RTD’s A Line grew fast in hard times


DENVER (KDVR) — Since its debut five years ago, the RTD University of Colorado A Line has shuttled millions to Denver International Airport. It hasn’t been a cheap or smooth ride.

The University of Colorado A Line, or the A Line, has lived through hard times for public transit in its short years.

RTD ridership was already plummeting around Denver in 2019, a year before the pandemic hit. Internal reports say RTD failed to hit its reliability and safety goals, meanwhile raising fares to the most expensive rate of any comparably-sized American city.

A year later, the pandemic gutted RTD ridership by as much as 90%.

Against this backdrop, the A Line now commands arguably the largest role in RTD’s budget. Only the 16th Street Mall rail has more boardings.

A fifth of RTD’s rail boardings were on the A Line in 2019, the most recent figures available. It took only three years to double to this point. In 2016, it accounted for only 10% of boardings. By 2019, it accounted for 17.5% of RTD rail boardings.

Earnings from fares went up along with the ridership. By 2019, 36% of RTD’s fares come from the A Line alone.

It takes more than 17% of RTD’s budget, however. According to service figures, the A line is the RTD’s most expensive rail.

Ridership doubled since opening, but expense rose even more quickly.

In the first three years it was open, the A line’s operations expenses quadrupled. In 2016, the airport commuter line had a $44.8 million operations cost. By 2019, that had grown to $171.4 million.

That boost in operating cost made it the single largest percentage of the RTD’s total operating budget.

In 2016, the A line took 17% of the RTD operating budget. Three years later, it took 38% – four times as much of the operations expenses as the next most expensive rail line, the E line.

This means the airport line has taken up its share more of taxes, which fund the majority or RTD’s budget. Fares, by contrast, paid for 6% of RTD’s cost in 2019.

Every rider that boards an RTD vehicle pays a fare and also costs an additional amount of money from other sources. The A-line costs the most per person to subsidize than any other line except the G line, which carries only a fraction of the people a fraction of the distance as the airport line.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Most Read

Top Stories

More Home Page Top Stories