Why RTD Is Consolidating Bus Stops

When bus stops are too close together, service gets worse for everyone.

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Denver’s bus stops, like bus stops in cities across the country, are too close together.

For years, RTD implemented new bus stops where riders requested them. It might seem like that’s a rider-friendly policy, but the end result is a slower bus network. On some routes, there are now stops within a block or two of each other, meaning buses spend less time in motion, which costs every rider time.

RTD is starting to reverse this process through “bus stop balancing.” The agency has consolidated bus stops on the 0/0L — saving riders two minutes on average, according to RTD — and other routes around the city.

Some riders may not be happy about it. But while bus stop consolidation may feel like an inconvenience to some, the changes improve the system as a whole, says Kirk Hovenkotter of the national thinktank TransitCenter.

“Bus stop balancing creates transit that’s worth walking to because it makes bus trips faster and more reliable,” said Hovenkotter. “It’s basic math that more time in motion and less time stopped means quicker bus runs.”

This short video from TransitCenter sums up the case for better bus stop spacing nicely:

San Francisco has made bus stop balancing one of the cornerstones of its “Muni Forward” transit improvement initiative. Not coincidentally, it’s one of the only large American cities where bus ridership is on the upswing.

Some of Denver’s local bus routes have as many as 10 stops per mile — or one stop every 500 feet. That means the most someone would have to walk to get to the closest stop would be 250 feet, which the average person can cover on foot in about a minute. Even with bus stop consolidation, RTD won’t go below four stops per mile, which means the average person would walk about 2-3 minutes to get to the closest stop.

For elderly residents and people with disabilities, however, the longer distance between stops can be more than a matter of a minute or two. Suzanne Brasset regularly rides the 0 and her cerebral palsy makes the extra block walk a significant impediment.

“It’s a couple blocks but I walk slowly, so I have to add extra time in order to add an extra block to my walk,” Brasset said. Denver’s shoddy sidewalks make it harder, she said, especially when they’re iced over. “I have to pay attention or I’ll trip and bust my face.”

Service planners should take these factors into account and be strategic about which stops they choose to remove and which they keep, says Hovenkotter. RTD has restored bus stops at three locations where consolidation created a problem for riders, including a resource center for people with disabilities, according to Jessie Carter, manager of RTD service planning and scheduling.

Check out the service changes from August 2017 to see which stops have been removed. RTD is considering balancing bus stops on the 6, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 38, and 83 in May, and will hold public meetings before making final decisions.

  • TakeFive

    Well written. I had watched that video previously but I had no idea whether or how it applied to RTD. I think it’s a great idea although with local service I’d agree that needs should be considered.

    In the 3rd quarter according to APTA, Phoenix had the biggest increase in bus ridership at 6.4%. San Francisco was up .76% (and 1.36% for the year). Arlington Heights was up a meaningful 3.6% which nudged into positive territory for the year. Seattle was up 1.13 in the quarter and .03% for the year. The other ten thousand cities were all down.

  • Jody

    The 32 could definitely be consolidated. My stops on both ends are within 1 block of another stop. That is true in several other places.

  • John Riecke

    I just hope they don’t get bullied into reversing themselves too often. What’s the scorecard so far? How many removed vs the three added back?

    • David Sachs

      30-3 so far.

  • jmfay

    It definitely made sense to remove 2 of the 4 stops at CO and Alameda due to low usage. They are also making people walk further on Broadway.

    These are some of the busiest streets in the system so we can only imagine on the other ones.

  • garbanzito

    unfortunately two of the 0 (zero) stops removed, at Ellsworth — north and southbound — were those that were closest to Hirschfeld Towers, home to many who are elderly and/or living with disabilities; these were also close to some other buildings higher density than the surroundings; it doesn’t seem like RTD really evaluated the populations near each stop in deciding which to eliminate

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