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Discover Denver in a Whole New Way: By Bus!

September 25, 2021
Colorado community Tips

By Janalee Chmel

I’m one of those people who desperately desire for Denver to be more walkable and bikeable. I’m trying to bike more, but learning that my youngest daughter’s hectic after-school schedule is a giant blockade to the whole bike-to-school effort.

I also desire to use public transit more often and want my kids to be familiar with RTD buses, especially. Way back when my two oldest girls were 8 and 9 (they are 18 and 20 now), I took them on a grand adventure from our house using only buses. Yes, I do realize how boujie this makes me sound – but I am a product of my city. In other cities where I’ve lived, I used mass transit routinely. Denver just makes it a lot harder.

Good News: Learning to Use RTD is Easy!

This year, I took my youngest daughter, who is 11, on a bus adventure. I gotta tell ya – it’s gotten a lot easier in the last 10 years! Ten years ago, I had to jump online, print up a map, figure out the fares, make sure I had cash… This year, I downloaded the RTD app, loaded money onto it, mapped my route in no time, and we headed out!

Our route took us on the 40 bus headed north on Colorado Boulevard (maybe the least stressful ride on Colorado Boulevard I’ve ever had) to the 40th and Colorado station. Then we walked “less than a minute,” as directed by the app, to our stop at the light rail station. We jumped on the A train, which took us straight to 38th and Blake, in the heart of RiNo.

That was when the most confusing part of our journey began because… Mama had no idea where she was. I was SO turned around that I had to ask three different people for directions. My daughter was patient… in fact, she’s a pretty fearless kid so she just kept asking everyone if we were headed in the right direction as we walked. I let her take the lead.

Eventually, we found the art district, had lunch, wandered like tourists, bought some stuff, and then we were ready to call it a day.

Here’s where the app was extra helpful. I didn’t have to find a map on my phone, squint in the sun to figure out the closest stop, plot out a route, etc. I just plunked in our destination and the app did the rest. Turns out, we were just half a block from the closest stop.

We got home tired and pretty proud of ourselves.

Hate Parking? Take the Bus

One of the most blissful parts of taking the bus was that I didn’t have to find parking! RiNo is notoriously bonkers. Finding parking can take a long time and it makes you feel antagonistic like you’re jockeying and fighting with your fellow arts district lovers. I hate that feeling!

Instead, we arrived by bus, thanked our very friendly driver, and proceeded on our way, blissful and free of parking rage.

Give Buses the Right of Way

People have asked me, “Was it faster by bus?” Sadly, no. And this goes back to my other lament about Denver transit: we don’t give buses more “rights” than cars. Buses get gridlocked in traffic just like everybody else. If we want people to take the bus, then the bus needs to be more desirable than the convenience of their cars. We need buses to have more rights on the road, with designated lanes, increased speed limits in those lanes, traffic lights that give bus lanes green lights sooner than other lanes, curb bump-outs for loading and unloading, and more.

Right now, taking the bus is slower than taking a car in Denver. That is a very hard sell for most residents, who have lots of deadlines and errands to take care of every day. (It’s nearly impossible for families with busy kids.

Still, I will keep seeking opportunities to use mass transit because it’s important… and it’s fun!

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