Commuter Rail in Denver
I took a break from my daily bike commute and took the new light rail commuter train to work. The new lines, (E, F, G, and H), opened over the weekend, and many suburban folks had their first commuter rail experience. I abstained from joining the looky-loos, preferring the more tranquil company of business commuters on a Monday morning.
The new lines serve the southeast suburbs. The current C and D lines have serviced the southwest suburbs of Englewood and Littleton since 2000. The new lines were built along side interstate 25, which connects downtown Denver and the “tech center” area, a large expanse of office parks about 15 miles southeast of downtown. This stretch of highway has been some of the most congested in the west, and when planners decided to build rail in addition to widening the highway the concept was highly praised, and Denver was one of the only cities to have integrated road and transit projects together.
While I prefer to bike to work, the days when I took the bus had required two transfers, or a trip out of the way to catch an express bus to my office park. Now the process is much faster for most. There were some elimination of express routes servicing the far reaches of Aurora and Centennial, but they have been replaced by circulators which funnel commuters to the stations. Overall it’s much faster, and when the freeway is packed or it’s a snowy winter morning you can zip right past the gridlock enjoying coffee and a book. I boarded at the University of Denver station (after taking the 24 bus down University from my Congress Park home), and found the E or F line delivered me to my stop at Belleview in only 10 minutes. Fast and efficient. Another benefit of the new stations even for those NOT using the train are the sparkling new park and ride transit centers. One good reason people don’t care to ride the bus, especially in the suburbs, is because many of the stops consist of crummy unsheltered benches a foot back from a six lane super arterial street. Having spaces like the University of Denver station or Belleview Station makes for a far more pleasant experience.
For years the area around my office has been bland patches of dirt fields and office buildings. Near the Belleview station and along other southeast stations there are plans are to develop pedestrian friendly environments for both residential and retail. Over the past 30 years cities in the west and south, (Phoenix or Houston for example), have had a miserable history of urban planning and design. Although Denver is no stranger to sprawl, these major rail line additions prove residents and voters here are creating solutions for human scale living within the city. in addition, the Fastracks plan over the next 10 years calls for rail lines and transit projects to all areas of the area, including the airport and Boulder.
Being interested in transit and transportation this past summer I had started to photograph and document some of the stations while under construction. But like many of my home remodeling projects, it has yet to be completed. More photos to come…