Rolling to RTD Part 3: The Northwest Rail

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of RTD rail happening right now is in regards to the Northwest Rail. A line that is expected to go to Boulder, the B-Line has been delayed several times since the initial buildout of rail started under Fastracks.

However, I don’t want to speak much to the controversy, suffice to say this was one of the shorter yet most daunting trips I have made along a light rail corridor. The area that I covered along this shift is highlighted in violet.

The Approach

Like the previous two posts, I decided to take the most direct and bikeable routes when I could, with a slight exception made to check out bicycle infrastructure in the Northside. I chose to leave for this trip on Monday afternoon shortly before five as a way to gauge what it would feel like to ride in rush hour traffic, and took every opportunity to use the facilities (elevators, ramps, etc) to get my bike from point A to point B at the stations.

41st and Fox Station

After taking a route that led me unto Inca, I used an elevator to get to the bridge, which led over to the main platform of the 41st and Fox Station

The one thing that I noticed over on the Inca side was how transit oriented the station was. There were several recent developments that had sprung up that made it walkable on that side, and it felt comfortable accessing it from the adjacent multiuse trail.

On the other side, there was an almost completely empty lot, a contrast that felt incredibly striking next to dense housing. While there was a small amount of bicycle parking near the front and lanes adjacent, the surrounding environment still felt very hostile to riding. From here, I worked my way to the Pecos Station

The In-Between: A Quick Word on the Northside

Before I begin, I just want to make a quick note: I have not lived in any neighborhoods or communities during my time in Denver that are considered to be part of “Northside” and have ridden through it a handful of times. This is what I experienced in my time riding through.

Passing under I70

The biggest takeaway from my experience in regards to the neighborhood was that it was largely shaped by the highways that were forced through it, including I70 and I25. Bike lanes were scarce, and neighborhood streets were not as developed nor paved as those in other neighborhoods in the metro area.

I cut across a dirt lot at Lincoln and 48th that was adjacent to train tracks, taking it as a way to detour some of the more treacherous parts of Pecos. As I rode upon one of the heaviest sections of Pecos through construction and an overpass, I thought to myself “how could I manage this if I didn’t own a bike?” This rhetorical question ate at me as I crossed over to the next station.

Pecos Junction Station

The station was right on the other side of the Pecos overpass. To reach it, I took a relatively moderately trafficked road to another mostly empty empty parking lot with a small bike rack in the front. Similar to the Fox Station, there was an elevator I could take down to the main track.

As I left the station and headed towards Westminster, the concept of induced demand swirled around in my head. While I had a bike rack at most stations that could generously fit up to 6-7 bikes, lots like this can store dozens to hundreds of cars. I often wonder what it would be like if housing and more bike facilities existed at places like this versus empty lots. The inaccessibility to pedestrians hurt me the most regarding this station, with it being treacherous to navigate by foot to it from Pecos because of car traffic.

I wondered this as I headed north towards Westminster

Westminster Station

After descending from the overpass to an underpass to Westminster, I got to the first trail I had seen since leaving the Fox Station. The Dry Creek Trail was absolutely lovely with all of the flowers along it.

This station has a special place so far in this series, as one of the only ones that has a direct path to it from a trail.

With some bike facilities including lanes and parking on both sides of the station, along with elevators and a direct trail up to it, it felt very accessible by bike, and mirrored some of the stations in the Southwest Suburbs. Thought frequency of trains was considerably less than I wished it to be heading home, it was nice to have the lovely views in and around the station.

Final Thoughts

Though this episode was shorter than others, the vastness of the parking lots really defined these stations, which felt to me like a waste of space since they were sparsely used by vehicles. With recently passed policy that encourages RTD to develop affordable housing, it seems like the 41st and Fox and Pecos Junction lots should be at the very least considered for the program to help fight the housing crisis in the metro area and give people more options to live near transit.

Featured Image is the RTD Platform at the Westminster Station

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