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Car Free Living – Boulder Colorado

Boulder, Colorado

Located in a beautiful setting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains about 25 miles northwest of Denver. Boulder is an active community that is surrounded by publicly owned open space. Because Boulder is a compact community (basically eight miles across), it is fairly easy for bicyclists to reach most areas of the city. There is a system of trails and parks that the general public can access for recreation year round.

Boulder is home to the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) which creates a diverse culture and activities such as the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the World Affairs Conference, academic lectures, speakers from across the globe, film festivals, athletic events of all types and more.

There are approximately 30,000 students, and approximately 7,000 faculty and Staff.

Restaurants offer many types of cuisine ranging from continental, French, Italian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Nepalese, and many others. One of the last operating Chautauqua centers is alive and well on the west side of Boulder at one of the major access points to Boulder Open Space.

Boulder’s active living environment is supported by over 350 miles of bikeways, 75 underpasses, a greenways network of multiuse paths, mountain parks and trails, three community mountain parks and trails, three community recreation centers, multiple neighborhood and community parks.

Boulder is a regional employment hub with the University of Colorado, IBM, federal labs, the active living industry, biotech and high tech employers and many other employers calling Boulder their home.

All of these activities are accessible without a car. The University, restaurants, trail heads, employment centers and many activities are easy to reach by foot, bicycle and by transit.

Where is public transportation available?

Most parts of the city of Boulder are within one half mile of scheduled transit service. Certain parts of the city have access to bus service from 7am to 7pm on weekdays along the HOP, SKIP, JUMP, BOUND and STAMPEDE routes.

Go to to map the transit routes in the city of Boulder.

Boulder is part of the Denver region. Many parts of the Denver region have all day, evening and weekend service. For details about where public transportation is available in the Denver region, see Car Free Living – Denver.


What specific transit routes (bus, light rail, etc.) operate seven days a week?

Many routes operate seven days per week including the HOP, SKIP, JUMP, BOUND, DASH, BOLT, 203, 204, 205, 206, 208, AB, B, G, H, and T services. For more information you can go to to learn about specific routes that service the Boulder community.

What neighborhoods and communities have seven-day transit service?

The most convenient neighborhoods for transit service currently are along the SKIP/Broadway corridor in Boulder. Both local and regional service is available seven days per week in Table Mesa, Martin Acres, University Hill and Downtown Boulder and South Boulder Road. Local service with easy transfer access to regional service in downtown Boulder is available along north Broadway neighborhoods. Easy access to local service is available along 30th Street and Arapahoe Avenue

Five Boulder Neighborhoods recommended for car-free living

Many of the neighborhoods listed below have neighborhood transit passes that the neighborhoods organize to buy from the RTD. These passes are photo IDs that are good for unlimited access to RTD’s entire transit system including local, express, regional bus and rail services. Otherwise many Boulder businesses and the University of Colorado provide ECO Passes to their employees. The University of Colorado provides similar unlimited-use transit passes to all students, faculty and staff.

Martin Acres

Located in south Boulder east of Broadway, west of US 36 and south of Baseline Road. Martin Acres is one of the more affordable sections of Boulder. It was developed after the 1950’s just east of the federal labs and

south of the CU campus. Martin Acres has access to the Basemar shopping center and the Table Mesa shopping center, with grade separated crossings of major roadways provided through the city’s Greenways Program. These shopping centers have grocery stores, restaurants, convenience shopping, coffee shops, and other amenities.

Schools range from preschool to elementary, middle and high school. One high school, Fairview is easy to reach by bike. Martin Acres has easy access to city of Boulder-owned open space. Regional and local transit access is rich, alongBroadway and Table Mesa in particular, with easy access to locations throughout Boulder, plus regional connections to neighboring communities, downtown

Denver and Denver International Airport.

Table Mesa

Table Mesa neighborhoods are generally considered north and south of Table Mesa and west of Broadway. The shopping center has a full service grocery store, restaurants, convenience shopping, coffee shops, and other amenities.

Underpasses under Broadway provide access into and out of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there are no underpasses within the neighborhood itself.

There are schools ranging from preschool to elementary, middle and high school. Table Mesa also has a branch library, a close-by recreation center, and easy access to city of Boulder-owned open space. Regional and local transit access is rich, along Broadway and Table Mesa in particular, with easy access to locations throughout Boulder as well as regional connections to neighboring communities, downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.


Downtown Boulder centers around the crossing of the Pearl Street Mall and Broadway with sub-neighborhoods known by names such as Whittier, Mapleton Hill, 9th Street and other areas. This area is one of the more historic parts of Boulder, where carriage steps and horse ties can still be found.

The neighborhoods are known for their tight grid pattern, older trees and vegetation, access to Pearl Street Mall shopping and restaurants and easy access to a multimodal network for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. Newer mixed-use development is adjacent to historic sections of Boulder and the award-winning outdoor pedestrian shopping district, the Pearl Street Mall.

