Local Politics

N.C. delegates tour Denver by light rail

Posted August 27, 2008
Updated June 22, 2010

— The Democrats are trying to limit the size of their carbon footprint in the Mile-High City. That effort includes riding Denver's light rails.

Thousands of North Carolina delegates leaving the auditorium Tuesday night won't take taxis or drive cars to their hotels. That wouldn't be in keeping with the green theme of the Democratic National Convention.

Running parallel with eight lanes of Colorado interstates are two sets of rails that are getting a lot of praise from convention goers.

For more than a dozen years, people there have touched a screen, fed the machine, taken their ticket and hopped on light rail to get where they are going.

Among the North Carolina delegates testing it out was Pat Crawford. She often works for the state in downtown Raleigh.

“Some mornings, just to get to the Archdale Building, it takes 30 to 45 minutes – which is just ridiculous because there are thousands of cars trying to get downtown,” Crawford said of her morning commute.

Earlier in the day, several delegates packed into Denver's light rail to get a feel for what might someday work in Raleigh. Miles of these tracks are laid in this area, including a run to the airport. All ultimately meet at a hub in this state capital.

“This right here, the constant flow, people can get anywhere they want to go, at whatever time whether they work early or late or whatever. That is the convenience. Plus, it is fast. Buses aren't quite as fast as this rail system,” Crawford said.

The light rail is clean and efficient, but doesn't come without a cost. However, Crawford said she would gladly pay a tax for such a convenience.

"Absolutely I would pay it. I would gladly pay it, and all the people I know would because it is safe. Yes, I would be more than willing to pay," she said.

Colorado and Denver officials said communities have built up around the light rail stops and, over the past dozen years, have added billions of dollars to the Denver economy.

Check out how the light rail system works in Denver with a video from WRAL photojournalist Chad Flowers.


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  • dmccall Aug 27, 2008

    The story consists of an interview with ONE transit zealot, and doesn't address the staggering costs per mile and per passenger the system costs.

    The 12-mile expansion of Denver's system is projected to cost $707,000,000. That's $59 Million per mile.

    Estimates two years ago on a diesel commuter train in the Triangle were $808 million for a 28-mile stretch ($29 million) for a system carrying 14,000 people a day. $808M to move 14K people means $58,000 per person-day traveled. At that point it cost $350,000,000 for a highway that is 12-miles long and would move about 60K people per day: $29M/mi and $5,833 per person-day traveled.

    How much tax is this woman willing to pay? If we have about a million people in the area that benefits most, we're talking about taxing each PERSON, not household, over $1,000 to pay for the system. Is she willing to pay that much to remove fewer than 5% of the cars from the road?

  • vote4changeASAP Aug 27, 2008

    Thikchick, I lived in Colorado several years ago and the last time I visited in '06, people had moved out as far as Fairplay, which is about 60 miles south of the Denver area. Tiny houses were scattered in what once was a pristine southpark. Very sad.

  • ThinkChick Aug 27, 2008

    Sorry. My entry should have ended. "A few miles north of Castle Rock."

    It pained me to see the pristine wilderness gone and the 'burbs creeping up the foothills.

    And they still don't have rail to Denver International Airport.

  • vote4changeASAP Aug 27, 2008

    The Denver Metro area has a populaion of about 2.8 million people. They can afford light rail.

  • haggis basher Aug 27, 2008

    "Less mass transit = higher demand for gas = more $ for oil companies"
    Thats a stretch. The planned train would have taken few cars off the road so you would be unlikely to even notice the difference and the added taxes to pay for it (no one even dreams that it would pay for itself)will be more than any gas you are going to save. The triangle simply does not have the concentrations of Business nor housing that would allow rapid transit to be anything other than a boondoggle.

  • colliedave Aug 27, 2008

    If the dems think the train is such a good idea they should pool their money and make it a for profit business. But to the dems, the word "profit" is a four-letter word.

  • ncwebguy Aug 27, 2008

    Elizabeth Dole was a strong supporter of TTA until her Republican "friends" told her not to. Federal officials praised TTA for raising funds via the rental car tax and said the ridership projections were enough to justify federal funding.

    Then the Iraq war got out of hand and the Federal Transportation Agency changed the rules while TTA was seeking approval. Dole immediately stopped championing TTA's cause and said "too bad, so sad."

    If it wasn't for Elizabeth Dole's backstabbing the Triangle, construction would be well underway and the first trains would be running soon. Instead, we sit in traffic and are happy to "only" be paying 90 cents/gallon more than we did a year ago for gas. Less mass transit = higher demand for gas = more $ for oil companies, which is where Dole's loyalties lay.

    This November, we should return the favor.

  • butterpie Aug 27, 2008

    It's depressing how we continue to look backward rather than forward. Embarrassing, too.

  • haggis basher Aug 27, 2008

    ""Absolutely I would pay it. I would gladly pay it, and all the people I know would because it is safe. Yes, I would be more than willing to pay," she said."
    Good, let her pay for it and leave the rest of us out of it. Light rail makes no sense for the forseeable future in the Triangle.

  • jsanders Aug 27, 2008

    Ridiculous. The reporter lost all objectivity in this story, too. They keep trying to bring light rail here and they cannot even convince the feds to spend other people's money on it. It goes beyond the definition of a boondoggle (so crazy even the federal government won't fund it), but still they think it'd be a peachy idea: