What’s in a name? Apparently a lot!

What’s in a name? Apparently a lot!

Cathy Bird, Smart Commute Marketing and Program Manager, talked with RTD Service Planner Nataly Handlos about a recent, and fairly major, name-change to the L/LX/LNX/LSX bus, which provides service from Longmont to downtown Denver along various routes.  Read below for more information about why RTD ultimately chose the new “LD” and “LX” names.

Ever wish you could unlock a secret code? When I was in grade school, writing in code meant excitement and secrecy. Today, it’s hard enough to read my handwriting let alone something I write in symbols!  Nevertheless, I jumped at the chance to dig deeper into RTD’s code for the recent renaming of the L/LX route from Longmont to Denver.

Over the years, various bus routes have taken their names from logical places. The 0 route drives along Broadway, and Broadway is Denver’s east and west street grid divider. Essentially, it is ‘zero-hundred’ block, hence it’s bus route is the 0. The 120 travels along 120th street, the 104 route along 104th. As RTD grew to service areas outside of Denver, local routes carried within their route number the last two digits coming from zip codes – who knew? So back before Boulder developed their kinesthetically-inspired bus names, the SKIP ran through the zip code boundary 80302, hence its original name, 202.

Fast-forward to FasTracks, and RTD added light rail lines to the transit mix and modified bus routes to eliminate redundancy. Following the example of European cities, letters are assigned to rail and numbers to buses. But the RTD system already had bus routes like the B and G! How will anyone figure it out? Thanks to RTD’s hardworking system planners, single letter buses were renamed with double letters: B changed to the BV and BX, G to GS, etc. With the addition of the Flatiron Flyer, its letters are FF and its various branches are numbered 1-5.

Now, let’s circle back to this most recent name adjustment: the L/LX changing to the LD and LX routes. If the rule of thumb delineates rail lines with a single letter (A-line), regional buses with two letters (think AB to DIA or FF for the Flatiron Flyer), and bus routes with numbers (104, 225), then this regional L route wasn’t playing fair. Are you with me on all of this? Good.

The L just had to have another letter, right? But if you know the L/LX routes, you know that there are four (4!) different route maps to learn. To simplify, the L/LX routes run either along SH 287 while the LNX/LSX run along I-25 between Longmont and downtown Denver. In its original iteration, the L/LX referred to local (all regional stops) vs express while the LNX/LSX referenced the north vs south direction out of downtown Longmont.

Are you ready to rename the L/LX/LNX/LSX yet? Before you do, consider another naming convention is that RTD regional routes are typically represented by the first letter of its origin and destination. So now the four “L routes should all be called the LD?!? Oh boy!

Luckily, the super service planners worked to strike a compromise. RTD would rename the L/LX to the LD in order “to be consistent with the current naming conventions.” The LD route serving all stops will be the LD1 while the express route with limited stops is the LD2. The two routes using I-25 will be called the LX, referring to its limited stops and express-like route, but the north and south branches of the route would be distinguished by a 1 or a 2 respectively.  

It’s complicated, to say the least, but if you have followed this winding trail, you can now understand the naming code more clearly. Are there still outliers? Of course! Some of you may already see the next realignment of the LX1/2 and LD1/2 from a mile away, but if not, my lips are sealed. Streamlining the naming of all of RTD’s lines and routes is not an overnight job. But having cracked the code, I am eager to share what I know, especially with those who ride the “L.”

Did You Know?

Smart Commute can over the cost of your first week riding the  LD or LX if you are currently driving solo on a portion of I-25 – check out our I Drive I-25 Program!