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17th and Wynkoop Receives Ped/Bike-Friendly Upgrades

Now that the A-Line to Denver International Airport is up and running, the number of people passing through Denver Union Station has increased. This is making the corner of 17th and Wynkoop—the historic station’s downtown-facing portal and popular tourist photo-taking spot—busier than ever, with bikes, cars, taxis, pedicabs, tour buses, delivery trucks and pedestrians seemingly navigating the intersection at the same time. This slow but continuous dance of people and their transport machines gives the corner an urban energy that reflects the vitality of the Union Station district and Downtown Denver. However, the standard crosswalks, bike lanes, and other design and regulatory elements in place at the intersection were too minimal, confusing, ineffective and/or biased in favor of the automobile.

In fall 2015, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I decided to push for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to the 17th and Wynkoop intersection in anticipation of the A-Line launch and the other FasTracks lines opening later this year. We held a public meeting and spread the word about the issue, as described in my post from last October, 17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection? Fortunately, Denver Public Works shared our views on this and put a rapid-response team in place to plan, design, and implement a package of high-visibility, lower-cost improvements for the intersection in just a couple of months! Public Works was very responsive and great to work with—particularly planner Riley LaMie who led the planning effort—and, just in time for the A-Line opening, 17th and Wynkoop has been upgraded to a much more pedestrian/bike-friendly intersection. Here are a few before-and-after shots:

Wynkoop crosswalk:

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17th and Wynkoop south corner:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking southwest:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking northeast:

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Wynkoop crosswalk:

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The new crosswalks are certainly more visible, and the painted bulb-outs with bollards significantly shorten the pedestrian crossing distance. The new painted bulb-outs also prevent cars wanting to make a right turn from illegally using the parking lane as a right-turn lane by squeezing between the sidewalk/curb ramp and cars stopped in the through lane. The project also included new parking-lane signs that clearly designate passenger loading zones along the Wynkoop Plaza side of the street:

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Despite these new signs and street markings, motorists still find ways to do dumb things, like stopping right in the middle of the bike lane to let passengers out…

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…or stopping half in the bike lane, half in the traffic lane, for the valet parking…

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…or driving on the bike lane between traffic and the parked cars:

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I took those last three photos within minutes of each other. #streetfail #streetfail #streetfail

Nevertheless, these are wonderful improvements that clearly communicate that pedestrians and bicyclists have the priority at the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop!

Shouldn’t every intersection in the city look this good?


FasTracks Progress: Denver Airport Station

With RTD’s A-Line now complete, we were finally able to take photos of the Denver Airport Station as it is now open to the public. We’ve had a couple of posts previewing the station but today, we are going to look at the actual platforms in detail.

First up, the glass canopy that covers the station. It’s big, unique, and beautiful. The glass ceiling will completely shelter passengers going in and coming out of Denver International Airport.

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When looking out of the station, you will notice that there is a large empty space with some multi colored landscaping. This is room for expansion for things such as high speed rail. However, there are no plans for what this space is going to be used for at the moment.

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In the case that four car trains are used, like this past weekend, there is some additional shelter for passengers outside of the canopy. It really is a beautiful sight seeing two four-car trains parked at the station.

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This doesn’t wrap up our coverage of the A-Line. Stay tuned for a final recap on the whole project with some more new photos!


Post A-Line Coverage Preview

Yesterday was a wonderful day for RTD and the Denver metro area. I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the Denver Airport Station as a preview for what’s to come this next week. The station is truly beautiful!

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What an amazing sight from the platforms.

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I hope everyone is enjoying the celebrations going on today along the A-Line. As a reminder, the whole rail system is free today!


RTD’s A-Line is Officially Open!

After six years of construction, our rail connection from Downtown Denver to Denver International Airport is finally here! The A-Line will be one of Denver’s greatest transit assets as it provides a quick, reliable, and simple connection to Downtown Denver for travelers and visitors from all around the world. Congratulations RTD, Denver Transit Partners, and all of the other teams that put their hard work into this line!

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The A-Line will be free until 9pm today, and will have 15 minute headways.


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: TOMORROW!

It’s Thursday, and what a great Thursday it is! The ‘Train to the Plane’, ‘Denver’s Gateway to the World’, officially opens tomorrow! We couldn’t be more excited about this great accomplishment that RTD and the public/private partners achieved.

Today we will be focusing on two things: the Denver Airport station and the final details for this weekend. Let’s start with the Denver Airport Station. As you probably know, it is incredibly hard to access the station at Denver International Airport because of location, security, and the fact that it’s under construction with a single access point.

