Denver Union Station to Denver Airport Questions

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Rasputin, Jun 21, 2019.

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  1. Jun 21, 2019 #1

    Rasputin

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    I was last in Denver about 5 or 6 years ago before the light rail system to the airport was operating. As I recall it was a flat rate of $55 or $60 by taxi from Denver Union Station to the airport back then.

    We are thinking of detraining from No. 6 and taking the light rail system to the airport and staying at a hotel there. What is the interface like between Amtrak and the light rail system at Denver Union Station? Long walk or short? I assume there are user friendly machines where you buy your ticket and that there is good signage.

    Is the airport terminal of the light rail system close to any hotels or would you take a hotel shuttle on that end?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
     
  2. Jun 21, 2019 #2

    Pere Flyer

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    I took this line from Union Station to DIA back in 2016. IIRC, the light rail platforms are a short walk from the Amtrak platform. TVM’s are nearby and work well. The A Line’s airport station is inside the Jeppesen terminal below the hotel attached to the airport (its name escapes me). You’ll have to walk/elevate/escalate to a different area of the terminal to access hotel shuttles.
     
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  3. Jun 21, 2019 #3

    jebr

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    It's a short walk. Since the airport line is considered commuter rail, it uses the same general platform area as Amtrak does. It'll typically be a couple platforms down, but it's a simple matter of walking to the end of the platform, crossing over, and going to the platform for the airport train.

    Signage is good and there are machines at platform level to buy a ticket. That said, I'd personally recommend getting the smartphone app and buying the regional/airport day pass if you have a smartphone. That way you can purchase the ticket ahead of time and activate it when you're ready to board. The day pass is the same price as a 3-hour pass to the airport, but lasts until end of service instead of just for 3 hours.

    The only airport hotel within walking distance is the Westin directly at the airport. There's a couple that are a 15-20 minute walk from the 61st/Pena station, but I've never stayed at those or tried walking from that station to the hotels.

    One question: Are you simply transferring in Denver to catch a flight the next day, or are you intending to visit Denver for a day or two? If your goal is to visit the city, I'd consider finding a hotel downtown or at least closer-in on the light rail lines; the airport is pretty far, and the ticket prices for the rail system to the airport is double (for a 3-hour pass) what the cost is elsewhere in the system. There's a fair amount of hotels that are somewhat walkable from the Tech Center-area stations and are typically around the same price as an airport hotel. That would save having to transfer to the hotel shuttle at the airport. Even if your flight is the next day, if it's after 9 AM-ish it may still be easier to stay downtown and then catch the train the next day to the airport. There's a lot more to do and eat downtown than near the airport, and it may be more convenient overall since you're not having to deal with two airport shuttles (one right after you've gotten off a long-distance journey and a 45-minute train ride to the airport.)
     
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  4. Jun 21, 2019 #4

    BoulderCO

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    Jebr's advice and questions are right on! The A line train to the airport is excellent and runs every 15 minutes or so. Less than 5 minute walk from detraining the Zephyr. If you are 65 or older, the fare is half.

    Nice airport and big new Westin hotel there, but you will have much more fun downtown near Union Station and the 16th St. mall if you are looking for food, drink, entertainment, etc. Whatever you decide, have a great trip!
     
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  5. Jun 21, 2019 #5

    Rasputin

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    Thanks for all of the great advice in this thread. My questions were actually a follow-up to a previous thread when I could not find a through booking from Grand Junction to Colorado Springs.( I discovered that this was because the bus connection is not guaranteed and Amtrak will not sell a through train-bus ticket to Colorado Springs.) The purpose of the trip is to attend a several day conference at Colorado Springs and perhaps spend one or two more days at Colorado Springs after the conference. We will probably fly back from Denver.

    If we were going to visit Denver it would make great sense to stay downtown but unfortunately that is not in the cards for this trip. When I posed these questions we had been thinking of going to the airport, staying at a hotel there, renting a car the next morning and then driving to Colorado Springs. However I think what we may do instead is to detrain from #6 at Denver Union Station, take the light rail to the airport, rent a car that night and drive to Colorado Springs that night. If we rent a car at the airport, we will be able to return it on the weekend or at night which may not be possible with a downtown rental location. Other than perhaps a late night arrival in Colorado Springs is this doable or recommended?
     
