Denver Light Rail: Failing? Not from my Observations

This past week, I attended the NDIA E2S2 conference in Denver and was able to stay with a friend at the south side of Denver.  I was fortunate enough that my friend’s condo was located only ½ mile from the light rail station (Dry Creek Station).  I took the opportunity to ride the light rail three of the four days I was in Denver to the Colorado Convention Center.  Denver’s light rail is such a fantastic amenity that should be viewed as a model for other cities across the country.  There are basically two primary routes that the light rail serves to date, the first being a route that traverses to the southwest from downtown through Englewood.  I used this route a few times (just after it being opened), but is not the most convenient for me to use.  The other route is most logical to be used from a resident of Colorado Springs, in which the route starts south of the Park Meadows Mall in Lone Tree and will take you into the heart of downtown Denver.

The real advantages of using the light rail are not necessarily time, but cost, stress and time best utilized. 

Time:  I found that by driving into downtown Denver from the Dry Creek light rail station, it takes about 20 minutes.  The light rail from the same location is about 30 minutes of commute time.  In terms of time, driving wins, however if you take into account the time it takes to drive around downtown Denver to find a parking space, it may end up as a wash.  Another note is that one light rail train (for each route) will stop every fifteen minutes during peak hours.  I utilized the F train and did “just miss” a couple of trains which could add to your time.

Cost:  To ride the light rail from the Dry Creek station, the cost is $7 round-trip.  Parking is free on top of a parking deck if walking is out of the realm of possibilities for you.  The one day I did need to drive downtown, due to time being a major factor for me, it not only cost me the cost of fuel to drive (probably $3 to $4) but I also had to pay an astonishing $15 for parking downtown.  The cost to drive and park my individual car was over double what I would have paid for riding the light rail that day.

Stress:  Everyone knows that driving downtown (or to downtown) in a major US city can be very stressful (even for the seasoned veteran).  For those who do not do it regularly, the stress added can be very unhealthy with an increase of blood pressure, etc.  The light rail option pays off in great dividends in this respect.  This option is not only less stressful, but it can be downright relaxing.

Time Best Utilized:  When driving I feel that my time is completely wasted.  However, I valued the added time that was given to me in riding the light rail.  I was able to catch up on a book (Retrofitting Suburbia) that I have not been able to otherwise give too much attention to.  It was amazing how much I was able to read in my trips back and forth on the light rail, if I could have that time afforded each and every day, imagine how much I would be able to get done.  This is probably the greatest factor for me to ride the light rail instead of driving.  However, you cannot dispute the financial benefits as well.  This is one of the many sustainable solutions that are holistically beneficial to the population as a whole.  The value added to both conservatives and liberals is obvious.

One final note that I feel should be pointed out is the misconception that the light rail is failing in Denver.  I’m not exactly sure why this has been stated in the past, because each trip that I took the light rail, all of the cars were full.  Most trips had people standing because the seats were all full, aside from one, and on that trip (mid afternoon) the vast majority of the seats were full.  How could it be said that the light rail is “failing” with such a high ridership?

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