RTD has some great photos on their Flickr featuring this station; I recommend checking these out. Or, if you are in for a surprise, wait until tomorrow and see it for yourself. So what do I have to offer? When I was flying out in February, the plaza was open and I was able to get some night photos.

The Denver Airport Station features a brilliant glass canopy which you can look down on from above.

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Once you get off the train and go up to the main level, you have two options: Enter the airport or hang out on the plaza where there will be various activities and events. The plaza is quite a spectacular sight in person, especially with the new hotel above.

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That wraps up our countdown! Now for some final details.

This Weekend

Here is how this weekend is going to work:

Tomorrow, April 22nd – The grand opening ceremony will take place at the Denver Airport station at 10 am. After that, at 12 pm, the first trains will start running on normal 15 minute intervals. Rides will be free from 12-9 pm

Saturday, April 23rd – Free rides on RTD’s entire rail system will be offered from 5 am – 10 pm. There will be station parties at each of the stations along the A-Line for the public to enjoy from 10 am-2 pm.

This is a once in a lifetime event for Denver, so we hope to see you there!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: TWO DAYS!

It’s Wednesday which means only two days stand between us and the A-Line grand opening. We, here at DenverUrbanism, are so excited! Now that we’ve gone in depth about the technology and trains, let’s focus on the bookend stations; Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport. We have already covered the 38th and Blake and the Central Park Station in our previous posts and mentioned that all of the other stations in between will be nearly identical to these two, with the exception of Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport.

Today, we are going to highlight Denver Union Station. We have covered the commuter rail canopy so many times, but bear with me for just one more post since it is highly relevant to this line. The A-Line will be pulling into the first track, which will be closest to the historic station. This is great for quick connections to the bus terminal and Downtown Denver.

From shell to finished product, the commuter rail canopy is truly breathtaking; taking notes from Denver International Airport along with carrying its own identity.

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As we know, this station will serve all of the commuter lines in the FasTracks system as well as Amtrak and private trains, such as the ski train when it comes back. The structural system is comprised of 11 steel arch trusses, which span 180 feet, and is clad in tensioned PTFE fabric. The fabric itself can handle up to 90 mile-per-hour winds and snow loads up to 30 pounds per square foot. The station cost a total of $15 million to design and build.

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Day or night, this station glows white and has such a prominent presence in the Denver Union Station neighborhood. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, I would argue that this transit station is near the top of the list for best transit architecture in the country.

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Even from the air, the station is completely stunning.

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Tomorrow we will be covering the Denver International Airport station and give you the final details of what’s going on this weekend. Stay tuned!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: THREE DAYS!

Now that we have climbed over that Monday wall, I am pleased to announce that there are only THREE days left until the A-Line, connecting the world to Downtown Denver, opens. Today we are going to look into the commuter trains that will be hauling passengers to and from Denver International Airport at a top speed of 79 miles per hour.

The Silverliner V looks and feels like a very classic heavy rail / subway train. These trains are large, silver, and mean serious business.

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RTD purchased 66 of these cars, in the married pair configuration for $300 million. The trains were built in Korea, tested in Philadelphia, and then shipped to Denver. Philadelphia made a great candidate for testing because they use the same exact trains for SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). The first Silverliner V’s arrived in Denver on November 20th and initially had to be pulled into Denver Union Station for testing since the overhead catenary wire system was still under construction.

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The 70 ton, 600 hp Silverliner V has been in full speed testing for months now and can be seen at regular 15-30 minute intervals along the line.

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In three days, we will all be able to ride this brand new type of train, how incredibly exciting!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: FOUR DAYS!

There are only four days until the “Train to the Plane” line opens! This is an incredibly huge transit milestone for the Denver metro area, as we will finally have solid rail transit connecting Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport. For this countdown, we are going to be exploring some facts and figures about Denver’s best new rail line.

Today, we are going to settle the confusion of light rail and commuter rail. In many news outlets, reporters are referring to the new A-line as light rail. This is completely incorrect. So what exactly is the difference and what are the differences between the two systems in Denver?

Light rail is exactly what the name implies, light. They are designed to operate in crowded, narrow corridors, usually have narrowly spaced stops, have a capacity of around 155 passengers per trip, and top out at 55 miles per hour. The overhead catenary system is fairly lightweight, powering the trains with a direct current of 750 volts. Below are two photos showing the West Line light rail system.

