Fixing Denver Transit: Waiting for the Bus With Dignity

Photo: Wes Marshall
Photo: Wes Marshall

Any way you look at it, Denver’s bus riders are treated as second-class citizens.

While drivers cruise around on well-paved roads, quickly plowed in the winter, transit riders are lucky to have a sidewalk leading to their bus stop, let alone a sidewalk clear of snow and ice. People waiting at bus stops are lucky to have a bench to sit on or a shelter to shield them from rain and snow.

New data from the Denveright “State of the System” report shows just how rare it is to wait for the bus in dignified conditions [PDF]. Only about 5 percent of the city’s 3,000 stops have a shelter provided by RTD. (The data doesn’t include bus shelters installed and maintained by advertisers through a city contract. RTD relinquished responsibility for those, and the city apparently has no inventory.)

How does RTD decide which bus stops get shelters and which don’t? “Shelters are prioritized at stops with the highest number of average daily boardings,” according to the report, and at least 40 passengers have to board each day for a stop to qualify.

The city estimates that about 500 shelters meet the 40-passenger threshold, so fewer than a third of “qualifying” bus stops have shelters. Here’s a map:

"Eligible" bus stops for shelters versus bus stops that actually have them. Image: City and County of Denver
“Eligible” bus stops for shelters versus bus stops that actually have them. Image: City and County of Denver

Decent bus stops are not just nice-to-have amenities. Transit riders view waiting conditions as a top tier concern, according to a recent survey by TransitCenter. They want to wait safely and with dignity, but too many Denverites who ride the bus find themselves sitting in the dirt next to traffic.

This post is part of a series on fixing Denver’s transit system, based on the city’s newly-released “State of the System” report. Stay tuned for more in the coming days and weeks.