There will doubtlessly be all kinds of alliterative new names for the new RTD “University of Colorado A-Line,” serving the corridor between downtown Denver and the Denver International Airport.  I can think of a couple off the top of my head.  Eastbound, for flying out of state: the rail to bail (for those who feel trapped, and are fleeing the state for a vacation).  Westbound, for those visiting the state for any recreational purpose: the train to insane (Colorado definitely has a reputation for extreme sports).  However, the one that seems to be sticking is simply: #TrainToThePlane (seems like an eastbound moniker).

I’ve made a gallery of 50 images of RTD’s new A-Line train.

I hope you like them.

We all know the benefits of taking cars and trucks off the road in favor of transit options, though there are so many factors and variables involved, you’d have to do a “life-cycle study” to determine exact “cradle to grave” cost/benefit scenarios for each, then compare between modes of transportation.  The studies I’ve seen over the years can be dizzying if you’re not careful and you fall down the rabbit hole.  There are plenty of opinions on the matter, too:

Conclusion for rail to reduce atmospheric carbon:

“Even when you include, in addition to the tailpipe, the CO2 emissions from infrastructure, fuel production and the supply chain, on average rail will still have a lower carbon footprint than road travel, when comparing life-cycle to life-cycle.”

The Guardian, accessed 4/25/2016.

Conclusion against to reduce atmospheric carbon:

“So there it is: to benefit the environment, probably the best thing to do is be very skeptical about adding new transit service and even to discontinue some service we are currently providing (sorry, liberals). Simultaneously, we should raise fees and taxes for driving (apologies to you conservatives).”

Freakonomics, accessed 4/25/2016

Both types of arguments make very astute points throughout, and I don’t fault either opinion.  As with most arguments, however, they often focus variables to suit a narrow question, such as saving the environment, or narrower-still, the atmosphere.  There are other categories of inquiry, like safety, expense, or convenience.

So, when it comes to the “University of Colorado RTD A-Line,” I’ll leave up the analysis to the pros and each individual to decide.  After all, nobody is taking away the road to the Denver International Airport.  Having an additional option to travel with is ultimately a good thing, in a country based on choices.

As both of the above cited writings offer as observable factors to consider, I think it’s worth repeating that when a mode of transportation is based on a method of fuel that has the ability to, over time, get more efficient, or change source from dirty to clean, I would personally automatically choose this option.  Gasoline is that option if you’re comparing a vehicle fleet over time, and responsible legislation/law requires improvements in efficiency over a number of years (such as the CAFE standards that continue to be improved, themselves, over the years).  However, gasoline is a very large source of carbon for the atmosphere, and even the CAFE standards aren’t going to change that fact.  Better still, and similarly improved by legislation/law improvements over time, is electricity, and changing sources from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewables can take place much faster, supplying renewable electricity to both electric cars and trains.

The CU A-Line RTD rail option is electric, and Colorado’s renewable portfolio gets megawatts-better every year.  So this new rail line is likely a win for the environment, a win for safety for taking many vehicles off of the roads, a win for convenience for travel-weary luggage-schleppers, and, in a per-capita life-cycle analysis, might even come out cheaper.

Seeing this railway completed is definitely a sign of climate progress in Colorado.

This past weekend, the opening weekend for public use of the new service, I spent a couple of afternoons and evenings exploring the new A-Line’s territory, mostly along the Peña Boulevard section, and a bit at the historic, yet completely renovated downtown Denver Union Station.

Just so you know, you can set up a bazooka-looking Nikon 200-500mm lens on a tripod nearly just a stone’s throw from DIA’s runways on the side of the road without a peep from the heavy security driving by, but you can’t walk into Union Station and use a tripod (“normal” looking 24mm lens at the time) if the tripod touches the floor – and security will get persnickety with you about that if you try.

I hope you enjoy these 50 new photos I’ve uploaded at Climate Photography.

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