Boulder’s first venture into its growing Greenways Program (providing pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, flood mitigation and habitat restoration along Boulder’s extensive creek system) runs right through downtown along the Boulder Creek Greenway and multiuse path. Boulder’s main branch library, Boulder High School, multiple churches and places for worship, parks, the center of city and county governments, offices, retail stores, and other amenities populate the downtown area.

Boulder’s main transit hub is located in the heart of downtown at 14th and Walnut with access to many local and regional attractions including DIA, downtown Denver, many destinations in Boulder and even skiing at the ski resort closest to Boulder:

Eldora Mountain.

University Hill

Across Broadway from the main campus for the University of Colorado, University Hill is also known as one of Boulder’s more historic districts. This community is nestled between Boulder’s notable flatirons at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and the main campus for CU that edCUates close to 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

University Hill has a shopping and entertainment district that is heavily influenced by student clientele. It also has excellent access to trails and open space, including Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Park. The campus hosts the Colorado Shakespeare Festival every summer, the annual Conference on World Affairs, numerous lectures by notable figures from across the globe, an international film festival, numerous sporting events and other activities and attractions.

Broadway, as noted previously, is a multimodal corridor providing transit access regionally and locally to many destinations. Broadway, particularly from downtown along the campus to South Boulder, is Boulder’s best example of a Complete Street where all modes of travel are easily accessible.

North Boulder

Located on both sides of Broadway, North Boulder has excellent access to local transit, schools, shopping, a recreation center, parks and open space. Regional transit is a transfer away at the downtown station at 14th and Walnut.

Housing in North Boulder tends to be more expensive than housing in south Boulder, though specific locations in each area can vary depending on housing type and proximity to open space. Forest Glen is a sub area in North Boulder that voted to assess its property owners a mill levy to provide all of the neighborhood unlimited-use transit passes.

Transit is a good way to get most places in Boulder

The main library, a senior center and municipal government are all downtown. Shopping centers and another senior center are accessible by transit. The new 29th Street Mall development has the HOP service running directly along “29th Street” with special HOP stops. The two main hospitals in Boulder are along the SKIP and JUMP routes.

Visitors should stay in Downtown Boulder

Downtown Boulder is a great area to walk and take public transportation. The

main transit center, the Pearl Street Mall and Boulder Creek Path are all located in downtown. Other locations are also accessible sCUh as the Marriott adjacent to The

Village Shopping Center where the HOP conveniently connects to downtown,

29th Street and the CU campus.

Commuting by transit can be easy, depending where you live

It’s very easy to commute by bus especially if you live near Broadway or other high frequency transit corridors including the JUMP, BOUND, HOP, STAMPEDE DASH and BOLT. Regional bus service along US 36 (the B and BX) is excellent.

Boulder is an exceptionally bike-friendly community!

Boulder has over 300 miles of bike lanes, routes, and designated shoulders, plus 75 underpasses associated with its Greenways and transportation system. Even though Boulder has the four seasons of weather, the area averages 300 sunny days per year and there are many people who ride year round. Both recreational cyclists and commuting cyclists use Boulder’s extensive bicycle system. After RTD originally piloted a bike-racks-on-buses program in Boulder, all transit buses in the Boulder-Denver area have bike racks on them. Bikes are also allowed on RTD’s light rail system in Denver and south of Denver.

Marni Ratzel: Boulder’s Biking Coordinator, adds, “Since 1989, the city of Boulder has installed an average of one mile of off-street path and 5 miles of on-street bike lanes, and constrCUted an average of two underpasses per year.  This year we celebrated the opening of three new bike/pedestrian underpass projects along our greenway paths. 

“Currently, Boulder offers over 350 facility miles for biking including 74 underpasses.  Cyclists may travel over 8 miles without crossing a roadway by biking along our greenway paths. Our robust system of bike facilities provides excellent opportunities for commuter cyclists seeking a direct route on the road and for recreational cyclists wanting to bike along off-street paths separated from motor vehicles.  

“A good resource for helping cyclists get around town by bike is which makes commuting by bike in Boulder more convenient by a web-based routing application.  An online bike route mapping tool, enables users to input their trip origin and trip destination and retrieve a map of the recommended travel route along with turn by turn directions from start to end point”

Boulder is a good retirement choice for active people!

Boulder is a great place to retire without a car.. It’s especially good for seniors who remain active and want to take advantage of all there is to do outdoors plus the restaurants, shopping and cultural activities available in Boulder.

RTD’s bus system described earlier allows easy transit access to Denver

and its events and activities that take place throughout the year. It also provides public access to mountain trails and open space, etc. There also is an effective paratransit service for seniors and those with disabilities. The service is called Special Transit and it serves all of Boulder County.

Any other suggestions for people considering living or vacationing here?

There is a convenient regional bus (AB) that will take you from DIA to Downtown

Boulder along Table Mesa and South Broadway.

