Bus, Light Rail Make Denver Accessible

Posted August 5, 2008 at 10:34am

The Mile High City might be vast and crowded, but it also offers extensive public transportation to help navigate its 79 neighborhoods.

Light rail and buses have stops at almost every corner of the city, taking commuters from the downtown bars to the quiet neighborhoods of Wellshire and everywhere in between.

More buses will be on the streets for the week of the Democratic National Convention, when about 35,000 people will descend on the area. And private shuttles will take delegates from their hotels to the Pepsi Center.

With so many options, getting around can get a little confusing.

The Basics

Three different kinds of buses serve the city: local, limited and express. The local buses are in dense areas — like downtown — and make frequent stops. Limited buses follow the same routes but skip some stops, sometimes even taking shortcuts. And express buses come from outlying residential areas, stopping only at major employment areas.

Limited and local buses cost $1.75 a ride, while express buses cost $3. Be sure to bring exact change or buy a 10-ride ticket book at a station to avoid a pocketful of dollars and quarters. It’s also a few bucks cheaper.

Taking light rail is more straightforward. It’s Denver’s version of Metro — but a little more like a trolley — and offers six lines with 36 stations. Fares range from $1.75 to $4, depending on where you’re going.

Although convention week promises to be full of protesters and parades, city officials say public transportation won’t be interrupted. Traffic will be diverted in some areas, but the city worked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the host committee to devise a comprehensive transportation plan.

From the Airport

Getting to the city from Denver International Airport (and vice versa) is an easy and cheap bus ride. SkyRide buses — which are specifically for getting to and from DIA — run from 3:30 a.m. to 1:10 a.m. and go to every region of the city.

Buy a ticket at the sales counter on level five in the airport, right outside door 506. Or, if you’re going to the airport, go to rtd-denver.com to see the routes and stops. There are five routes, and fares are either $7, $9 or $11. The buses accept only exact change, or you can buy a ticket in advance.

If money is not an issue, just take a taxi. Delegates will be staying in hotels in three areas of the city: downtown, Stapleton and the Denver Tech Center. Rates are $2.50 for the first one-ninth of a mile and 25 cents for each additional one-ninth, plus assorted charges for extra people and bags. There are also flat rates to downtown ($43) and Denver Tech Center ($45).

From Hotels to Convention Center

The DCCC will be offering shuttles from delegates’ hotels to the convention, and each hotel should know the details. For those who miss a shuttle or aren’t served by one, light rail and bus stops are located just outside the Pepsi Center.

The C and E light-rail lines have a Pepsi Center stop, which drops passengers off across the street. Get a ticket at one of the machines, or if you have a 10-ride booklet, validate one of the tickets at a “ticket validator” machine. Then just follow the protesters and the TV cameras.

Several buses also have stops in front of the Pepsi Center. Go to rtd-denver.com and use the “Trip Planner” to plan your route. You can also call the Regional Transportation District at 303-299-6000 to talk to someone who will plan your route for you.

From the Convention to Hot Spots

Many of Denver’s bars and museums are concentrated in the center of the city, but getting to some places is easier than others. The Colorado state Capitol, for example, can only be reached by bus or taxi — or by a two-mile walk from the Pepsi Center. Those looking for some jazz history can hop on the light rail and get off at Downing Station.

Luckily, the Pepsi Center is located right next to Lower Downtown, or LoDo, a historic section of Denver that offers a variety of restaurants, galleries and nightlife.

Walk a few blocks, and you’re there.

Also nearby is the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade that features outdoor cafés, skyscrapers and stores. Free shuttle buses run along it constantly.