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Commuter rail is a heavy rail system. It is designed to get passengers and commuters to their destination faster. Commuter rail runs along open corridors, and doesn’t interact much with the street level. It’s like a freight line except for passengers. These trains are big. They have a capacity of around 170 passengers per trip, have fewer stops, and top out at 79 miles per hour. The overhead catenary system is serious business powering the trains with an alternating current of 25 kilovolts (kV). Below are two photos showing the new A-Line commuter rail system.

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In summary, the commuter rail serves longer distances, in a shorter amount of time, with fewer stops while light rail covers shorter distances, is made for more urban spaces, and has more stops. I’m glad we settled that difference before April 22nd!


RiNo Infrastructure Part 4: River North Park

Let’s continue our look at the new infrastructure supporting the transformation of Denver’s River North area from a gritty industrial zone to a thriving mixed-use urban district. So far we’ve looked at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, and Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction. Today in Part 4, we’ll focus on River North Park. To get a better understanding for the vision of the proposed River North Park, I met with Jamie Licko, Executive Director of the River North Art District. Thank you Jamie for the information and insight!

Plans for a park in the River North (RiNo) area go back to the city’s 2003 River North Plan and the 2009 River North Gateway Master Plan. The best location for the new park was determined to be along the South Platte River at 35th Street and Arkins Court. Not only is this location geographically central to the RiNo district, but it also puts the park directly adjacent to the proposed 35th Street Woonerf that will link the planned RiNo Pedestrian Bridge with the almost-finished 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge, as well as the proposed River North Promenade and the planned Delgany Festival Street (more on the 35th Street Woonerf, the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, the River North Promenade, and the Delgany Festival Street projects in future installments in this series).

Below is a Google Earth aerial with the future River North Park site outlined:

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The southwestern two-thirds of the site was owned by Interstate Shippers, a trucking company, until 2011 when the city acquired the land for the future park. The northeastern one-third has been owned by the city since the 1990s and used as a Denver Police Department Vehicle Service Building.

Below are a bunch of existing conditions photos I took a couple of weekends ago.

Left: View looking northwest from the intersection of 35th and Delgany along 35th Street towards Arkins Court and the South Platte River, with the existing Police Service Building on the left. Right: View from the corner of 35th Street and Arkins Court looking south at the Police Service Building.

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Left: The river side of the Police Service Building from Arkins Court. Right: View looking northeast along Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building on the right.

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Left: View from approximately the same location as the photo on the right above but looking more north at the river and the TAXI development on the west bank. Right: The former Interstate Shippers Building as viewed from Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building beyond.

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Left: Looking southwest at the gap (vacated Delgany Street) between the new Great Divide Brewery Phase 1 building and the Police Service Building where the proposed Delgany Festival Street will go, with the Interstate Shippers Building beyond on the right. Right: Close-up of the Interstate Shippers Building from approximately the corner of 35th and Delgany.

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One final existing conditions image—a Google Earth bird’s-eye perspective that I’ve oriented to match the concept plan below:

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OK let’s get to the plans for the River North Park! The following images are courtesy of Denver Parks and Recreation, the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, and Wenk Associates, the landscape architecture firm that designed the park.

The preferred concept plan for River North Park:

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There are a number of really exciting features in this plan! I think the most exciting is that neither of the buildings in the park will be demolished; rather, they will be partially deconstructed to create both indoor and outdoor community spaces.

The Police Service Building consists of three major components. The center section of the building will be removed except for its structural framework, which will be preserved to create a cool outdoor space, Maker’s Plaza (#12 on the plan), where kids and adults can play and get creative. On either side of the plaza, the two remaining building sections will be remodeled into community spaces for neighborhood events, retail, workshops, and other indoor activities. Large artistic signage would wrap portions of the 35th Street and Delgany Festival Street sides of the building:

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Similarly, the former Interstate Shippers Building will be partially deconstructed to create an outdoor pavilion area surrounded by the building’s skeletal supports while the remaining part the building would be used as community space:

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Other neat elements of the park include a storm water garden, several large lawns, a community vegetable garden, groves of trees, children’s play areas, and direct river access (thanks to the replacement of Arkins Court with a promenade):

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When looking at the Google Earth images and site photos above, it’s hard to imaging a beautiful park in this location. However, with everything that’s proposed or under construction around it—new streets and promenades and bridges and private-sector development on virtually every parcel—the transformation of this area will occur at a pace and with a level of coordination that is quite remarkable. If all goes as planned, construction on River North Park will begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed about a year later.

Next up in our RiNo Infrastructure series: Delgany Festival Street