Transit on Track to Pick Up Steam
Innovative Commuter Solutions at Work in Adams County
Between the opening of the G Line commuter rail, the coming N Line, and tailored transit services from organizations like Smart Commute Metro North, the businesses of Adams County and their employees will continue to see expanded commuter options.
The G Line adds 11.2 miles of commuter rail to the 2004 voter-approved plan for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) to expand transit in Arvada, Wheat Ridge, and portions of Adams County. In recent years, it’s become one of the fastest growing transit systems in the U.S., adding six new FasTracks rail lines since 2013—in addition to new bus routes—additional parking and the renaissance of Denver Union Station.
With more than $5.3 billion invested or committed to the FasTracks project thus far, taxpayers, businesses and government officials throughout RTD’s 40-municipality area are betting the expansion will reap big rewards in the future.
“Transit in general is an economic development tool that creates opportunities for economic development all the way along the system,” RTD Director Vince Buzek says. “Unlike a bus route, train systems and train stops can’t be easily moved, so that’s why developers create transit-oriented development around rail lines.”
The G Line was no exception to such developments during construction, making the 2-year delay in the new rail line’s debut opening particularly frustrating as developers worked through the technical and regulatory kinks in the first-of-its-kind wireless application of positive train control technology that is designed to stop or slow trains to avoid accidents. The commuter rail also shares track with a freight rail system, which created compatibility concerns.
“There have been troubles and glitches along the way that we had to overcome,” Buzek says. “But the G Line is operating on regular schedule now, and for the first two weeks of operation the G Line will be free to ride to thank people along the line for their patience to get this open and to incentivize people to try the line.”
If the eight grand opening celebrations, one held at each station along the G Line, are any indication of sentiment, G Line supporters remain bullish on the long-term benefits of the railway that is expected to shuttle 9,000 passenger trips per day in the 11-mile stretch between the westernmost Wheat Ridge-Ward stop, through Adams County, and the downtown terminus.
“Obviously the merchants and people along the line that have been waiting for this are pretty thrilled,” Buzek says after the opening events. “Usually when you have a rail line announced and it starts getting built, developers will start coming in and buying up land and creating transit-oriented developments for people who want to live there. The delay challenged them, but they’re thrilled now that it’s open.”
Tricia Allen, who serves as Interim President and CEO with Adams County Economic Development says the Pecos Junction station will open the industrial area up to a greater workforce, specifically the 60-acre industrial development that began in late 2018 within walking distance of the station.
“What you’re going to see there is that station being used by employees who are looking for faster easier way to get to work,” Allen says. “That’s going to create additional employment opportunities as well as spur other development and redevelopment in that area.”
Karen Stuart serves as the executive director for Smart Commute Metro North, an organization that advocates for improvements or new services to solve transit problems. They partner with businesses like Amazon to create custom solutions for employees.
“We customize services for employees and large employers, and we typically work with companies 100 or more,” explained Stuart. An example of one of their services is something called a “commuter optimization map.”
“We do a commute optimization map where we work with employers and plot the destination and the origination, all of the places their employees are coming from. We then work with their HR department on a transportation fair, where we circle those areas we think people could easily carpool or vanpool together.”
Between the opening of the G Line commuter rail, the coming N Line to Thornton and tailored transit services from organizations like Smart Commute Metro North, the businesses of Adams County and their employees will continue to see expanded commuter options.
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