FasTracks Progress: Commuter Rail – Full Speed Ahead!

Starting back in April, the commuter trains along the ‘A-Line’, now known as the ‘University of Colorado A-Line‘, started to run unassisted from Denver Union Station to Denver International Airport. Now, the trains are full speed ahead with 79 mph testing underway.

DenverUrbanism got a sneak peek of the testing at Union Station. The new Silverliner V commuter trains are a lot different than the Siemens light-rail vehicles we are all used to seeing. The Silverliners go faster, have more storage, hold more passengers, and offer level boarding. The commuter lines also have less stops to their end destination, and go farther than current light-rail lines.

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Why the sandbags? You can’t just test an empty train and hope for the best when its packed full of airport-goers and commuters. The sandbags are a good human weight analog for simulating a packed train. We also caught two commuter rail cars parked under the canopy. What a good day!

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As of today, there are only 153 days left until the commuter line to the airport opens (Grand opening is April 22nd, 2016). We are incredibly excited!

By | 2016-12-27T18:25:29+00:00 November 20, 2015|Categories: Infrastructure, Transit, Transportation|Tags: , |17 Comments


  1. mckillio November 20, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Any word on what the average speed is supposed to be? Both including and not including the stops. I took the CalTrain from Mountain View to San Fran at the EoL stop and it took about an hour and ten minutes but it never felt like we got to top speed, 79mph.

    • Ken Schroeppel November 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

      Well, the line distance from DUS to DIA is 22.8 miles and it will take a total of 37 minutes. So if I did my math right, the average speed including all stops at stations will be 37 mph. There are six (for now) intermediate stops between DUS and DIA so if we assume, say, 1 minute per station for dwell time, subtract 6 minutes from 37 leaves us with 31 minutes of travel time. Recalculate… that comes out to an average speed of 44 mph for when the train is actually moving. Of course, the slow-down and speed-up around each station be off-set by the higher speeds during the open stretches.

  2. Mark November 20, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Rtd needs to get their fares under control. It’s still only marginally more expensive to drive. Seattle and Portland are half of what rtd is

    • Nash November 20, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      As you know, Mark, no passenger train anywhere, whether bullet or trolley, pays its way through the fare box. Every passenger rail system is subsidized, for the value it adds to the common good. Cars are even more subsidized, in roads. The question is the tradeoff between more money from riders, versus value to the riders. Too high, people stop riding.

    • Chris November 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      The RTD fare is going to be $9, right? So $18 round trip. Driving to the airport my math is as follows: It’s 23 miles, the IRS vehicle mileage rate for 2015 is 57.5 cents per mile, so that’s $13.23 or $26.46 round trip, plus parking at DEN is at least $8 per day. Having someone drop you off at DEN will be two round trips, so $52.92. The train looks like a great deal.

      • Tom in Green Valley Ranch November 20, 2015 at 9:41 pm

        I agree it’s a good deal. It will be great for me to get downtown and to other light-rail connections. Cost on the Commuter A line from 40th Avenue/Airport station will be like today’s Express Fare, or so, but it won’t be the $9.00 unless I intend to go to DIA. Still a good deal at $9.00.

      • John November 21, 2015 at 7:34 am

        You got this all wrong. Driving from downtown round trip costs less than $5 by my math. 46 miles ÷ 20 mpg x $2/gal = $4.60. If someone drops me off it is way cheaper than the train. Even if I pay $8 to park overnight it is cheaper to drive.

        • Nathanael December 22, 2015 at 9:33 pm

          So you imagine there’s no wear and tear on your car? There is wear and tear on your car. That’s why the IRS vehicle mileage rate is higher than the pure cost of gas.

    • John November 21, 2015 at 7:38 am

      Amen. Seattle costs $2.75, Portland $2.50 to ride from the airport to the city. Why do we have to pay $9?

      • Tom in Green Valley Ranch November 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm

        Everybody pays $9.00 probably for the same reason that Denver just voted to continue the hotel and car rental fees in order to finance the National Western Stock Show grounds — in order to get as much revenue from visitors. Never mind that locals are squeezed, too. I’m glad you made the comparison to Portland. I know that Portland’s MAX light-rail system is highly criticized for cost overruns and subsidies. I’m hoping that RTD will re-evaluate the $9.00 rate and bring it more in line with Portland & Seattle. With disparities in fares this wide, the perception of Denver’s A Line might draw negative publicity. On the other hand, I’m sure there’s pressure on Seattle and Portland to raise their fares to their airports.

      • Nathanael December 22, 2015 at 9:33 pm

        Because your airport is way the hell out in the middle of nowhere.

        If the airport were still at Stapleton, it would cost closer to $3.

  3. Wanda November 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    What food Christened it the University of Colorado A-Line? It runs from US to DIA. It should be the Airport Line or something that makes sense.

    • Nick M November 20, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      “So you connect at Union Station and hop on the University of Colorado A Line to the airport…”. Uh, no. Ridiculous. It’s the A Line or the Airport Line. I presume this is some stupid sponsorship deal, and I disapprove. WE paid for this line, too, and I don’t see every RTD residents name on the side of the train.

      RTD… Mostly a good thing but TERRIBLE at signage, communicating its message and branding.

      Go home, RTD, you’re drunk.

      • Ken Schroeppel November 21, 2015 at 8:08 am

        I agree but we the public are not obligated to call it the University of Colorado A line. Just “A Line” is good enough for me. Just like how I always call it “Mile High Stadium” and you’ll never hear me call it “Sports Authority Field” or whatever happens to be the sponsor name at the moment.

    • Tom in Green Valley Ranch November 20, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      RTD is making revenue from selling naming rights, like Sports Authority field at Mile High. Too bad the Westin didn’t outbid CU. But we already have a W (West) line to Jeffco courthouse, so that might not be a good idea. At least they left one letter — A — as part of the name of the line to DIA.

    • mckillio November 21, 2015 at 8:48 am

      CU is paying $5 million over the course of five years for the naming rights, seems like a great idea and investment to me.

  4. D.C. November 21, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Taking the train means you don’t have to risk having a rabbit chew vital parts of your car while you are parked at the airport (I am no joking this really happens to people). Any word about future fast track development?

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