Today, a new rail line opens that connects Denver’s International Airport with downtown Denver. The “A line,” as it is known, is one of nine lines of light-rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit that will connect the Denver metro area when it is all completed. The heart of the program is FasTracks, which voters approved in 2004 when they supported a regional 0.4 percent sales tax increase.
FasTracks was a major priority for CoPIRG in 2004 and we campaigned heavily to secure its passage, knocking on doors, organizing community events, building a broad coalition and securing support in the media and from elected officials. The measure passed with a 57 percent yes vote.
With the completion of the A line, Denver now has four major rail lines connecting downtown Denver to the airport and adjoining suburbs in the east, southwest into Littleton, southeast through Centennial, and west through Lakewood out to Golden. Denver also has a major bus rapid transit line, the Flatiron Flyer, which connects Denver to Boulder and the communities along U.S. 36.
The Flatiron Flyer has helped fuel a 66 percent increase in transit ridership along the U.S. 36 corridor since 2012, which is particularly impressive given that during this same time new, car lanes also opened on U.S. 36. This bus rapid transit line alone is projected to carry 20,000 passengers a day along the corridor.
However, Denver is not done. Three more rail lines will launch in the next nine months including lines through the massive eastern city of Aurora, a line into the northwest suburb of Arvada and a new connection to the city of Westminster.
Within a few years we also expect lines up to the northern cities of Northglenn and Thornton and extensions down south. Unfortunately, lack of funding mainly due to the Great Recession, has pushed completion of the “North West Rail” line to Louisville, Boulder and Longmont back to 2044.
Today is definitely a day to celebrate. CoPIRG worked hard to build the support needed to construct a backbone transit system that could help move the Denver region in the 21st century. With the opening of the rail line to the airport, we took another major step to realizing our vision.
But we can’t rest on our laurels. To ensure the whole system is a success we need to:
1. Have excellent first and last mile connections
2. Increase and enhance the bus system that feeds into our rail lines
3. Push forward additional bus and rail lines that guarantees everyone in the Denver metro area has access to transit.