RTD at 50: The 50 Most Fascinating Facts & Stats

Longmont Mini 16-passenger vehicles
The Longmont Mini, RTD's first demonstration project, started service in 1972 with 16-passenger vehicles traveling two routes in Longmont. Photo: RTD.

This year the Regional Transportation District celebrates its 50th anniversary. From its first pilot project (the Longmont Mini) to providing nearly 100 million rides last year, Streetsblog gathered 50 the agency’s most fascinating facts and stats. (Actually it’s 52, but 50 sounds better).

Source: RTD

  • 1969: The Colorado General Assembly created RTD
  • 1978: Disability rights activists block buses for two days at Colfax & Broadway (5280)
  • 1982: The 16th Street Mall opened and the Free MallRide started service
  • 1994: The D-Line, RTD’s first light rail line, opened
  • 2014: Union Station reopens as a regional transit hub
In 1982, the 16th Street Mall opens and the Free MallRide started service. Today the line is RTD's most popular, with 10,739,866 boardings in 2017. Photo: RTD.
In 1982, the 16th Street Mall opens and the Free MallRide started service. Today the line is RTD’s most popular, with 10,739,866 boardings in 2017. Photo: RTD

5 most popular bus lines
Source: 2017 boardings datacompiled by Streetsblog

  1. 10,739,866: Free MallRide
  2. 6,976,848: 15 + 15L East Colfax
  3. 3,083,298: FF Flatiron Flyer (Denver – Boulder)
  4. 2,862,361: 0 + 0L South Broadway
  5. 2,536,885: 16 + 16L West Colfax

5 most popular rail lines
Source: 2017 boardings datacompiled by Streetsblog

  • Union Station
    Ten years after voters approved FasTracks, Union Station reopened as a regional transit hub. Photo: RTD

    6,649,495: A: University of Colorado A-Line (airport)

  • 5,428,387: D: 18th & California to Littleton-Mineral Station
  • 4,794,569: H: 18th & California to Florida Station
  • 4,526,767: E: Union Station to Lincoln Station
  • 4,262,712: W: Union Station to JeffCo Govt. Ctr.-Golden Station

Total transit boardings
Source: RTD

  • 97.6 million in 2018, a 6.8% decline since 2014
  • 104.2 million in 2014
  • 34 boardings per capita in 2017, a 13.5% decline from 2008
  • 38.6 boardings per capita in 2008
1978 RTD disability rights activists
In 1978, disability rights activists protested the lack of accessibility on RTD buses by blocking bus traffic at Colfax and Broadway for two days. By 1982, all RTD buses were wheelchair-accessible. But today, many RTD bus stops remain a challenge for wheelchair users. Photo: Rocky Mountain News courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Collection Archives.

Transit vs. driving alone

  • 73%: Trips in Denver completed by someone who drives alone (source)
  • 60%: Denver’s unrealistic goal for single-occupancy vehicle trips by next year (source)
  • 39.3% of downtown Denver workers ride transit to work, 39% drive alone (RTD)
  • 19% of downtown Boulder workers ride transit to work, 58% drive alone (RTD)

Fares & per-ride costs
Source: RTD

  • RTD used tokens for fare payment from 1979 through 2017.
    RTD used tokens for fare payment from 1979 through 2017.

    40¢: Fare for a Denver Tramway ticket in 1969 (pre-RTD)

  • $2.76: Amount a 40¢ fare would cost in 2019 dollars (calculator)
  • $3: Amount a regular adult local fare cost in 2019
  • $9.50: Average amount each ride cost RTD in 2016 (source)
  • $6.50 Amount RTD subsidizes (source)

Source: 2017 budget

  • $140.2 million in fares collected in 2017 (14.2% of revenues)
  • $598 million in sales and use tax revenue in 2017 (60.4% of revenues)
  • $626.1 million operating budget in 2017

Source: RTD

  • 1,975: Union-represented bus and train operators and mechanics
  • 953: Operators paid by private contractors
  • 655: FlexRide and Access-A-Ride drivers paid by private contractors
  • 888: salaried management and administrative employees
1994 D-Line test train
RTD’s first rail service, the D-Line light rail, opened in 1994. A decade later, voters approved FasTracks to greatly expand the regional rail network.

