Rolling to RTD Part 9: The W Line

Introduction

As the winter trudges on and snow falls on the ground, the days of riding intercity become less and less frequent. However, before this series completely goes into hibernation, I wanted to finish up with one of the most intriguing light rail lines: The W-Line.

Unlike other lines, the W-Line has a loose bikeway that comprises a majority of the stations. While many of the other light rail lines in the system often go through population centers such as Union Station or Olde Town Arvada, the W Line is incredibly suburban, ending at the Jefferson County Government Center.

Methodology

Like previous rides, I decided to choose the most direct and safest route to get to the end of the line. A portion of this review will also cover the W-Line bikeway, given that it is a major route in JeffCo.

Decatur/Federal

Coming from the Lakewood Gulch trail, I made it to Decatur-Federal. A station often used as a destination for Broncos games, Decatur Federal has a decent amount of bike accessibility from the east, though has the worst of the trappings of Federal Blvd if accessed from the west. It has a wide range of multimodal available, with bus lines lining the way along West Howard Place and scooters throughout.

From the station, I hopped unto the Lakewood Gulch trail and headed west towards my next destination.

Knox Station

Using the Lakewood Gulch Trail, I went down to the Knox Station.

The Station, similar to Decatur-Federal, was right off of the trail itself. One of the valuable aspects of it is the fact that it is near a good transit oriented development. Along with this, trail accessibility is a major boon for this location. I felt fairly comfortable jumping off the trail to the station, though I could see issues when it comes to car traffic on Knox Court at more impacted times of the day.

With bike facilities, a bus stop, and access to rideshare, Knox had the best of the trappings of stations along this route for people who walk, bike, and ride.

Perry Station

Perry Station had a lot of similarities with Knox, with the major difference being the lack of nearby development. At this station, there is a multiuse path just north of it that can be used to arrive at the next Station. With some bike parking facilities and a mix of apartments and suburbia nearby, this station acts as an in between for both residents of Lakewood and Denver.

Sheridan Station

At the end of Lakewood Gulch Trail lies the Sheridan Station. Similar to the Louisiana Pearl Station, it has an elevator that goes to the main street level. Unlike that station, there are a lot of nearby developments that make the station fairly “central”. Bike Parking is fairly abundant, albeit using the “hanging” parking scheme.

Heading westbound, the Lakewood Gulch Trail transformed into an icy mess. West 11th Avenue was snowy and felt removed from the rest of my journey. When I reached Harlan, I turned unto the W-Line Bikeway and headed towards Lamar.

Lamar Station

Lamar Station was one of the odd stations out of this line in a couple ways. With no bike or car parking and no central bus port, it felt like a pass thru station, made mainly for people that lived in the complex across the street and the occasional rider on the nearby bikeway. It was incredibly accessible on the trail, however, but lacked facilities that would be great to lock up a bike on a trip into Golden or into Denver.

Lakewood-Wadsworth Station

Lakewood-Wadsworth was a station that reminded me of several different overpass stations along the E-Line: Accessible via elevator, some but not complete protection from the elements, and some bike parking. Getting here from the W-Line bikeway, however, was slightly difficult.

Because of the lack of exposure, the path leading to the station had a thin stripe of snow on the Westbound side. Parts of the W-line had this issue, with some parts with zero exposure being nearly un-rideable at times.

Garrison Station

Garrison Station had all the trappings of a “neighborhood” station. Off the direct path of the W-Line Bikeway, the only accessibility to the station is through the neighborhoods with no bus nearby. Of note, however, is the fact the station is adjacent to a large apartment complex with a ton of parking. Across the tracks, there is some area for bike parking. While somewhat accessible, the amount of local car traffic and snowiness of side streets was off-putting for me.

Oak Station

Back when I lived in East Golden/West Lakewood, this station was the one that I most commonly used. With the bikeway going right through it, a small bus hub nearby, and a lovely view of the foothills, the Oak Station seems to have it all. It also is near fairly new development, and with nearby empty lots, could possibly be developed even more. My one qualm with it is that the large amount of parking both during my ride and during previous rides has often made it congested with car traffic.

Federal Center Station

Diverging from the main route of the bikeway down towards Union Blvd, I made it out to the Federal Center Station. Unlike the previous stations along the route, Federal Center was difficult to access as a bicycle rider, with no direct path outside of brief sidewalk surfing down union.

While there is some bike parking, what is of note is the enormous 1,000 space parking lot adjacent to it. The increased car traffic along it made it difficult to navigate via street, with me using an ADA ramp to descend down into the station.

The car centric nature of it negated the few bike parking spaces in the station, and made me feel “unsafe” to a degree along it. Going back towards the next station, I guiltily sidewalk surfed until I made it to the frontage road.

Red Rocks Community College Station

Veering far off the W-Line Bikeway, I made it to this station. In almost every way, I would not recommend riding to it unless you are headed eastbound and are using the sidewalk. Car traffic, while not awful, is fast, and the rolling hills often mean that you can lose momentum and go significantly slower around here.

Beyond this, as several alumni have told me, the station is not really positioned in an appropriate spot relative to its namesake, with a hill that has to be walked up and down to get the the college. All in all, it is a niche station that functionally serves one purpose: to get the the community college.

Jeffco Government Center

The end of the line gets you to to JeffCo’s government center. While it is a nice area due to the nearby bike and pedestrian paths around it, the fact that the W-Line ends there is somewhat baffling. Though it is helpful to government workers and anyone with business in government, not ending near downtown Golden feels like a missed opportunity. Despite this, there is a fairly bike-able path to golden that is nearby, and bike parking both at the station and in different areas of the government center.

