April 30, 2016

Review: Denver A Line Train to the Plane

After nearly 30 years of planning, twelve years since a successful ballot initiative, and six long years of construction, Denver finally has a rail line connecting downtown and the airport.

RTD's University of Colorado A  Line opened to long lines and great fan fare on 4/22/2016.  Note that the nod to CU in the line name comes from a paid sponsorship.

The commuter (heavier gauge than light rail) rail train leaves every 15 minutes for most of the day (30 minutes in the early morning and late evening hours) from both Denver's Union Station and Denver International Airport.

The entire ride takes 37 minutes, stops 7 times on the way to the airport, and costs $9 each way.

For us, the train is life changing.  Historically, traveling to the airport would entail a long drive in traffic or an expensive Uber ride.  Both of our employers provide transit passes as a workplace benefit (thanks PaySimple and DDP) so we get to ride for free.  Riding the train to the airport means no traffic and extra time to work or relax before getting to the airport.  Beyond the improvement to our own lives, the launch of direct rail to the airport puts Denver in elite company - not just in the US but around the world.  FasTracks as a whole is estimated to have contributed over $3B to the local economy including 12,000 direct full time jobs since 2005 - amazing.

Now on to the review!

We rode the train last Sunday and were lucky enough to do so on a sunny and warm Spring day (it's currently snowing in Denver).  We arrived at Union Station and walked out to find a waiting train on track 1.

We boarded and were underway exactly at 10AM.  Pulling out of Union Station on the A Line for the first time was really cool.

We've lived and worked near the station for nearly 10 years.  We both worked on a political campaign in 2004 when the ballot initiative (FasTracks) was passed.  So this was a long time coming!

The train cars are well designed with plenty of luggage storage space, blue seating in a 2-2 (with some rows of 3) configuration.

The first 20 minutes or so are spent traversing Denver's east side making 5 stops along the way.  The train stops a couple of times at what used to be Denver's Stapleton airport in a bit of avgeek/traingeek irony.  All of the stations have a common element in colored stain glass panels on the station shelters.

Before long we were cruising alongside Pena Boulevard approaching the airport.  We pulled into the airport station exactly 37 minutes after leaving Union Station.

The airport station is really well designed.  A giant glass canopy (we call it the pringle) provides shelter from the elements.  There is a bag drop at track level which prevents those that are checking bags from schlepping them up Colorado's longest escalator.  You can also print your boarding pass at one of several touch screen kiosks.

Once at the top of the escalator, you're about 100 feet from the entrance to the great hall with the security line about 25 feet past the entrance.  We rode the train to the airport yesterday and made it from Union Station to the other side of security in about 45 minutes - thanks PreCheck!

We spent some time touring the brand new Westin and enjoyed a cocktail on the patio of the hotel's restaurant Grill & Vine.  With views of airport operations, the train, and the mountains, it's a pretty spectacular place to relax before a flight.

After our cocktails, we made our way down the escalator and boarded the waiting train back to Union Station.  37 minutes later and we were downtown again.

What an exciting addition to our awesome city!  The A Line is clean, efficient, and fast.  I can't wait to ride it again.  We've been waiting for A LONG time but the wait was worth it.  I highly recommend taking the train the next time you're leaving Denver or visiting.

1 comment:

  1. About time! I have hated the limited and inconvenient transport options; this sounds like Denver has joined the ranks of world-class cities in Europe and Asia.