The Ultimate Transit Guide: Denver and Boulder

Let’s be honest, transit in Colorado has been more miss than hit for many years. There are many reasons for this primarily the fact that we love our cars and are a gas producing state. There really weren’t a lot of incentives for people to use public transit in past years. Fortunately, things have changed and I’m happy to report that public transit has become a major part of growing the Denver/Boulder corridor. If you are: a tourist, just arrived, or just not into cars this guide will give you some ideas on how to approach living in the Denver/Boulder Metro region without a car.

Types of Transit

Currently we have several different types of transit available to residents. These include the following:

  • Bus (RTD)-Denver’s major transit hub is located in Union Station
  • The Light Rail-The major transit hub is located at Union Station. The other main stop for the Light Rail in Downtown Denver is located on 16th and Stout going South or 16th and California going North.
  • Bustang-Located in Union Station
  • Fast Tracks* April 22, 2016
  • Uber/Lyft
  • Car Share Programs-Car2Go/Zipcar
  • Taxi


Before you use any of these services make sure to take the time to understand how the services work. Also, when you take the bus you must have exact change-the bus driver will not be able to make change for you!

Bus Fares

I will say this again-you must have EXACT CHANGE. Or, if you’re at a light rail station or at Union Station you may have the option to use your credit or debit card but I would still strongly recommend having cash on you just in case oh and EXACT CHANGE LOL!

  • $2.60 One way if you pay for the fare on the bus make sure to request a transfer which will enable you to take another bus typically going in a different direction. *The light rail is $2.60 one way but you won’t be able to get a transfer.
  • $5.20-Day pass! Awesome fare. If you are taking the bus and hoping on to the light rail taking a minimum of 3 trips in one day this is the absolute best price and value. When they say Day Pass they mean DAY PASS for the entire day which is pretty awesome.
  • $9-Regional Day Pass-If you are in Denver and would like to go to Boulder for a day trip. Or, Boulder to Denver this is what you will end up paying. This is also the price for the fare when you’re taking the Fast Tracks train to Denver International Airport


The bus is super easy to take but I wanted to share some tips and tricks so that you look like a pro when you take the bus. The bus runs throughout the Denver/Boulder metro region but depending on where you’re going you may or may not get frequent service. The main transit hub in Denver is located at Union Station. In Boulder the main transit hub is located at 14th and Walnut one bloc from the Pearl Street pedestrian mall.

  • Local Service-Are the buses that originate in the city centers of Denver and Boulder and travel within those cities. For example, if you are in Boulder and catch a bus that only runs in the city of Boulder that is considered local service.The light rail is considered local within the first 2 transit zones.
  • Regional Service-Travel from Denver to Boulder or one way via Sky Ride Bus (Sky Ride service ends the end of April 2016 when Fast Tracks Starts-the train to DIA) Also, regional service covers all three light rail zones. If you take the bus from Denver to Boulder that is considered a regional fare/trip.
    • The Flatiron Flyer is a regional bus that runs pretty frequently between Denver and Boulder. The ride frequency increased in 2016 and it’s a fantastic and long overdue change.
  • Going to the Mountains-If you would like to go to the mountains using public transportation please click HERE for more information.
  • Towns You Can Visit From Denver-Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Frisco, Breckenridge, Vail, Nederland. Please refer to the Going to the Mountains post.


Light Rail

I love taking the light rail. My only pet peeve (or pet hate if you’re English) is that people putting their nasty a@@ feet on the seats like they are at their house. Ahem. Let me focus. Other than that-I love the light rail. It’s super easy to use and pretty quick. I will say that occasionally people get hit by the light rail or a car does so make sure that doesn’t happen to you. The light rail will always win.

Pay your fare! There are security personal/fare checkers who will check that you have the fare. People are pretty good about paying their fare.

You can purchase a ticket using cash or credit at any light rail station.

Denver:  Free Mall Shuttle 

There are two types of free mall shuttles that transport people in Downtown Denver. The first is…ahem..the Free Mall Shuttle. It is a white shuttle that goes up and down the 16th Street Mall running during peak hours almost every 2-5 minutes. You can hop on the Free Mall Shuttle from Union Station and then basically every block from Union Station to Civic Center Station*  I should mention that at this point Civic Center Station is like the Red Headed Stepchild. I would not recommend lingering there if it is your final destination. City Council and RTD are currently working on plans to upgrade Civic Center. The upgrade is long overdue-just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Free Metro Ride

Runs along 18th and 19th streets and I think that these two services are great for people who have kids, are wheelchair-bound, etc. The Free Metro Ride is a long green bus that you can catch from Union Station or just outside of Civic Center Station (CCS). If you’re at CCS at aren’t sure where to catch it just ask the information booth person or one of the bus drivers. The Free Metro Ride runs during the peak hours of: 6:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. or 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

Pedi Cabs and Tuk Tuks (Denver)

You will see a ton of pedi cabs-people riding bikes with seats attached to them. They typically run on 16th Street and then to the Pepsi Center/Coors Field/basically the city center. Tip your pedi cab “driver” well!

Tuk Tuks are mini electric cars that typically are found in Asia. Well, we have them too. Etuk Denver operates in Downtown Denver. Click HERE for more information.

The Hop (Boulder)

Is a mini white bus that runs in a circle clockwise/counter clock wise around Boulder. The Hop stops are indicated by a white circle with a Bunny on it. Be careful in Boulder because they also have: The Skip, Leap, Jump, and Long Jump. The hop runs frequently throughout the day. Please note: schedules are affected by the University’s schedule. If you are visiting during the summer the schedule will not be as frequent.


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