The Organization and the Service Area

The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) is the regional transportation authority that provides public transportation for 40 cities and towns in all or portions of 8 counties around Denver. RTD is a public agency created in 1969 by the Colorado General Assembly. RTD operates as a public transportation system in an eight county service area, which includes all of Boulder, Broomfield, Denver and Jefferson Counties, parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, and a small portion of Weld County.

The service area population of more than 2.8 million persons is located in 2,348 square miles.[1] RTD’s operations include fixed bus routes, express buses, light rail, shuttles, ADA paratransit services (called “access-a-Ride”), general public demand responsive services (“call-n-Ride”), “seniorRide,” vanpools, free shuttle services on the downtown mall, and other services.[2] RTD provided more than 99 million rides in 2009; average weekday boardings are now 331,121. The 2010 operating budget is $$391,800,000 (a slight decrease from 2009). RTD’s services focus on the general public, seniors, persons with disabilities (including developmental disabilities), welfare to work riders, and special programs for high school and college students. They also have a limited number of special shuttles and other programs. See Appendix A for more details.

Mobility Management Activities

Modal Programs

RTD’s mobility management efforts focus on RTD’s Family of Services program which is comprised of all the services that RTD provides. Key Family of Services programs include RTD’s vanpool program, the user-side taxi subsidy program, call-n-Ride, Bike-n-Ride, and guaranteed ride home. Other mobility management components include bus passes distributed by employers and RTD support of local transportation management organizations (TMOs). Mobility management programs under development include additional taxi services, car sharing, feeder bus services to light rail, and transit oriented land use developments.[3] RTD is attempting to create services that are “closer to the customer” and more cost-effective than typical services. RTD is becoming more interested in funding and managing certain services rather than directly providing those services.

Most of the components of RTD’s Family of Services program are in-house efforts. RTD’s operating responsibilities are focused on fixed route bus and rail services plus paratransit services for the general public and ADA-eligible riders. Other modal program responsibilities in the region include the following:

  • Carpool matching: the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DR COG) is responsible for these efforts
  • Vanpool program: RTD and DR COG subsidize this program
  • Taxi voucher program: this is RTD’s access-a-Cab program
  • Other taxi coordination: RTD endeavors to coordinate wherever possible
  • Hourly car rental or car sharing: RTD is not now involved in these efforts
  • Bicycle sharing: handled by the City of Denver
  • Medicaid bus passes: RTD sells these passes to eligible riders
  • Highway planning: the Colorado DOT takes the lead on this; RTD gets involved in some joint projects such as light rail and FasTracks
  • Highway maintenance: no RTD involvement
  • Travel training: RTD has an agreement with Easter seals for a collaborative effort in the metropolitan area
  • Volunteer drivers: RTD occasionally gives van to agencies that use volunteers to operate the vehicles
  • Coordinated training: bus drivers working for RTD’s contractors go through a coordinated training program
  • Coordinated purchasing: this is done for rail cars and buses, but not much else
  • Traffic signal coordination: RTD participates in a traffic signal priority program
  • Emergency medical transportation: RTD is not involved in emergency medical transportation
  • Emergency road services: RTD is not involved in emergency road services for any vehicles other than their own
  • Traveler/road information: RTD offers trip itinerary planning on their web site

Some Key Mobility Management Efforts

Some noteworthy mobility management efforts involving various modes include:

  • RTD’s FasTracks Program is a multi-billion dollar comprehensive transit expansion plan to build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 21,000 new parking spaces at light rail and bus stations, and enhance bus service for easy, convenient bus/rail connections across the eight-county district. FasTracks also includes funding for the redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station into a multi-modal transportation hub at the center of the FasTracks system. RTD’s web site says that “This multi-billion dollar capital program represents the biggest transit-only, voter-approved program in the country, and FasTracks will change the face of the entire Denver metro region in many positive ways.” The 2004 sales tax referendum focusing on new rail and highway services (the FasTracks Program) generated a 66 percent approval rating at the ballot box.
  • The Transportation Expansion (T-REX) Project, which was a combined light rail and highway expansion project along the region’s southeast I-25 corridor developed by RTD and the Colorado Department of Transportation, was another RTD mobility management project. An extension of the I-25 rail corridor is currently under way as part of RTD’s FasTracks program.
  • The Vanpool Program has grown from 11 vehicles in 2001 to 134 in 2007. Per passenger subsidies on the vanpool program are $1.19 per rider versus the $3.20 average subsidy for all of RTD’s riders (2005 figures). There were approximately 343,300 rides taken on the vanpool program in 2006 at a cost of about $700,000. Using the 2005 cost numbers, we estimate that the 2006 savings generated by the vanpool program were $690,234 (343,400 x $3.20 vs. 343,400 x $1.19).
  • The User-Side Subsidy Taxi Program is designed as an alternative to ADA paratransit services, which in 2005 cost RTD $36.77 per trip in subsidy. Under this program, known as access-a-Cab, the rider pays the first $2.00, the RTD pays the next $12.00, and the rider pays any fare over $14.00. In 2005, approximately 49,800 rides were made as part of this program at a cost to RTD of $348,600. If these rides had been taken on RTD’s access-a-Ride service (the regular ADA paratransit service), the cost to RTD would have been $1,831,146. Thus, this program saved RTD $1,482,546 in 2005. Greater savings are expected to be recorded in future years.