Transit mix (by vehicle service hours)
Source: RTD

  • 72%: Bus (69% of all transit boardings)
  • 7%: Rail (31% of all transit boardings)
  • 20%: FlexRide, Access-A-Ride

Source: RTD

  • 2004: Voters approved a sales tax to build 122 miles of rail
  • 2018: 58.5 miles of rail completed

Source: RTD

  • 172: Electric light rail vehicles
  • 66: Commuter rail vehicles
  • 58.5: Miles of track
  • 54: Stations
Free MallRide electric vehicle
RTD started running all-electric buses for the Free MallRide in 2016.

Source: RTD

  • 1,035: Buses, all have wheelchair lifts
  • 5 million: Gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel consumed per year
  • 36: Free MallRide buses, 100% electric vehicles started service in 2016
  • 10,053: Bus stops

142 Bus Routes
Source: RTD

  • 88: Local routes
  • 16: Limited routes
  • 20: Regional routes
  • Other routes (SkyRide, Free MallRide, Free MetroRide, Art Shuttle, HOP, Senior Shopper, BroncosRide, CU/CSU football rides, etc.)
  • LazyReader

    Wow they used to ride around in Mercedes

  • TakeFive

    Fun history.

    Here’s some fun photos/info that Cirrus dug up from the 1994 opening ceremony of Denver’s first light rail; also check out the funky mall shuttle buses: http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?p=8196260#post8196260

  • Rocky Mtn Steve

    *** What about fuel efficiency? ***

    The main justification for having RTD is to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution. Based on the amount of fuel to transport one person, how many miles per gallon do these buses and trains get? If a bus burns a gallon in order to haul 15 people two miles then that’s 30 mpg per person.

    The article says that the buses burn 5,000,000 gallons of fuel/year but I don’t see the number of passenger-miles. Sometimes the buses are full, sometimes they are empty.

    Does anybody know how efficient these things really are?

    • You can get their passenger miles from the National Transit Database. https://www.transit.dot.gov/ntd/transit-agency-profiles/denver-regional-transportation-district They don’t have 2018 statistics yet, but assuming 2017 is close enough, there’s about 10.6 million passenger miles/year on Access-a-Ride/Call-n-Ride/Flex Ride (“Demand Response”) and about 328 million passenger miles/year on bus. (Excluding rail, since they’re electric). So say 339 million passenger miles for 5 million gallons of diesel fuel works out to about 67 or so miles per gallon.

      • Rocky Mtn Steve

        NICE JOB !!!
        That’s very useful information. Thanks.


The UN secretary general, António Guterres, addresses the closing meeting of the 73rd session of the United Nations general assembly at the UN headquarters on 16 September. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

‘We’re Losing the Race’: UN Secretary General Calls Climate Change an ‘Emergency’

This story originally appeared in The Guardian. It is republished here as part of Streetsblog’s partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 300 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story. The UN secretary general says that he is counting on public pressure to compel governments to take much stronger action against what […]

Car-Free Zones Eyed in SF, Elsewhere

A string of pedestrian injuries and deaths in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has spurred city leaders to demand a ban on cars in some densely populated neighborhoods — the latest in a nascent and long-overdue move by activists nationwide to get reckless drivers off at least a tiny handful of city streets. San Francisco Supervisor […]
A Comcast Xfinity van tips over within eyeshot of where cyclist Alexis Bounds was killed July 24. Photo: Anonymous

Wednesday’s Headlines

Dangerous place: A photo shows an Xfinity van rolling over near the ghost bike placed in remembrance of Alexis Bounds. Input sought for Front Range Passenger Rail. The five options CDOT is considering to upgrade I-25 in Denver. More headlines ...