RTD's new West Rail Line, which runs 12.1 miles from Union Station to Jefferson County's Taj Mahal government center, will open with much fanfare on Friday, April 26.
Along the stretch are eleven stations where commuters can hop on or hop off. From one of those stops, though, the one named Red Rocks College Station, there just won't be much to hop to. "The station is centrally located but convenient to nothing," says Craig Munsart, who has lived in a neighborhood just southwest of the new station for many years. "It's nice that the station is there, but it's almost like you can't get to it."
For starters, there is no parking at Red Rocks College Station (actually, only six of the eleven West Line stops have parking), which means riders will need to walk, ride their bike or have someone drop them off at the station before they can climb aboard the train. That concept, sometimes referred to as kiss-and-ride, exists at some other light-rail stations. But just figuring out where to stop long enough to drop someone off — forget puckering up for a goodbye smooch — may not be easy. You can't do it along the West Sixth Avenue service road, which is directly adjacent to the light-rail station; the Colorado Department of Transportation has made that very clear with its no parking, no stopping signs. Instead, commuters will need to go around the corner, onto Arbitus Drive, where there are two bus stops at which drivers are allowed to halt — briefly — to let someone off or pick them up.
There aren't any signs that tell people that they can stop there, but then again, there aren't any signs telling people they can't, says RTD spokeswoman Daria Serna. "We have designed the bus stops to be very long, large bus stops...and we have shared that with the community.... That isn't a busy bus stop anyway, right now. It only serves Route 17, so technically, people will be okay pulling over there and using that bus stop."
Just watch out for the buses while you're kissing.
The West Line, which has been in planning for many years, was never intended to have parking lots at each station, says Serna, who adds that the issues being raised now by neighbors are fairly common. "Whenever you open a rail line that has these types of stations, everyone is always concerned. It's not unique to this station," she explains.
Because of the lack of parking, neighbors like Munsart worry that commuters will turn the neighborhood streets closest to the station into a de facto park-and-ride, especially in the area of DeFrame Court, which is just two blocks from the light-rail platform. And although the stop is designed to serve Red Rocks Community College students and is named after their school, the students will have to walk about a half mile uphill from the station, along a meandering street, to get to the actual campus. The college mascot, a red fox named R2C2, will be at the station from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 26 as part of RTD's opening-day festivities; if he has a car, maybe he can give some of the students a lift up to the classrooms.
And finally, Munsart points out that there is no way for pedestrians to cross West Sixth Avenue to get to or from the station, effectively cutting off the entire area north of the highway, including the Colorado Mills shopping center, from access to light rail. (Remember when the southeast corridor didn't offer pedestrians anyway to get from the light-rail stop to Park Meadows? Do these light-rail planners never shop?)
"It's really nice to have it there, but it's not convenient to our neighborhood, it's not convenient to the college and it's not useful at all for people north of Sixth Avenue. So who's it for?" Munsart asks. "It's just a really isolated place they chose."
Ride on: Meanwhile, events will be going on at most of the other West Rail Line stations on that Saturday. The best party of the day will go down at the Perry Station, 1199 North Perry Street, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring live music and access to a Justice League of Street Food shindig — chock-full of food trucks and beer — taking place at the former St. Anthony's campus stop at Perry Street. But there will also be live music and food from local venders at Union Station; an appearance by Miles, the Denver Broncos mascot, and the team's cheerleaders at the Decatur/Federal Station; a 40 West Arts District street fair at the Lamar Station in Lakewood; and a petting zoo, live music, local food and other activities at the end of line at the Jefferson County Government Center/Golden Station.