Tired of driving? Here’s how to get around Colorado on public transportation

Routes far outside the RTD service area can take Coloradans across the state

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Ever wanted to take a road trip across the state without slogging through an hours-long drive on highways?

Residents can let public transportation take the wheel on trips to places near and far, including a new long-distance shuttle line that runs from the Denver area to places such as Idaho Springs, Frisco and Vail.

Other bus routes can take you to Fort Collins, Longmont, Colorado Springs and even Grand Junction.

And public transportation can also take you to some destinations in the suburbs you may not be familiar with.

Here’s a look at the public transportation routes that run through these places and more — with a rundown of some attractions along the way.

RTD in the suburbs

You might not think twice when you watch a Regional Transportation District, or RTD, bus roll past, but the bus and rail systems can drop riders close to many scenic areas around town.

Olde Town Arvada, for example, sits along the RTD G Line, a commuter rail line that runs between Union Station in the downtown Denver area and Wheat Ridge. As opposed to RTD’s light rail lines, the commuter rail lines travel at faster speeds.

The historical atmosphere and “social hub” feeling in Olde Town Arvada — near Ralston Road and Wadsworth Boulevard — make it a great place to visit, said Austin Nettleton, a RTD spokesperson.

“That’s pretty much one of my favorite spots to go to — there’s so many cool food and drink places,” said Nettleton, who used to live near that area, in Broomfield, and would go down to the RTD Olde Town Arvada station.

Meanwhile, the N Line can take you from Denver through the north and east suburbs of Commerce City, Thornton and Northglenn.

The N rail line largely weaves through residential areas, but the Northglenn-112th Station — near York Street and 112th Avenue — sits within walking distance of Carpenter Park, a place that offers a laundry list of activities.

“They’ve got a pretty cool skate park there (and) a huge outdoor park. A boathouse, you can rent those little paddle boats. And they’ve got a huge rec center there too,” Nettleton said.

(Paddle boats have been unavailable due to a staffing shortage, the City of Thornton’s website said as of June 12.)

Other Carpenter Park amenities include a carousel, horseshoe pits, sand volleyball courts and a “sprayground” with a spray pad for enjoying in warm weather, according to Thornton’s website.

Near Denver’s southeast edge sits RTD’s Dayton Station along Interstate 225, where riders can exit at a trail connection that leads to Cherry Creek State Park.

“There’s even a bridge that goes across 225 to take you to the mountain bike trails,” Nettleton said, referring to a mountain bike skills area along the paths.

Another destination in the suburbs is Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, a large outdoor concert venue a short walk from RTD’s Arapahoe at Village Center light rail station. The venue in Greenwood Village hosts well-known music artists and sits close to Arapahoe Road and Interstate 25.

Those who don’t live close to a rail station can bike, take a ride-sharing service such as Lyft or catch an RTD bus to get to a station.

Getting farther north

If you’ve been to Boulder, you may have seen the FLEX bus, a non-RTD transit line that serves several places in Colorado’s northern Front Range corridor.

The FLEX route includes stops between Fort Collins, Loveland, Berthoud, Longmont and Boulder. It’s operated by Transfort, a part of the City of Fort Collins government.

“Downtown Fort Collins is full of history, and the sugar beet industry was big in town,” said Anna Russo, a spokesperson for Transfort.

Downtown Fort Collins is also known as one of the places that inspired Disneyland’s Main Street USA, according to Russo.

Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour of downtown’s history, learning about the “architecture, wild characters and iconic historic sites,” according to the tourism website VisitFtCollins.com.

If you’re seeking some color, you can swing by Colorado State University’s Annual Flower Trial Garden. The purpose of the trial garden program is to evaluate the performance of different annual plant cultivars under the unique Rocky Mountain environmental conditions, according to CSU’s website.

“They plant different varieties and different colors of annual flowers, and it’s open to the public. You can walk through them and look,” Russo said.

Nearby in Loveland, visitors can check out the Loveland Museum of Art and History, the Benson Sculpture Garden and the Swim Beach area at Lake Loveland.

“And they can get to those destinations by transferring to City of Loveland transportation from the FLEX,” Russo said.

In the Boulder area, the FLEX line ends at the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

“So that’s a nice area to walk around, and there’s also a museum of natural history on their campus,” Russo said.

Another type of long-distance transit, Bustang, managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation, also connects to the FLEX.

Bustang buses “do pick up at our downtown Fort Collins transit center and the Harmony transfer center at Harmony (Road) and I-25,” Russo said.

That’s another way people coming from the south could connect to transportation in Fort Collins, she said.

Ways to traverse the state

CDOT’s Bustang routes make up a network of paths that run through northern, western, southern and part of eastern Colorado.

Bustang routes go between Fort Collins and Denver, Grand Junction and Denver and Colorado Springs and Denver, according to the service’s website.

Additionally, the “Bustang Outrider” routes go between Lamar, Pueblo and Colorado Springs; Alamosa and Pueblo; Durango and Grand Junction; Crested Butte and Denver; Craig and Denver; and Telluride and Grand Junction, according to the website.

Just last month, the state launched another option for travel along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor with the introduction of Pegasus, CDOT’s new express shuttle that began providing passenger service May 27.

Pegasus was to depart year-round from Union Station in Denver, stopping at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood along with stops in Idaho Springs, Frisco, Vail and Avon, according to a CDOT news release.

A Pegasus shuttle seats up to 11 people, is wheelchair accessible and is equipped with USB ports, power outlets and Wi-Fi. Each vehicle also has luggage storage, bike racks and ski or snowboard containers, according to the news release.

Each Bustang bus is equipped with a restroom, bike racks, free Wi-Fi, power outlets and USB ports, and there are also a wheelchair lift and two wheelchair securement areas on each bus, according to the Bustang website.

Pegasus service runs on weekends, but CDOT plans to expand it to daily service although there isn’t a set date for that yet, said Bob Wilson, a CDOT spokesperson.

The many CDOT routes offer opportunities to explore Colorado’s mountain towns, Wilson said, along with chances to take care of more practical matters.

“It provides people an opportunity if you’re living in Craig, for instance, if you need to see a doctor, you’re able to do that in Denver,” Wilson said.

During the Denver Broncos football season, riders can catch a “Bustang to Broncos” bus, Wilson said. It provides round-trip transportation from both Colorado Springs and Fort Collins to Empower Field at Mile High stadium in Denver.

“So people can not worry about drinking and driving,” Wilson said.

The first Bustang route became operational in July 2015, Wilson said.

It started off only running between Fort Collins and Denver, Colorado Springs and Denver, and Glenwood Springs and Denver, but over the last seven years, the service has expanded to more routes, Wilson said.

“And expansion is expected to continue” as resources and funding allow, he added.

Hearing demand from Front Range and rural areas of Colorado drove the creation of the Bustang service, Wilson said.

“We had heard from a lot of people (that there was no) option to get from locations throughout the state to Denver” unless you had a car, Wilson said.

Randy Wheelock, a Clear Creek County commissioner, welcomed the recent addition of the Bustang Pegasus route.

"Whether addressing local air quality or climate change, or addressing both local and state mobility needs, we must transform how we use our roads,” Wheelock said in the news release. “Pegasus has the potential to be that transformational catalyst, helping us want to change how we travel and building ridership for a more thoughtful transportation future."

The state also offers the Snowstang service during the ski season, providing round-trip service on weekends and holidays from Denver to four resorts: Loveland Ski Area, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs, according to the Bustang website.

FLEX, Bustang, Pegasus, public transportation, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Denver, Colorado, Ellis Arnold

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