RTD Bus & Rail

  (Redirected from RTD Bus & Light Rail)

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 86 local, 23 regional, 14 limited, and 3 skyRide bus routes plus some special services. It also includes 8 light rail lines and an additional 4 commuter rail lines with 78 stations and 113.1 miles (182.0 km) of track.[3]

RTD No. 4018 A Line train, USTH.jpg
Denver LRVs in snow, on Stout St in downtown.jpg
Free MallRide bus 2018—2.JPG
RTD's three modes of public transit
OwnerRegional Transportation District
LocaleDenver Metropolitan Area
Transit typeBus
Commuter rail
Light rail
Number of lines127 (Bus)
4 (Commuter rail)
8 (Light rail)
Number of stations57 (Light Rail)

21 (Commuter Rail)

10 (Bus Rapid Transit [BRT])
Daily ridership209,100 (Bus)[1]
86,900 (Rail)[1]
Headquarters1660 Blake Street
Denver, CO 80202
WebsiteRTD Denver
Began operation1969 (Bus)
1994 (Light rail)
2016 (Commuter rail)
Reporting marksRTDC, RTDZ
Number of vehicles1026 (Bus)
267 (Rail)
System length113.1 mi (182.0 km) (light & commuter rail)
(60.1 miles of light rail)
(53 miles of commuter rail)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationOverhead lines, 25 kV 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 Rail
System diagram
Wheat Ridge/Ward
Arvada Ridge
Olde Town Arvada
60th & Sheridan/Arvada Gold Strike
Clear Creek/Federal
Thornton Crossroads/104th
Pecos Junction
Original Thornton/88th
Commuter Rail
Maintenance Facility
Commerce City/72nd
41st & Fox
48th & Brighton/
National Western Center
38th & Blake
30th & Downing
40th & Colorado
Central Park
27th & Welton
Peoria  R 
25th & Welton
40th Ave & Airport Blvd
–Gateway Park
20th & Welton
61st & Peña
Denver Airport  A   
   A   B   C   E   G   N   W 
Union Station
 D   F   H  18th & California
18th & Stout  D   F   H 
 L  16th & California
16th & Stout  L 
Pepsi Center-Elitch Gardens
Empower Field at Mile High
Theatre District-
Convention Center
Auraria West
Colfax at Auraria
13th Avenue
2nd Avenue & Abilene
Aurora Metro Center
Florida  H 
10th & Osage
I-25 & Broadway
Federal Center
Nine Mile
Red Rocks College
Jefferson County
Government Center-Golden
University of Denver
Elati Light Rail
Maintenance Facility
Oxford–City of Sheridan
 C   D 
Arapahoe at Village Center
Dry Creek
County Line
Sky Ridge Medical Center
Lone Tree City Center
RidgeGate Parkway
 E   F   R 

RTD parking 
  Non-RTD parking


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 railEdit

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 railEdit

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.

As one of the first new commuter rail systems in the country planned after enactment of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, positive Train Control (PTC) and vehicle monitoring system technologies are implemented along the system's commuter train lines. After the A Line opened between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport, it experienced a series of issues related to having to adjust the length of unpowered gaps between different overhead power sections, direct lightning strikes, snagging wires, and crossing signals behaving unexpectedly.[6] In response to the crossing issues, Denver Transit Partners, the contractor building and operating the A Line, stationed crossing guards at each place where the A line crosses local streets at grade while it continues to explore software revisions and other fixes to address the underlying issues.[7] The FRA is requiring frequent progress reports, but allowed RTD to open its B Line as originally scheduled on July 25, 2016,[8] because the B Line only has one at-grade crossing along its current route that is not designated to be a quiet zone.[7] However, FRA previously halted testing on the longer G Line to Wheat Ridge – originally scheduled to open in late 2016 – until more progress could be shown resolving the A Line crossing issues.[9] On April 26, 2019, the G Line opened to the public.