Transit rider gives Boulder high grades for its bus service

Elizabeth Swanner is a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder

who has lived in Martin Acres since moving here a few years ago. She uses RTD buses

as her primary transportation.

Swanner explains why she gave up her car: “I gave up my car when I moved to Boulder. It was a realization that I didn’t use it. I was taking advantage of buses to get around because of a pass I had from the University.” (The regular cost for a monthly pass is $79 per month, or $869 for an annual pass—12 months for the cost of 11.)

My income was about to drop due to starting school. I realized also that all of the expenses for the car (payment, insurance, gas, etc.) totaled about $400/month, and I drove it about twice a week. So it cost me $50 every time I used it. Even without a pass, the bus is only $2.25 a ride and no headaches.”

Riding the bus isn’t always easy. Shopping is moderately easy (“I have to plan

this a little more.”), but great for recreation (“I use this to go skiing at our local resort,

and it is quite convenient.”) and getting to work (“The bus stop is two-minute walk.

The bus comes every 15 minutes during morning and evening rush hours.”).

Swanner walks to medical appointments because they are on campus.

Why else does she use the bus? . “I use the bus to go to Denver to see friends, shop, attend professional conferences. Using the bus to go to and from the airport is really great, and cheap even without a pass.”

The biggest challenge is transfers: “You think it isn’t that hard to figure out, but when schedules loop or change schedules on the weekends, sometimes I get mixed up, miss buses or end up waiting.”

On the other hand, Swanner saves a lot of money by not driving. She explains,

“Finances are difficult for a student whose income is $1500/mo ($400 of that to a car?). The decision to get rid of the car gave me a lot of financial freedom and has allowed me to save for future investments, retirements, not to mention getting out of debt instead of going deeper during graduate school.

Whenever I am in a car I always comment I’m glad I don’t have one because it is annoying! You have to stop for gas, look for the lowest price, deal with traffic, etc. In good weather I ride my bike everywhere and it is so much less stressful not needing to deal with traffic lights, etc. (we have great bike paths in Boulder). It is a great way to wind down after work – biking home. It’s also a fun challenge – once I went garage

sale-ing with a bike and trailer and brought home a file cabinet. I’ve also tried new things like the cruiser ride and an overnight bike trip.”

On a scale of 1-10 (1 is the lowest, and 10 is the highest) Swanner explains why she gives Boulder a 7 for being a place where it is easy to live well without owning a car:

“I would give it a 7 because of the Eco-Pass (bus pass from the University) and the bike paths, bike racks, etc. Colorado is a great place to recreate, but unfortunately, there are few buses going up to skiing, or the trains are really expensive and only leave from Denver. That is the one area where I end up riding in cars with friends, to go skiing or something fun in the mountains. It’s part of the lifestyle here, but there isn’t mCUh option on how to take advantage of the great recreational resources without a car or access to a car.

“Also, it is a diffuse enough area (population, developed areas) that even though bus coverage is pretty good, lots of places aren’t covered. This leads to more transfers and difficulty getting to certain places. I think this discourages people from riding the

bus outside of city centers, etc.

Swanner offers these suggestions and observations for others who are considering

moving to Boulder without a car: “The neighborhood I live in is bordered by two main streets, which are served by many bus routes. There are several neighborhoods that are linked well to Boulder and beyond, and others that are decently linked to Boulder with transfers to other places.

“It’s no New York City, but I think for a western US city it is pretty remarkable, and Denver is comparable. A lot of people do have cars, and are willing to carpool, so there are sometimes more options than just the bus.”

What You Need to Know

City or Region: Boulder, Colorado

Population: City of Boulder 105,000

Name of Transit Provider: Regional Transportation District (RTD)

Phone Number: (303) 299-6000

Customer Service Phone Hours:

Monday-Friday: 6:00am to 8:00pm

Weekends and Holidays: 9:00am to 6:00pm

Web Site:

Days and Hours Transit Service Operates:

RTD service operates seven days per week; Approximate hours include:

Local Service – 5:10am to 12:30am on weekdays and

7:00am to 11:00pm on weekends depending on service

Special Night HOP service in Boulder goes until 2:30am on certain nights);

Regional Service – 4:30am to 1:00am depending on service and

Regional Airport service 3:30am to 11:00pm

Where is the nearest Airport? Is it served by public transit??

Denver International Airport is served by RTD buses

Where is the nearest Train Station? Is it served by local transit?

Denver Union Station, at Wazee and 16th Street in downtown Denver,

Is served by RTD regional buses..

Where is the nearest Bus Terminal? Is it served by local transit?

Boulder’s Bus Terminal, 14th and Walnut Streets in Downtown Boulder,

is served by local RTD buses.

Other Local Transit Providers serving this region or metro area:

Special Transit Boulder County (303) 447-2848

More information about public transportation in Denver and the Denver region can be found in Car Free Living – Denver.

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