Entry to airport terminal from train platform
BY LINDA PHILPOTT
On a very cold and cloudy Feb. 25, the R Line light rail opened in Aurora. Immediately following the opening ceremony, I headed for the first car of the train waiting at the Iliff station. Since I was experimenting with how long a trip to DIA might take, I also bought a ticket for the airport.
The train filled quickly for its run to the Peoria Street Station near I-70. We pulled smoothly out of the Iliff station at 10:45 a.m. A TV cameraman who was interviewing people asked if he could set up his tripod and camera in my seating area. I said “yes,” and so I was able to watch him work. I confess I was much more interested in the views outside the train window.
We first crossed over Iliff on elevated tracks—what a different perspective than I normally see on the street level. Continuing to the Florida Station and along I-225 over Mississippi Avenue to Exposition Avenue, the train made a very slow right-hand turn to the east and passed in front of the Walmart on tracks at street level.
We made a slow left-hand turn from Exposition onto Sable and headed north a few blocks to Aurora Metro Center Station across Sable and to the east of Aurora Town Center mall, still at street level. A quick stop to pick up passengers, and we crossed busy Alameda Avenue with stop lights and crossing warnings. A few blocks north of Alameda, the tracks turned west and curved around to the Abilene Station near Second Avenue. Continuing north to the 13th Avenue station, we then swung west over I-225 and north to the Colfax Station. which is in the middle of the tracks above the avenue.
The next track section was a scenic change from busy areas as we followed Sand Creek around the north side of the medical area to Fitzsimons Station. Almost to the end of the line, we traveled west, crossed Peoria and turned north, finishing our ride at the Peoria station near I-70 at 11:15 a.m.
The R light rail and A train lines are parallel at Peoria Street station. It is easy to exit R Line and go through marked gates (watch carefully for oncoming trains) to the A train platform by using steps or ramps. Although mechanics were working on it, the ticket machine (cash or charge) on the train platform was out of order. Fortunately, I could use a parking lot ticket machine. I then crossed over to the A line platform to wait for the train.
A few minutes later, along came the A Train headed for DIA.
I was impressed when the car doors opened at platform level so a suitcase could be rolled directly on board in any doorway. There were also luggage racks in the car near the doors. The seats were larger and more comfortable than light rail and had sturdy hand holders on each seatback corner. We headed east and north, stopping at two stations on the way: 40th Avenue and Airport Boulevard, and 61st Avenue. As we continued our route, it was exciting to see off in the distance to the east the cranes and towers of the Gaylord Hotel under construction.
About 17 minutes after leaving the Peoria Station, we pulled into the covered track station at Denver International Airport. Total travel time with train changes was about one hour. A short walk north on the platform and I was inside the terminal. I took an elevator and two escalators up to the Westin Hotel lobby, where I passed a contemporary restaurant and made my way to the front desk.
The attendant said room rates were about $269 plus tax for that night, but varied depending on occupancy. The hotel has meeting and convention rooms on various levels of the building.
Returning to the terminal main level, I went inside and walked all around. Usually at DIA, I’m so concerned about getting through security in a timely manner that I spend no time seeing what is in the terminal. I did notice there is now a large seating area in the middle where a fountain used to be. After having lunch at one of the terminal restaurants, I was back on the A train at 1:25 p.m. and reversed my trip.
On the return R train to Iliff Station, I talked with a couple sitting facing me. They had made a circle from Nine Mile south to Lone Tree, reversed and gone to Peoria and were headed back to where they started. They said the trip from Lone Tree to Peoria took about an hour.
One comment I have about light rail cars is that if you are pulling luggage or in a wheelchair and need to avoid steps, you must enter the very first car’s front door by using the ramp on the platform. Light rail cars really have no place to put luggage. If your travel is during rush hour, that could be a problem.
Overall, I think light rail and the A train are a tremendous asset to the metro area. It was a privilege to be part of the R line opening and I recommend everyone should try the train at least once. In years to come, we’ll wonder how we ever got by without it.
Fares range from $2.60-$9, depending on how many zones one crosses or whether one is going to the airport. Tickets are available from station vending and other places.
Linda Philpott is the broker/owner of Westwind Realty and a resident of Aurora.
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