Denver Union Station Update #125

Amtrak’s return to Denver Union Station was a great event and we were able to get a great look at the new train hall canopy. In case you missed it, head on over to DenverUrbanism to check it out! In this update, we are going to revisit the canopy during the day.

Even during the day, this structure is awe striking; not to mention very large. While walking through the platforms, you will notice that  this train hall will serve both as a very functional train station and a great open public space.



Shelter from the weather was a very popular subject when the station was under construction and, given the station is almost complete, Amtrak will have the only covered platforms. Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. When it is precipitating it would be nice to have some kind of shelter. Shelter, however, can be found everywhere. there are large areas of the train hall that are covered, including platform 1 which is reserved for the A-Line to Denver International Airport. You can also seek shelter under Amtrak’s platform 3, which is a central point between all of the other platforms, inside the historic structure and down in the underground bus facility. I was more concerned about the ice that was under all of the platforms. Because of the brand new concrete, ice melt cannot be used yet. Fear not, I was assured by a Denver Transit Partners supervisor that this will not be a problem next winter.


Here are two additional pictures of the station: The covered walkway to the historic station, and the 18th Street pedestrian bridge. The metal fence over the tracks on the pedestrian bridge looks sharp and will still be able to provide a great view to watch trains go to and from the station!


Last but not least, here is an example of the signage that will be used throughout the station. It is very straight forward with different icons and colors depending on the mode of transportation you are taking.

This will be the last time we visit Denver Union Station’s train hall canopy until its grand opening on May 9th. We will see you then!


  1. Jason March 3, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I like how the mall ride and the Amtrak sign are the same shade of magenta. And the Amtrak sign only appears on the bridge.

  2. Dave March 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Even more great pictures of a beautiful station! One disagreement though. I use the train where I live to get to work on a daily basis and know the value of being able to stand under shelter while waiting to board as close to the best part of train as possible. I find it ridiculous the architects did not cover the canopies on all of the inner platforms. Luckily they look like they can be easily retrofitted and I have a feeling they will be once those who actually use the train regularly start pointing out this glaring flaw. I mean who wants to wait for their train in inclement weather on the edge of the main canopy and then make a mad dash halfway across the station just to board when it arrives?

    • Jeffrey March 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

      I agree. This project has some serious design flaws.

    • bryan March 4, 2014 at 10:22 am

      so true…a great way to miss your train is to wait on the wrong platform…terrible miss in an otherwise great project – let the retrofitting begin.

  3. Richard March 4, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Are the platforms open to the general public now?

    • Brent March 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      No, definitely no.

    • Randy March 9, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      Yes. I was there today.

  4. […] By Ryan Dravitz […]

  5. […] By Ryan Dravitz […]

  6. Dan March 4, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I agree with Dave. This is just hard to understand. I thought that they left it off the renderings in order to better show the effect of the design before it was built. I never suspected they never intended to cover these canopies. If that was the intention, isn’t the frame just a big and expensive metal sculpture? Couldn’t we have saved some money and done without it? I think commuters have tolerance for the open air on most of the beautiful Colorado days and nights, but little tolerance on the 30-50 days when the weather is challenging. This creates an unnecessarily dangerous situation. Ryan may be correct about the immediate intent to leave these uncovered, but I suspect that commuters will complain so loudly that these canopies will eventually be covered. Imagine waiting for a train to DIA with all your family and luggage in a driving rain or snow storm. Imagine if you are in a wheel chair or physically challenged or a senior citizen. Imagine if you are from another city. Will being exposed to the weather like this impress you or foster criticism?

    • Nathanael March 4, 2014 at 10:33 pm

      The early renderings showed those canopies covered, FWIW. Seriously, it should be possible to cover them with the same fabric as the “big canopy”.

      A bigger problem is the lack of cover on the East Rail line. The “big canopy” provides remarkably little cover on platform 1. Look at it carefully — it only covers 1/3 of the width of the platform, and that includes the “yellow warning line” which you’re not supposed to stand on. People will cluster on the yellow warning line to get under cover, which is really not good.

      Worst canopy design ever. Oh well. It should be possible to retrofit it, even on platform 1. Start budgeting now!

  7. eracer March 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Beautiful station, and great shots!

    Regarding the covered canopies, I completely agree. It might be different if it were commuter only, but this is also going to the airport. Those people have luggage that they will want to keep out of the weather, and doing so might mean they have to stand away from their train. They then would have to scurry with their bags to get on the train when it pulls in. Very much a glaring omission in my opinion. Why even have those canopies at all? They had to be expensive and provide no purpose other than holding a few lights, speakers, and signs, which could have been done on simple poles.

