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Archive of posts filed under the Transit category.

Why Washington, DC’s Commuter Train Was Parked at Denver’s Union Station

If you’ve been at Union Station over the past week, you might’ve seen an unusual sight: A double-decker train from Washington DC’s MARC commuter rail system parked behind Denver’s Union Station.


MARC train in Denver. Photo by Ryan Dravitz.

What gives?

Turns out the train was in Colorado as part of the testing for new locomotives getting ready for MARC service. Officials wanted to test the new locomotives with actual MARC rolling stock, to evaluate how the locomotives performed in real-life conditions.

The Federal Railroad Administration has a test track in Pueblo, CO, so this train had been there, undergoing tests.

The train was moved to Denver in preparation for its trip back east. Amtrak is carrying the train on its regularly scheduled run from Denver to Chicago (#5, the California Zephyr) and then from Chicago to DC (#29, the Capitol Limited).


Transportation Variety Makes for a Vibrant City

by John Riecke

Part of the reason we live in cities is because we want options. Options for where to work, where to play, where to shop for groceries. Last week the options in which I was interested were transportation options. I had a busy day scheduled and needed to be in different places on a tight schedule.

You see, I live in Capitol Hill and I usually bicycle to work but my trusty steed had been victimized by a goat head.

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The trusty steed.

This particular morning I had taken the other trusty steed to work.

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The other trusty steed.

After work I walked to the nearest MetroRide stop where I happened to meet a friend I hadn’t seen for a while waiting for the same bus. I talked with her while transiting down to Union Station, I for my meeting and she for her transfer.

Steed of convenience.

The meeting ran longer than I had anticipated so my plan to take the bus to my next appointment was scrapped in favor of walking out front and hopping in a Car2Go and heading towards Cheesman Park.

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Trusty steed for when the other trusty steed is too slow.

After that meeting I decided to walk home rather than hop back in a car. This was serendipitous because I was joined by two other people going the same direction who wanted to continue the discussion. Because of that decision we were able to analyze the results of the meeting while working off some of the energy generated by the intense discussion. Just today I threw my bike in the back of my hatchback and hauled it to a local shop to repair the flat and give it a tune-up.

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Trusty steed for when the trusty steed has a flat.

My point here is two-part. First, not every mode of transportation is appropriate to all circumstances and no single mode provides the same or the best opportunities and benefits to all users. Is a bicycle the best choice for every person for every trip? No. Is a single occupancy vehicle the best choice for every person for every trip? Also no. We need the right tool for the job and if you can receive ancillary benefits by your choice, like for example socializing while traveling or exercising while commuting, all the better. We also need the city to build infrastructure to support these options.

My second point is that living in a vibrant city with lots of different nearby uses and plenty of different ways to get around is amazing. Even better than that is it’s healthy. Not just for the body (biking), but also for the mind (talking while walking), the soul (relaxing while commuting), and society (random social encounters). Get out there and enjoy your city today and whether you walk, bike, or bus, or maybe even drive, you won’t regret it!

~~~

John Riecke holds a degree in Political Science from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. A resident of Capitol Hill, John is a volunteer for the local neighborhood organizations, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and Capitol Hill United Neighborhood and enjoys studying economic systems and engaging with city planning efforts. John became interested in city-building like many do when he bought his first house.


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!