World Wide Woodard: Lessons from Denver's transit triumph
Denver did a number of remarkable things to make it happen: foster cooperation across a vast metropolitan region, convince a skeptical public to increase taxes to build it, and when budget and expense forecasts collapsed in the face of the 2007-2008 financial collapse, create the nation's first large-scale transit public-private partnership to get much of the system built.
Salvation And Missed Opportunity: Metro Denver Train Expansion | CPR
But the biggest lesson learned: the greatest benefit of the system isn't relieving traffic congestion, it's the revolution in land use the stations and lines catalyze. Denver had to discover this along the way, but other cities contemplating major expansions can take advantage of what they learned.
-- has an audio interview with him
The Train That Saved Denver - POLITICO Magazine
-- discussing in detail the civic context of the city's rail-transit development.
The story started in 1973, when some Denverites became worried that their city was becoming too much like Houston, sprawling and smoggy. A region-wide solution required region-wide cooperation, and the politicians decided that their municipalities would not be trying to poach businesses from each other. The first line opened in 1994, from downtown southward along Interstate 25. It was much more successful than anyone expected and it was extended to Littleton in 2000. Then FasTracks was passed in 2004, succeeding where a similar measure failed in 1997. It even survived the Great Recession of 2008.
At first, the system's designers thought of it as an alternative to cars. Thus, the E line running in I-25. But they later decided that it was better for encouraging car-optional economic development -- transit-oriented development.
But there are still parts still in planning.
The only segment that wasn’t funded was a 35-mile rail connection to Boulder and Longmont, northwest of the city. “That corridor is still the one we get thumped on the most,” RTD’s Donovan says. “But it’s the most challenging project because it will cost $1.1 to $1.4 billion to build.”
The only big one, that is. There are still some small unfunded segments, like the southwest one, the central one, the end of the North Metro line, and the double-tracking of parts of the Airport Line.
Colin Woodard is a journalist who has written about a lot of things, and this is the first time that I know of that he's written on rail-transit planning.