The Vanpool and user-side subsidy taxi programs, two of RTD’s several mobility management programs, are saving RTD over $2 million per year while providing access to increased numbers of persons. Other mobility management programs (such as ADA-eligible passengers using the general public paratransit program and the Front Range Express intercity bus service from Colorado Springs to Denver) add even more savings. These new services have been enthusiastically embraced by the public in the Denver region.

Demand Management Programs

RTD helped to develop the HOV lanes in the area. They were involved in planning for HOT lanes. FasTracks is a large component of their transit oriented development activities. They are involved in some other joint development activities, and they manage 80 park & ride lots.

Information and Trip Planning Services

Trip planning services are available through RTD’s web site. These services cover travel modes operated by RTD but not by other providers. Their trip planning services are primarily designed for fixed route services and not the demand responsive services offered by other agencies. This means that it is relatively easy for potential riders in the region to obtain information about bus and rail services but more difficult to obtain information for other modes. RTD’s information center will provide referrals to other agencies as appropriate.

Customer Satisfaction

A strong customer orientation is a key feature of successful mobility management programs. In these programs, there is a strong focus on the quality of the customer experience. One of the hallmarks of RTD’s mobility management efforts is its focus on customer satisfaction. RTD’s web site reports that “Every three or four years, RTD conducts onboard Customer Satisfaction Surveys with bus, light rail, skyRide, and call-n-Ride passengers to help us learn more about our riders’ satisfaction with these services. Late last fall [2009], randomly selected riders were asked to evaluate RTD service in many performance categories, including driver performance, park-n-Rides, web site, security, Telephone Information Center, convenience, customer information, fares, travel time, comfort, and traveling with bicycles. The study also provides RTD with helpful information on our riders’ trip characteristics and demographic profiles.” Information currently available on RTD’s web site includes the following:

  • 2009 access-a-Ride Customer Survey
  • 2008 Bus Customer Satisfaction Survey & Trip Characteristics
  • 2008 Light Rail Customer Satisfaction Survey & Trip Characteristics
  • 2008 skyRide Customer Satisfaction Survey & Trip Characteristics
  • 2008 call-n-Ride Customer Satisfaction Survey & Trip Characteristics
  • 2007 Southeast Light Rail Customer Satisfaction Survey & Trip Characteristics

For example, the 2009 access-a-Ride Customer Survey[4] measured customer perceptions of the quality of the access-a-Ride and access-a-Cab services, identified needed improvements, and helped prioritize those improvements. The survey asked for information on

  • Overall service quality, including a comparison with the previous year
  • The reservation process
  • Drivers and vehicles
  • On-time performance and routing
  • Cost
  • Dispatching
  • Customer service
  • Suggestions for improvements, and
  • Trip characteristics (frequency, trip purposes).

Information from the other surveys includes similar topics.

Information Technology

Many of RTD’s mobility management activities have a strong information technology component. The Service Development Division supports nearly all business decision systems in RTD; this is seen as a big change from previous operating procedures. Current efforts are described as “data driven:” automated passenger counters (APC) have provided a wealth of data for developing, monitoring, and presenting service details to management and the general public. IT applications are being developed for travel planning including some mobile technologies for cell phone applications and bus schedule information at individual bus stops. Their call-n-Ride program has their own technology which is planned to include automated scheduling through web bookings and estimated times of arrival notification. The APC technology has allowed RTD to use fewer service monitors on the street and to invest more resources into IT applications, including the development of innovative services. IT has become a core function that supports the operation and analysis of services provided by RTD.

Collaboration and Partnerships

RTD is partnering with a number of localities and agencies for services that RTD does not offer or would find it difficult to offer.