Final Thoughts

The W-Line is a line that has a lot of potential, both realized and unrealized. With a bikeway that allows for ease of access for most of it and developments going along adjacent, it has the ability to be used by much more people if facilities along it are maintained and some sort of connection outside of the FlexRide Service in Golden. Perhaps, as some communities have done in the past, a fixed route circulator to downtown and points of interest would be of use. Until that happens, the W-Line, like the unfinished painting of George Washington, remains alluring but incomplete.

Featured Image is an artistic piece along the Oak Station

The Bike Ride of My Life.

My bike tends to be the primary mode of transit I get to and from work. Some days I end up taking the train home, some I ride it straight down the Cherry Creek Trail all the way home. Today, I opted to try the former method. The following is a recollection of the events from 6:05 to 7:00 PM on July 24th, 2018.

July 24th, 2018, 6:05 PM

I leave work in the evening as usual, knowing that the easiest route to get home is to go to the 10th and Osage light rail station, located at the northernmost tip of a local art district. It is cloudy, and the wind is picking up. I am glad to not be taking the Cherry Creek Trail home. I swear I see a raindrop.

300px-tenthandosage
The 10th and Osage Station. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6:14 PM

I arrive at the station. 5 cop cars appear to be barricading the area, so I begin the process of traveling to the next nearest station (Alameda), which is usually a 15 minute bike ride. The wind is starting to pick up even more, and the beginning of a light rain appears to be falling.

6:15-6:32

The rain intensifies. I ride my bike down Mariposa until I hit 8th Avenue, turning left and right unto Galapago. The combination of rain and wind make me fear for my safety, as I am ill equipped for the storm that was to come. I take Galapago down until I hit Bayaud.

7th Avenue

Still pretty tame. Not much of a bike lane but cars seem to be sparse and are being fairly generous. Rain is light but wind is picking up.

6th Avenue

I pass a church on the left. I am not a religious man, but the better part of my instinct tells me that, if the wind picks up anymore, I will be blown to hell.

5th Avenue

Cars are getting more aggressive as the rain picks up a bit. I hear wind chimes crash to the ground as the wind approaches what feels like gale force.

4th Avenue

I pass by a park. People are all but gone from outside, and I feel like a sudden turn would result in me blowing away. Rain is steady, and the remaining people on the road are looking to get out as soon as possible

3rd Avenue

A car to my left at the stop sign honks and flips off the driver behind him, who appears to be driving an Amazon delivery van. Fender bender? I have no idea. I fear stopping may cause me to blow away, but I need to obey the law.

2nd Avenue

This is it. The culmination of the 25 years on my life this planet and its future is going to be decided by the decisions I make in the next 5 minutes on this bike. I pedal, with northern blowing winds all but negating every amount of progress I make on the way down. I can hardly see anything around me except for cars that are on the road and some of the houses in the neighborhood.

1st Avenue

The numbers are ending! To any other sane human being, that would mean the beginning of South Broadway and I25, but to me, it means 2 blocks until the left turn on Bayaud, the street that intersects with Cherokee and is the penultimate street until Alameda.

Bayaud

I turn left, breezing through Ellsworth as the breeze begins to die down a tiny bit. Rain is still steady, but to me it seems like the “white noise” of the ride. In a situation like this, the wind is the killer. I go past several industrial looking areas, briefly wondering how the workers are feeling in this weather.

Cherokee

The final street. I make a right and I seem to be in the clear. Maple, Cedar, and Byers are all streets that seem to be dead, probably because there are branches and small items in the road. As I pass Byers, I see it.

ALAMEDA

My ultimate destination. As I approach it, however, my heart sinks. Signs saying ROAD CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION appear to be blocking the station. However, the sidewalk is not blocked, and construction appears to be completed for the day. I take advantage of this and briefly ride my bike on the sidewalk, dodging a car that is completely in the walking lane as I pass through the green light. Wind is back to gale force, with me feeling like, even if I did everything perfectly, I could end up in a tornado.

Alameda Station
The Alameda Station, on a much sunnier day. Photo credit to   Kara Pearson Gwinn

6:32-6:34 

I’m at the station. Rain is pouring hard as I wait for the train, which rolls around after 2 minutes of miserably waiting in my t-shirt and work pants, trying to keep my bike upright. I get on the train, the southbound E to Lincoln.

6:34-6:50

Warning
The Warning for the Flash Flood

The Flash Flood warning comes up on the train by the time we hit the Louisiana Pearl station just past I25 and Broadway. As I see it, I begin texting a friend who lives near me to see if I could get a ride home with my storm-tested bicycle. I arrive at the Colorado Station.

6:50-6:55

I wait at the station. Rain and wind appear to be dying down, but I am worried if this is merely the beginning. Cars come and go as they pick people up, and my ride comes.

6:55-7:00

We load up the bike in the back of the pickup. We pass by blown over tress and partially flooded roads, but it appears the worst has passed I arrive at my apartment, with the chair out front blown over in a bush and the welcome mat folded over itself. The storm is all but over in my neighborhood. I start writing.

Front Porch.jpg
My Front Porch, shortly after I got home.

 

Cover Photo is a screenshot from @trickradigan on Twitter from the following 9NEWS article. It depicts a car trying to escape flooding of the streets on Oxford and Santa Fe around 7:00 PM 7/24/2018.