Current servicesEdit

Primary servicesEdit

The primary RTD services are scheduled bus and rail routes.[10] 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
  • G Line: Wheat Ridge/Ward to Union Station
  • N Line: Union Station to Eastlake/124th

The current light rail lines are:

  • C Line: Littleton/Mineral to Union Station
  • D Line: Littleton/Mineral to 18th/California & 18th/Stout
  • E Line: RidgeGate to Union Station
  • F Line: RidgeGate to 18th/California & 18th/Stout
  • H Line: Florida to 18th/California & 18th/Stout
  • L Line : 16th/California & 16th/Stout to 30th/Downing
  • R Line : RidgeGate to Peoria
  • W Line : Denver Union Station to Jeffco Government Center-Golden

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 servicesEdit

  • 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.[11]

Special servicesEdit

Special bus services are offered for various purposes.[12] Some of the more popular special services are:

  • "FlexRide", which provides curb-to-curb service in specific areas. This is similar to taxis.[13]
  • "access-a-Ride", which provides transportation for disabled people.[14]
  • "Free MallRide", the 16th Street Mall shuttle; as its name implies, rides on this service are free. The shuttles are BYD ebuses.[15]
  • "Free MetroRide", a specialty shuttle operating along 18th and 19th street between Denver Union Station and Civic Center Station.
  • "skyRide", which provides direct service to Denver International Airport from various locations around the metro area.[16]
  • Sporting events service:
    • "BroncosRide", which provides direct service to Broncos Stadium at Mile High from various locations around the metro area.[17]
    • "RunRide", a similar service which provides direct service to Boulder during the Bolder Boulder 10K road race.


Bus stationsEdit

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
Civic Center Station 1550 Broadway, Denver
Union Station (rail and bus) 1701 Wynkoop Street, Denver
Downtown Boulder Station 1400 Walnut Street, Boulder

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.

Rail stationsEdit

Many of the Light Rail and Commuter Rail stations have gates for various bus services. As of 2018, there are 55 stations on the eight lines in the RTD 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.[18] Platforms are designed to accommodate four or three car Light Rail trains in addition to two car or four car Commuter Rail trains and may be in either a side, island or side center style.[18] The transition plaza is the area where tickets are purchased and passenger services can be found.[18] 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.[19]


A number of 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.[20]

Future servicesEdit

Extensions to the Southwest Light Rail Corridor, the L Light Rail Line, and the B and N Commuter Rail lines are planned via the FasTracks project.[21]

Art on the light rail systemEdit

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.[19]

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

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


  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 2020-09-28.
  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. ^ "What's Causing Delays With RTD's A Line To DIA?". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  7. ^ a b "RTD gets 90-day extension from feds to fix airport-train crossing gates". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  8. ^ "B Line to Westminster opens July 25". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  9. ^ "RTD G-Line to Arvada, Wheat Ridge will be delayed — again". Retrieved 2017-02-27.
  10. ^ Routes Archived 2007-01-08 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "RTD - I-225 Rail Line". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  12. ^ Special Rides Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ call-n-Ride Archived 2006-12-30 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ access-a-Ride
  15. ^ "Denver RTD to purchase 36 new BYD electric buses for mall service". Metro Magazine. 2015-08-25. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  16. ^ skyRide
  17. ^ BroncosRide Archived 2006-12-30 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ a b c "Station design criteria" (PDF). RTD Design Guidelines & Criteria, Light Rail Design Criteria. Regional Transportation District. November 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 14, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  19. ^ a b "art-n-Transit: A rider's guide to public art on RTD's transit system". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved September 26, 2010.
  20. ^ "List of Park-n-Ride locations". Regional Transportation District. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  21. ^ "RTD". www.rtd-denver.com. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  22. ^ Kyle MacMillan (2010-01-28). "Lawmaker working to patch hole in "1 percent for art" statute". Denver Post.

External linksEdit

  • 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...CS1 maint: unfit url (link)