  8. Lance Newcomb March 4, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    What is the point of a canopy if it does little to nothing to protect people from the weather? This station is a great example of form over function and its sad taxpayer money was wasted on this “art”.
    The fact Amtrak has to stop and back into the station is another major design flaw. As soon as the Pepsi Center destroyed the right of way out of the station Amtrak should have dropped Union station as its stopping point and built their own.

    • Nathanael March 4, 2014 at 10:26 pm

      FWIW, Amtrak has always had to back in and out of the station — ever since the trains to Pueblo went away, which happened before Amtrak.

      Unfortunately there’s no sane place to put a “through” station along Amtrak’s east-west route in Denver; you could put it somewhere along the Gold Line (Pecos?), but it’s industrial and then suburban; or you could put it along the North Metro line (Stock Show?), but it’s again industrial. It makes more sense for Amtrak to have a downtown stop, even if it requires the tedious back-in maneuver. Denver is where Amtrak switches from UP to BNSF and it makes sense for Amtrak to schedule a long break there anyway.

      • Jim Nash March 5, 2014 at 11:45 pm

        Nathanael, I’ve ridden trains in and out of the major train stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London and Paris — and all of those stations are where the train lines terminate. Because they’re all destination stations, trains have to back in or back out. So if you think of Denver Union Station as a destination — rather than just another stop along the line, the End of the Line configuration makes more sense. I agree, it’s inefficient for train operations, but in the biggest cities, that’s the way it is, because those big downtown stations are destination points for most travelers.

  9. Lisa March 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Does anyone know if RTD will let passengers board the trains early? Since it’s not a through station, this is definitely an option. Maybe not a perfect option, but if people show up 5-10 min early and can just get on the train, the lack of cover may not be as huge of a deal.

    • Dan March 5, 2014 at 10:25 am


      You make an excellent point. That would alleviate the ‘waiting in the rain’ problem. Unlike the station for the West and South commuter trains, it appears the trains using this station will not need to reposition to load outgoing passengers. It still doesn’t explain the expensive “canopy-like” metal structures over the center platforms. At this point they are definitely ‘form’ since no one seems to be able to describe their ‘function’. It appears that Amtrak did not buy the lack of cover idea since they clearly built a highly functional canopy the attaches to the false canopy structure. It is very effective – I experienced it personally on the Amtrak platform last night when an Amtrak train pulled in. The Amtrak canopy cover is translucent, allowing light from above to shine through, so you can still ‘feel’ outdoors. There is a feeling of comfort and protection, even though you are outside. Amtrak passengers had all sorts of luggage, and I’m sure they appreciated the protection.

      It would be nice if Ryan or Ken would contribute what they know about the decision and purpose of these “function-less” structures.

  10. Jim Nash March 5, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Another possible design flaw is the 18th Street Pedestrian Bridge, which is covered with snow — indicating there may not be heated piping in the concrete structure. Which you can compare to all the platform concrete surfaces, with no snow buildup. And why isn’t the Pedestrian Bridge covered? It’s another way to protect travelers from the weather and the slip-and-fall hazard. Are the steps on the bridge heated?

    I’ve already complained about the lack of covered escalators on this bridge, as well as on the bridges over the freight rail lines and I-25. There’s a possible dangerous crossing on street level at the end of 16th Street, where shuttle buses will round a blind curve.

    With the lack of weather canopies, it seems like Union Station is very pedestrian-unfriendly, especially when compared to DIA. A lot of money’s been wasted on artistic architecture, at the expense of basic safety and comfort for walkers, especially those with disabilities.

    Serious flaws for a “multi-modal transportation center.”

  11. Randy March 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    There seems to be quite a bit of armchair quarterbacking going on regarding the platform and the canopy.

    I was at the station today on my bicycle and had no problems checking it out. Go check it out for yourselves!!!

    First and foremost, the canopy provides a lot of coverage, which Ryan points out in the blog post.

    Secondly, we live in Colorado, where we enjoy over 300 days of sunshine each year,

    Thirdly, if you’ve been to downtown Seattle or Portland (just two examples of recent travels of mine) where light rail/streetcars and buses are an integral part of the transportation solution, commuters have figure out how to stay out of the elements. I suspect the commuters in Denver will be savvy enough to do the same.

    • Jc March 20, 2014 at 7:05 pm

      Thumbs up, Randy.

  12. Blake April 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    The only thing I disagree with is leaving the light rail 3 and a half blocks away from Union Station. I use that light rail stop all the time and it’s a pain to get to and from Coors Field in it’s current location. I was really hoping that they would move the C, E, W light rail stop back to Union Station.

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