Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The F Line to Lincoln

We chose our neighborhood based in part on its proximity to Denver's light rail line. Specifically, we actually vetoed an entire region of the city, one which would have been in many other respects more congenial, because its light rail line is not due to be completed until 2012.

We don't regret this decision (at least not any more than I regret every single decision I have ever made, which is obviously a personality flaw, not a reliable indicator of that decision's worth). My husband's office is a five-minute walk from a light-rail station; he spends less on his (heavily employer-subsidized) transit pass than I do on gas in a given month. We both love using the light rail to go into the city, mostly because it unshackles us from the harness of I-25, which is my least favorite interstate EVER. Also, even though I'm 37 I still get a kick out of the fact that it feels like a ride. I can see the mountains when I ride! And the bison bas-relief along the light rail corridor! And that funky yellow Stacking Tower Game sculpture near the Santa Fe exit! Also, when I get bored of that, I can read: last winter, when I took the train in every day to an internship, I barreled through about three books in one month just during the time I spent on the train. Sometimes it felt like the apex of civilization, to ride along in the elevated train as I read about Medieval Europe.

However. The train is not perfect. For those of us without employer-subsidized passes, it's pricey--for my two-month internship, for which I was not getting paid, I estimate I spent over three hundred dollars on train fares, including all the times I "forgot" to validate the free passes my husband had gotten for filling out a survey. It's seven dollars round trip per adult--that's a lot, especially considering that skillful vetting of parking lots can get you an all-day parking spot for about five dollars in downtown Denver. It's relatively useless if you want to go somewhere not in the middle of downtown--even though I live less than a mile from a light rail station, it doesn't make sense for me to take the train to go to the zoo (two and a half miles from a station), the writer's institute in northern downtown where I sometimes like to take classes, or to any of the other major submetropolises--Littleton, Boulder, Golden, Arvada. Even once the light rail extends to all of these places it won't make sense--it will take twice as long and will probably cost upwards of fifteen dollars round trip.

In other words, except for the relatively limited number of people who live in specific suburbs and work directly on the train line, Denver's light rail is less of a public transportation option and more of an overpriced lark. I LIKE the light rail. I WANT the light rail. But even I don't use it very often. So, Regional Transportation District: we need more! For less!

1 comment:

Jess said...

I also take huge issue with the way the light rail in Denver is run. Yes, the expansion will help, but not if they don't lower prices. I was SHOCKED when I saw how much a round-trip ticket is, especially for a trip on the light rail that replaces a 10- or 15-minute drive (for us) with affordable parking at the other end.

The only thing we use the light rail for is going out to dinner downtown if we both want to drink, or if one person needs to go downtown while the other person wants to keep the car. I'd say we've used the light rail a total of five times since we moved into our house, very near a light rail station, six months ago.

I agree. Major changes need to happen. Public transportation is supposed to encourage people to drive less. And that doesn't happen with a light rail that is this expensive.

(As a side note, if you live on the F line, you must not live that far from us! Am now very curious.)