  • In Longmont in Boulder County, RTD contracts its call-n-Ride service to Special Transit, a nonprofit organization providing a variety of transportation services for persons with special needs in several communities and members of the general public in rural areas. Special Transit also provides access-a-Ride service for RTD as well as their own services for persons with disabilities. With common software systems, Special Transit and RTD will be able to accommodate travelers on the most appropriate special transportation service.
  • In Brighton in Adams County, RTD also contracts with Special Transit to carry the overflow demand for RTD’s call-n-Ride program.
  • RTD has a cost sharing arrangement with the City of Boulder, which has created higher service standards for public transit than that offered by RTD. Boulder pays RTD for the higher level of service that they desire.
  • RTD provides funds to Boulder for its HOP service that connects the city with the University of Colorado campus and shopping areas.
  • RTD provides funds to the Senior Resource Center for transportation in rural areas. RTD’s funding helps provide the matching funds that SRC needs to qualify for Federal funding.
  • The North Front Range MPO in Fort Collins receives RTD funding to offer cost-effective long-distance trips.
  • RTD also funds a variety of Transportation Management Organizations in the region and supports community-based transportation services by offering vehicles with costs of $20,000 to $25,000. They offer vehicles and operating expenses for community-based transportation services up to an annual limit of $85,000.

RTD’s strategic transportation planning efforts include projects with DR COG and the Colorado DOT; the cities of Denver and Boulder are often involved in these activities as well. RTD is involved in land use planning and coordination with these stakeholders and with developers as well. Downtown Denver Partners and Denver Metro are also involved in some of these planning efforts.

Information Provided By:

Jeff Becker
Senior Manager of Service Development
Regional Transportation District
1600 Blake Street
Denver, Colorado 80202

Bruce Abel
Assistant General Manager for Bus Operations
Regional Transportation District
1600 Blake Street
Denver, Colorado 80202

Interviewed By: Jon Burkhardt and Joohee Yum

Interview Dates: November 3 and December 9, 2010

Date of This Report: December 16, 2010.

Appendix A: RTD Background Information

Mission Statement

To meet our constituents’ present and future public transit needs by offering safe, clean, reliable, courteous, accessible and cost-effective service throughout the District.

Service Statistics (as of January 2010)

  • 40 municipalities in 6 counties plus 2 city/county jurisdictions are served
  • 159,824 weekday regular fixed-route scheduled miles are provided (includes light rail and FREE MallRide)
  • 48,862,622 annual regular fixed-route service miles operated, including light rail: (January 2010 service levels annualized)
  • 10,199 active bus stops:
  • 74 park-n-Ride facilities:
  • 150 regular fixed routes:
    • Local: 67
    • Limited: 11
    • Express: 20
    • Regional: 16
    • skyRide: 5
    • Boulder City Local: 15
    • Longmont City Local: 7

Special Services

  • access-a-Ride,
  • Bolder/Boulder,
  • BroncosRide,
  • BuffRide,
  • call-n-Rides,
  • CU/CSU Football Game Bus Service,
  • Komen Denver Race for the Cure Bus Service,
  • RockiesRide,
  • runRide,
  • seniorRide
  • vanpool (DRCOG’s Commuter Services and North Front Range’s VanGo)

Active Bus Fleet

  • Total buses: 1,050
    • RTD-owned and operated: 612
    • RTD-owned, leased to private carriers: 438
  • Average age of fleet: 6.5 years
  • 34 call-n-Ride vehicles

Light Rail Service

  • 125 Vehicles
  • 55 Miles of track
  • 37 Stations

access-a-Ride (October 2008 – September 2009)

  • 325 Vehicles
  • 10,553,052 Annual service miles operated
  • 725,672 Annual service hours
  • 667,299 Annual boardings

Ridership October 2008 – September 2009

  • 331,121 Average weekday boardings
  • 99,392,099 Annual boardings

Financial statistics

  • Total operating budget 2009: $400,800,000
  • Total operating budget 2010: $391,800,000


  • Budgeted number of RTD employees
    • Salaried: 664
    • Represented: 1,802
  • Private contractors
    • access-a-Ride and call-n-Ride: 593
    • Fixed route: 1,127

[1] Information is from RTD’s web site. Accessed at September 2010.

[3] Bryne, J., Messa, C., Simpson, D., Snapp, K. Mobility Management: A Toolkit for Creating an Organizational Culture and Management Structure Conducive to Mobility Management. APTA, July 2005.

[4] Vantage Marketing Research, Inc. (2009) 2009 RTD Paratransit Customer Survey, prepared for RTD.

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