific design standards that are incorporated into its station design, with a specific emphasis on the platform, its transition plaza and the multi-modal access provided at the facility.[19] Platforms are designed to accommodate four-car trains and may be in either a side, island or side center style.[19] The transition plaza is the area where tickets are purchased and passenger services can be found.[19] Additionally, all stations include works of public art as part of RTD's art-n-Transit program. These works include independent works or as pieces incorporated into the canopies, columns, pavers, windscreens, fencing and landscaping present at all stations.[20]


A number of light rail stations in the RTD system, as well as a number of bus stops located away from the three major bus stations, are attached to dedicated RTD parking facilities. These are the Park-n-Ride locations. As of 2014, there are more than 70 RTD Park-n-Ride facilities with an aggregate total of more than 30,000 parking spaces.[21]

Future services[edit]

RTD has two further commuter rail lines opening through 2018. Also extensions to the Southwest, Southeast and Central corridor lines are planned via the FasTracks project.

Art on the Light Rail system[edit]

In 1977, Colorado passed the Art in Public Places bill which required that 1 percent of all state-funded construction budgets be used to purchase art.[22] About $1 million from the T-REX contingency budget was dedicated to art projects at each of the 13 new southeast corridor light rail stations as part of RTD's art-n-Transit program.[20]

  • Ira Sherman, "Stange Machine," Louisiana/ Pearl.
  • Ries Niemi, "Big Boots," Colorado.
  • John Goe, "Reflective Discourse," University.
  • Gregory Gove, "Connected," Yale.
  • Chris Janney, "Harmonic Pass: Denver," Southmoor.
  • Richard Elliott, "Thunder Over the Rockies," Belleview.
  • Christopher Weed, "Windswept," Dayton.
  • Dwight Atkinson, "Yet Another Way To Know That Nature Will Eventually Win," Nine Mile.
  • Wopo Holup, "Orchard Memory," Orchard.
  • Michael Clapper, "Nucleus," Arapahoe at Village Center.
  • John McEnroe, "Fools Gold," Dry Creek.
  • Emmett Culligan, "Plow," County Line.
  • Ray King, "Sun Stream," Lincoln.

Design team artists who worked on windscreen benches, railings, bike racks and canopy columns at all stations were Susan Cooper and Rafe Ropek.


  1. ^ a b "APTA Transit Ridership Report" (PDF). APTA. Retrieved 2014-03-11. 
  2. ^ "Commuter train testing begins on G Line". RTD FasTracks. Regional Transportation District of Denver. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "RTD - Facts and Figures". RTD. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  4. ^ Gutfreund, Owen (2004). Twentieth century sprawl : highways and the reshaping of the American Landscape. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195141412. 
  5. ^ a b Pacific RailNews, January 1995, p. 68. Pentrex. ISSN 8750-8486.
  6. ^ Routes
  7. ^ "RTD - I-225 Rail Line". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  8. ^ Special Rides
  9. ^ call-n-Ride
  10. ^ access-a-Ride
  11. ^ FREE MallRide
  12. ^ Route MALL
  13. ^ "Free Metro Ride". Archived from the original on 2014-06-25. 
  14. ^ "Regional transportation district awards contract to new flyer for up to 192 60 foot diesel transit buses". Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. 
  15. ^ skyRide
  16. ^ BroncosRide
  17. ^ "Convenient, Affordable, Fast and Fun. RockiesRide Is A Grand Slam!". Archived from the original on 2006-02-07. 
  18. ^ "RTD — Fares". Archived from the original on 2014-06-25. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  19. ^ a b c "Station design criteria" (PDF). RTD Design Guidelines & Criteria, Light Rail Design Criteria. Regional Transportation District. November 2005. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "art-n-Transit: A rider's guide to public art on RTD's transit system". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved September 26, 2010. 
  21. ^ "List of Park-n-Ride locations". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  22. ^ Kyle MacMillan. "Lawmaker working to patch hole in "1 percent for art" statute". Denver Post. 

External links[edit]

  • Rachel Mendelson, Marta Ivanek (2014-10-02). "How Denver's mile-high ambition is a road map for Toronto transit". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. Not a year earlier, Denver voters had rejected a tax to fund a major light-rail expansion, but business leaders were determined to try again. They believed the so-called Mile-High City would need more than buses to lift it from middling to world-class, and efforts to rebuild the campaign were already underway. 
  • "ICYMI People are talking about Denver transit". Toronto Star. 2014-10-06. Archived from the original on October 8, 2014. Metro Denver Small Business Development Center shared the story with its readers. RT @MetroDenverEDC Metro #Denver's #transit gets global attention this week, serving as a blueprint for #cities...