Queen City Views
Leaving the windy city and heading West to Denver was quite the adventure. This was our longest train ride so far, and we were lucky enough to have a sleeper car for this leg. The trip from Chicago, Illinois to Denver, Colorado was on an overnight journey and took about 17 hours.
Victoria and I enjoyed our roomette in the sleeper car and loved watching the fields of corn roll on by; it was incredibly relaxing after a long travel day. Later in the evening, our sleeper car attendant came by our room to give us a dining car reservation for dinner that night. We received a 7:15 reservation and were instructed to proceed to the dining car at this time. At first, we thought this reservation time was a bit late, but luckily it couldn’t have been more perfect. We ate dinner with a lovely Italian couple traveling across the country by train as well! After we had ordered our meals, the sun began to set across the fields which made for the most incredible dinner view! Upon arriving back to our roomette after dinner, our sleeper car attendant has turned down our room ready for a long night on the train.
We arrived in Denver, Colorado around 7 o’clock in the morning and couldn’t be more excited. Upon exiting the train, we had to head down to the baggage car to pick up our checked bike that was able to make the journey with us on Amtrak's California Zephyr. When we arrived, we were greeted by Jim Souby, the President of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, which is a non-profit organization that looks to develop and preserve passenger rail trains throughout Colorado. Colorado Rail Passenger Association is working to have better transportation connectivity throughout the state by proposing an extended rail system across the state. The plan includes the winter park express ski train and extending the Southwest Chief train to stop in Pueblo, Colorado. They are also working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to connect all the different cities in Colorado that don’t have any public transportation to access doctors or hospitals. Therefore, CDOT and ColoRail are working together to create better connections throughout the state with new bus routes and trains to be able to reach some of the bigger cities.
We received a fantastic tour of the newly renovated Union Station from Nate, the Senior Manager of Public Relations for the Regional Transportation District. Denver is the second highest city in the nation for migration of baby boomers mainly due to the influx of multimodal transportation. Although ColoRail is the association that founded to save Union Station from being demolished in 1989, RTD is the owners of the current building. The Union Station Transit Center, which is the multi-modal transit hub for Denver, is a part of a $500 million dollar project to renovate the building itself, the rail lines, and 14 city blocks surrounding Union Station known as LoDo or Lower Downtown. Our tour started with front entrance of Union Station noticing the sign onto of the building that must be visible despite the new construction.
There is also a metal line on the ground that passes in front of the main entrance to union station that many mistakes for a rail line when in reality it is the 105th meridian line.
We were led through the main concourse of Union Station filled with shops and restaurants that are known as the ”living room of Denver.” After passing through the living room, you enter the hustle and bustle of the commuter trains, Amtrak, and fast track platforms. Amtrak trains make two movements through the station each day resulting in the movement of approximately 600 to 700 passengers at the end of 2015. Additionally, the Denver area I expected to grow from 3.5 million to 7 million by 2050, hence the need for improvement multi-modal transportation. You can also enter the underground portion of the new renovation that lies beneath the rail lines.
This underground portion runs the length of approximately two football field long and is the home to 21 different bus gates including Bustang, which is part of the CDOT and ColoRail initiative. You will notice around the station that RTD has adopted the Dumb Ways to Die campaign to promote safety and they are the first to license it anywhere in the world other than where it originated in Melbourne, Australia.
The project is way ahead of schedule, as it was not supposed to be completed until 2030 however, they had broken ground on the last section of work only four months ago. After the renovations, Union Station now obtains a LEED Gold certification.
If you continue underground, you will end up at the end of the transit center at the Light Rail station which runs throughout the city. After renting a bike at a B-Cycle station near LoDo, Victoria and I took a lovely ride through Centennial Park with great views of Millennium Bridge. We were able to take a ride on the light rail system with our bikes further downtown courtesy of the Jeff from CDOT.
At this end of the Union Station Transit Center, we were able to catch the Free MallRide Shuttle riding up 16th street from union station to the Capital stopping at every corner and passing other light rail stations along the way making it extremely easy to get around the city!
We utilized the Free MallRide Shuttle from Union Station to the Capitol Building to meet the Director of Regional Affairs, Anthony Graves, from the office of the Mayor.
After speaking about the Summer By Rail program, he gave us a tour of the Capital building including a sneak peek into the City Council Chambers! Then, we headed over to meet Andrew Dunkley, the regional Director for Senior Cory Gardner! We received such a warm welcome and strong support from both offices and couldn’t have been happier with our visit.
We were able to spend the latter part of the day wandering LoDo and finding somewhere for dinner. Thankfully, a board member of ColoRail and a current Graduate student was generous enough to offer to show us around the city! Daniel recommended The Viewhouse, which ended up being the perfect spot to see the city lights from the rooftop at night. At the end of the evening, we noticed a crowd of people on bicycles growing larger across the street at the old gin mill. Later we found out that it was a monthly gathering of local bikers who take a group ride throughout the city on one Wednesday a month. It was an incredible group of people and an incredibly fun local event!
Boarding the California Zephyr for the second time! We loaded up our bike onto baggage car and were on our way to Glenwood Springs, Colorado!