Travelers to Denver International Airport finally have a new way to get downtown: The airport’s new rail link will officially open for business on Friday, April 22. Denver’s new transport option is one of the few (but growing) number of one-seat rides to the airport favored by frequent travelers.
The airport station is located underneath the new Westin Denver International Hotel just south of DIA’s Jeppesen Terminal. The 23-mile rail line – designated by Denver’s Regional Transportation District as the University of Colorado A Line – runs through suburban Aurora and the eastern part of Denver all the way to a recently renovated Union Station in the heart of downtown, just steps from the 16th Street Mall.
The Union Station terminus is the city’s new transportation hub, serving regional bus lines and Amtrak trains as well as the airport line. It’s also easy to get to major downtown hotels thanks to the free 16th Street Mall shuttle buses that stop close to Union Station.
The 37-minute airport-downtown trip costs $9; trains operate every 15 minutes and make six intermediate stops. Interestingly, one of the stops along the route to downtown is at Central Park, the center of Stapleton, a new live-work-play community built on the old Stapleton Airport grounds.
Denver is just the latest of several major U.S. airports to get new rail links. Within the past three years, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system extended its service to Oakland International Airport; Dallas’ DART system opened an Orange Line link to Terminal A at Dallas/Ft. Worth International; Utah’s TRAX extended a six-mile light rail line to Salt Lake City International; and Phoenix created a Sky Train connection from Sky Harbor International’s Terminal 4 to the Valley Metro Light Rail network. And Toronto’s one-seat ride from airport to downtown opened last year.
Denver officials see the new rail line as an essential factor in the economic development of the area around the airport. In addition to the new Westin Hotel that opened at DEN last fall, a spokeswoman said that a new Panasonic Enterprise Solutions technology center is being developed near the last rail stop before DEN, bringing more than 300 jobs with it. And the 1,500-room Gaylord Rockies Hotel is being built not far from the airport.
“In total, Denver is expecting nearly 40,000 new jobs through new and expanding businesses and $2.6 billion in economic impact over the next three decades along the (airport rail) corridor,” the spokeswoman said.
A 2013 study by the American Public Transportation Association and the U.S. Travel Association found that hotels in “rail cities”—i.e., those with direct rail links from the airport to downtown – achieve an 11 percent revenue premium over hotels in non-rail cities. And they tend to attract more meetings.
“Intermodal infrastructure that provides direct transit service from our nation’s airports to these convention cities not only makes rail cities more advantageous than non-rail cities, but also provides a competitive edge in winning global business meetings, conventions and events,” the report said.
Readers: What’s your favorite or most frequently used airport-to-city rail link? Please leave your comments below.
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