Denver Bus Priority Network Study

DOTI is currently working on the Denver Bus Priority Network Study in order to improve transit travel times by supporting smooth bus operations. Denver is moving closer to prioritizing projects to improve bus service where it’s most delayed. These near-term, quick-build projects will keep RTD’s most utilized bus routes running smoothly as Denver recovers from the pandemic. They also allow the City to act quickly to move more people with fewer resources.

This is a major step towards implementing the vision established in
Denver Moves: Transit (Phase 1) and is closely coordinating with the Denver Moves: Transit (Phase 2) program development and corridor prioritization process.

Public Feedback

As part of the Bus Priority Network Study, DOTI recently asked for your feedback on where you see delayed buses, what you see is causing that delay, and what you would prioritize to help improve the experience of riding the bus in Denver.

DOTI received nearly 200 comments on bus routes all over Denver through a public survey, online mapping tool, three focus groups, and a virtual public meeting held in February. Comments included concerns about safety, accessibility, reliability, and delay. Respondents indicated they want to make sure speed doesn’t come at the expense of safety. They also want to see those improvements equitably distributed across Denver.

Bus Priority Network Study Dashboard with a Public Engagement Window of February 2-27, 2022.

Data-Driven Analysis

DOTI also undertook a data-driven analysis of existing bus operations on Denver streets, which involved evaluating metrics such as bus speeds, bus delay, and on-time performance. Summarized results of the delay analysis are shown on the color-coded map below.

Route segments with the most delay are shown in orange, those with some delay are shown in yellow, and those with the least are shown in green. Some segments were screened out since they are already planned for improvements and have advanced to design and/or construction.This map shows the 2019 average daily delay for buses on Denver streets over a 24-hour period.

What's Next

Based on the data-driven analysis and initial public outreach, DOTI identified over 270 bus route segments that are being assessed for a variety of street treatments that will provide bus riders and buses with improved travel time and reliability. Over the next few months, the project team will determine what improvements are feasible on these segments and group them into approximately 65 projects for prioritization.

Once this is complete (summer 2022 anticipated), the public will have an additional opportunity to comment on the draft list of prioritized projects and preliminary concept designs. After incorporating feedback, the concept designs will be advanced in order to develop an implementation plan that outlines a framework for final design and construction of Bus Priority projects.

The timeline to implement all the projects identified in the plan will be dependent on resources and funding, although DOTI anticipates the ability to implement two to four projects per year over the next five years.

Problem areas were determined to move forward into further analysis based on:

5% of segments with highest delay
+ 25% of segments with highest passenger-delay
+ segments on most unreliable and delayed routes
+ segments on most delayed COVID Essential routes
- segments outside of Denver
- segments along already improved/planned corridors
= approximately 270 segments for further analysis

Map of 270 Denver bus route segments DOTI will assess for a variety of street treatments that will provide bus riders and buses with improved travel time and reliability.

Provide Your Input

Sign up here to be on the email list for upcoming engagement opportunities.

Project Information

The purpose of Bus Priority Network Study is to analyze the existing transit network to identify travel time and reliability challenges and opportunities, develop appropriate treatment recommendations for specific corridors, prioritize proposed projects, develop an implementation plan, and provide conceptual designs for the highest priority projects.

Study Goals

  1. Identify the problem
    • Bus delay
      • What are the predominant sources of bus delay in Denver?
      • Where do Denver buses encounter the most delay?
      • Where does delay affect the most bus passengers in Denver?
    • Bus reliability
      • Where can passengers count on their bus being on time? Where is there an issue with bus reliability?
  2. Fix the problem (THIS IS WHERE WE ARE TODAY!)
    • Determine where improvements need to be made.
    • Determine what treatments to use to fix the problem.
  3. Develop a plan for implementation
    • Prioritize projects to improve transit travel time and reliability.
    • Setup a plan for how to move projects forward consistently.

Denver Transit Background

Denver’s first bus-only lanes were introduced on Broadway and Lincoln Street back in 1975 and in 1982 Denver’s first transit-way opened on the 16th Street Mall.  In the 1990’s, transit improvements across the region shifted toward light rail technology with several new rail lines and expansions opening.  This was followed by RTD’s FasTracks program that continued to expand rail service in the region.

With a solid light rail and commuter rail network supporting the metro area, Denver’s transit focus over the last decade has shifted to improving the local and regional bus network.  With the highest ridership in Denver, East Colfax became the top priority for both short-term transit improvements to provide faster and more reliable service for today’s riders, as well as a long-term bus rapid transit investment in the corridor that is bound to attract even more ridership.  The short-term transit improvements along East Colfax Avenue are underway (more information about this exciting project can be found here: 15L Improvement Project | RTD - Denver).

In 2018, RTD completed an analysis to determine which bus corridors in the metro area should be prioritized for similar improvements to allow faster and more reliable service for today’s riders.  As part of this study, conceptual designs were developed for transit improvements along seven RTD corridors, five of which were within Denver (Federal Boulevard, West Colfax Avenue, Downing Street, East 17th & 18th Avenues, and 12th Avenue).  Denver has continued to move these five projects forward with Federal Boulevard and West Colfax Avenue now under final design, East 17th & 18th Avenues budgeted for final design in 2022, 12th Avenue being reconsidered with how to balance transit and bicycle traffic in the area, and improvements to Downing Street being considered as part of other ongoing projects.

In parallel to RTD’s study, Denver had a number of additional projects underway that include significant transit improvements to provide immediate benefits to existing transit riders.  For example, the Denver Moves: Broadway/Lincoln Corridor Study converted the peak-period bus-only lanes to 24-hours and extended the limits of the transit improvements (see Lincoln Transit & Safety Improvements for more information).  Similarly, Denver Moves: Downtown resulted in the implementation of bus-only lanes on 15th Street and 17th Streets in Downtown Denver and the recommendation for bus-only lanes on Market Street, Lawrence Street, and Wazee Street, all of which are budgeted for final design in 2022.  And finally, the 18th/19th Street MetroRide Improvements Project was also recently completed, providing improvements that will benefit not only RTD’s MetroRide, but all routes that utilize the 18th/19th Street corridors in Downtown Denver.

Denver has not only been focusing on the immediate needs to improve transit within the region, but also defining a long-term vision for the future of transit.  Denver Moves: Transit Phase 1 set the vision for a frequent transit network to serve Denver and work towards the goal of achieving 15% transit mode share by 2030.  The plan identified priority corridors to target for improvements ranging from full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to lower-impact treatments such as bus lanes and signal adjustments that intend to enhance the speed and reliability of transit operations.  Denver Moves: Transit Phase 2 is now underway prioritizing the corridors for the long-term vision to develop a program to implement these projects.

This project, the Denver Bus Priority Network Study, is working hand-in-hand with Denver Moves: Transit (Phase 2) in order to prioritize and develop a program to implement the next round of short-term transit improvement projects that will benefit today’s transit riders.