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RTD West Line Countdown at DenverUrbanism!

We’re now only four days away from the grand opening of RTD’s West Line to Golden! To celebrate the occasion, we are doing a five-day countdown over at DenverUrbanism: each day a new transit-related post. Then, after our Opening Day post this Friday, we’ll do another five-day’s worth of transit posts (a “countup”!) to continue the celebration.

Photo credit: Ryan Dravitz

So, make sure you check out DenverUrbanism every day to help commemorate Denver’s rail transit system growing by another 12 miles!

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10 Comments

  1. Dan says:

    Ken,

    I agree with your enthusiasm for the West line – with some reservations. The line has certainly improved the neighborhoods in west Denver and Jefferson Co through which it travels, and I expect that trend to continue with transit oriented development and living. That is already happening in Lakewood near Harlan.

    My enthusiasm is checked by several observations. I traveled the west route monthly watching it’s progress and I also monitored it on the Fast Tracks web site. The construction went very fast – in fact they moved the completion date forward nearly six months. Even then, the systems was for all intents and purposes was complete in November or December 2012 except for the parking garages on Wadsworth and Sheridan. These are not essential for transit to begin in my mind, Further, had the contracts been let sooner, perhaps they would have been complete with the rest of the line. I understand the need to test the system, but 6 months worth? This is a tax-payer funded system and it should generate revenue as soon as it safely can. I am watching the East and Gold line construction also. It is remarkable how quickly they are being constructed as well, yet they are not scheduled for opening until 2016 – 3 years from now. I am very encouraged about the ‘private’ part of the partnership to construct and operate these lines. I fully expect they will be ready for operation way before 2016, and I hope they start up much sooner than 2016. Hopefully by early or mid 2015.

    My other reservations have to do with the feasibility of light rail in a metro area of our size. Economic studies have shown that they are only feasible in much larger and more dense metro areas – approaching 10 million people, That concern is offset by the fact that the cost to use Fast Tracks is high – $10 one way to the outer reaches, so it has some prospect of paying for itself without further subsidy. If a person’s travel needs were always point to point and within walking distance at those points, then transit is a good solution, but that includes a very small percentage commuters. There are also the economics of a simple trip to a Rockies or Broncos game for, say, 4 peopIe from Highlands Ranch. The light rail transport cost alone would be $80 vs driving and parking might be $25-40. Then there is the controversy about which lines were built first. The east line serving the airport clearly should have been built first – certainly before SW, SE, West and “Five Points” line, but I understand completely this was all about politics. I predict the east line will be immensely popular – it will pay for itself by people saving on parking costs alone. I have used the transit from O’hare to Chicago and Hartsfield (Atlanta) to the suburbs dozens of times – how convenient (though subsidized). I live on the west side and I have trouble seeing how the West line will be successful, especially compared to the SE line.

    I am fully aware of the ‘bigger picture’ of global warming, pollution, congestion, and so on. I have factored those notions into my thoughts. We’re too far down the road to stop transit development and I don’t want that. I do want that development to learn from it’s past and be more economically responsible and wise about its decisions. They have not been awful, but they can be much better in my mind.

    • James says:

      I see your points however regarding the ‘lack of density’. Your right that we are not at an optimal however we are still a young city with lots of empty lots to fill. These routes increase the area in which the current urban footprint can be renewed effectively. In time the densities will appear along these lines as would not ever happen without them in the appropriate concentration. So in the long run I think its all gonna work out.

    • Freddie says:

      Dan, I don’t think the size of the city has much to do with mass transit feasibility and somehow I doubt these studies that show a city must have 10 million people in order for light rail to work really exist (unless they’re being funded by anti-rail political organizations). It’s all about density. The MUNI light rail network in San Francisco works great even though it only serves a city of about 800,000 – because of SF’s density. And of course Europe has many great examples of small, yet dense cities where mass transit is totally efficient. Now metro Denver is obviously not dense enough to achieve the same mass-transit viability as SF or most European cities, but the idea (at least partially) is sort of an if-you-build-it-they-will-come philosophy. The ‘burbs were designed to be accessible only by car and developed with only the automobile in mind and therefore sprawl. If you start making them accessible via rail, TOD develops around it, naturally, over time, and the whole equation changes. Will Fastracks actually play out this way? I don’t know. I feel like the lines that cut through a neighborhood should but I have my doubts about the whole hug-a-massive-noisy-freeway design.

      As for the $10 fair? I just hope your wrong. It’s not really $10 is it? If that’s the case, I’m a bit heartbroken as I don’t see any way this thing succeeds because no one’s gonna use it. It should be $2-ish local, and $4-ish “express” like every other city I’ve ever been to including New York. If getting to your job downtown via rail is $20 round-trip then it’s a no-brainer: buy a car.

      • Freddie says:

        Come to think of it, I don’t really have any experience living in the suburbs and I’ve never really had any reason to travel to the edge of suburbia from any city I’ve visited, so I could be wrong about what a typical, *truly* long-distance fair is. If I remember correctly, getting from SF to some distant suburb on the BART did cost like 6 bucks or something. But nevertheless, the $10 fair still sounds astronomical to me. Hopefully Denver gets (if they don’t have it already) some kind of “Fastpass” or whatever for frequent commuters so you can ride all you want for some nominal monthly fee – like $50. I used to buy MUNI passes in SF and they were dirt cheap.

    • BoulderPatentGuy says:

      Your prices are double. It’s $10 r/t for the County LIne/Lincoln stations only. The max fare on the W is $4 one way, so a family of 4 can go to a Bronco/Rockies game for $32 from Golden. This isn’t cheap, by any means, but it’s cheaper than the $80 you quote, and in-line with the $25-40 parking.

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Thanks to the others who had a chance to reply before I did. Dan, let’s research the facts first before commenting, OK?

      Also, to ask the question if light rail is viable in a city Denver’s size is kind of silly… we’ve had light rail for almost 20 years now, and by all accounts, it’s a success.

  2. Mark Barnhouse says:

    Great photo, Ryan!

    On another subject entirely: what about the new 21-story hotel at 14th & Glenarm I read about today? Might we see a post about that project soon?

  3. Jim Nash says:

    Ken, as a kid in 1947, I rode that old streetcar from our house on Kline Street in Lakewood, just a block from the old stop at 14th and Kipling. My dad rode the Yellow Dragon to work downtown. Then he bought our first family car, and we all forgot about the trolley, that quietly disappeared. By then I was a second-grader at Eiber Elementary, right next to the street crossing along the old line, occasionaly used for freight. Soon I’ll ride the W from Union Station to Golden, through Lakewood, where I grew up. The Denver Urbanism series is excellent reporting, a living history of subburbia connected. In LA the latest transit-oriented density controversy is over How Tall?, in Hollywood. Mayoral Villaraigosa calls the development next to a subway station Elegent Density, but are two 40-story towers next to the old Capitol Records building too tall? The three cranes have stood motionless for months, while constituencies fight. Looks like tall will win out, blocking some multi-million-dollar views from the Hollywood Hills of the city below. So a battle over a 20 or 30-story building next to a rail station in the Denver area will have the same components: Tall iconic point towers next to big rail stations concentrate that urban density that makes people ride rail, bike and walk more. These rail lines are stimulating directed, thoughful growth throughout the Denver Region. How many years are we from a Front Ranger fast commuter train, from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs, through Union Station? Ken, Ryan and all, thanks for your on-going documentation of our city being transformed!