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  6. Jun 22, 2019 #6

    jebr

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    As long as the train isn't extremely late, and assuming you'd rent a car in Colorado Springs regardless, that should be a decent option. It's a bit dependent on your comfort level with night-time driving, but the drive itself isn't terrible. I'd recommend getting an easily modifiable car reservation, though, just in case the train is very late and you decide to spend the night in Denver instead. Should that happen, I'd also contact your hotel and make sure they don't cancel your reservation.

    That said, I do think that in 95% of the cases that's the best option. It seems much more convenient to get all the driving and riding out of the way that night and be at the same place you'll be staying at for the next week or so.
     
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  7. Jun 22, 2019 #7

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Bus service from the tunnel at Denver Union Station to Colorado Springs is also available. If you don’t need a rental car during your stay that is.
     
  8. Jun 22, 2019 #8

    jebr

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    The last Bustang from Union Station to Colorado Springs leaves at 6:30 PM on weekdays, 7:25 PM on weekends/holidays. Considering Amtrak won't guarantee the 7:45 PM connection on the Greyhound bus that leaves from that same location, and that's the last one of the night, I wouldn't recommend counting on taking the bus down either. Out of the last 52 days, 14 had delays of over an hour (so arriving after 7:38 PM.) That's far too risky for me to recommend, not to mention very stressful to worry about if the train is at all late. There's a small chance that the train would be so late that even getting to the airport would be difficult, but that's only 1 night in that same 52 day time frame.

    Edit to add: From my couple times in Colorado Springs, I'd highly recommend having a car if you're wanting to do much exploring. There's a couple of bus routes that are frequent-ish, but they don't go a lot of places frequently that people visiting would want to go to. The system also seems to wind down frequencies rather early. If someone's staying downtown and doesn't want to explore much or particularly adventurous and loves to take buses, a car may not be desired. But for most people who want to explore the area, a car is extremely helpful to have access to.
     
  9. Jun 22, 2019 #9

    Rasputin

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    Yes we were going to rent a car in Colorado Springs anyway. I think if No. 6 is exceptionally late and arrives after the light rail has stopped operating we would probably take a taxi or uber to the airport and still pick up the car and head for Colorado Springs. I don't relish the drive to Colorado Springs in the wee hours but as long as we can coffee-up, we should be fine. Of course if we know well in advance that No. 6's schedule is a disaster we may try to cancel the Colorado Springs hotel for the night and stay at the airport (depending at the cancellation policy of the place in Colorado Springs.)
     
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  10. Jun 22, 2019 #10

    Willbridge

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    There's lots of good info above and I know I'm sounding picky, but the A-Line is commuter rail, not light rail. Commuter rail is run with FRA-regulated equipment and procedures and has PTC. It's limited to 79 mph, runs in Colorado under 25,000V AC catenary, stopping at high level platforms. Light rail evolved from streetcars and interurbans, has ATS and CTC, in Colorado runs under 750V DC catenary or trolley wire, stopping at low level platforms. Commuter rail lines (A, B, G) in Colorado are run for RTD by a private contractor and light rail lines (C, D, E, F, H, R, W) are run by RTD with union operators. The commuter ra il N-Line now in the test stages is to be run by RTD.

    It's all under one tariff, but the main reason for referring to them separately from a customer's point of view is a much higher degree of speed, comfort and baggage space on commuter rail, while the light rail is able to get much closer to where commuters want to go. The airport station is a convenient commuter rail exception, because the line was sketched into the original Denver International Airport plans.

    An easy way to remember them: at Union Station Tracks 1-8 are commuter rail and Amtrak, Tracks 11-12 are light rail. Numbers prefixed with "B" are the 22 underground bus gates.

    For readers elsewhere: commuter rail cars in Colorado are younger sisters of the SEPTA Regional Rail cars in Philadelphia. Light rail cars in Colorado are younger sisters of San Diego and Sacramento cars and daughters of the original Frankfurt, Edmonton and Calgary cars. 2017 photo shows light rail R-Line connecting with commuter rail A-Line at Peoria Station. The ramp in foreground is for ADA access to high-floor LRV's. Low-platform LRV's have met for a late-night timed connection in the next photo. In the B&W photo, commuter rail customers enjoy high-level platform boarding. There are pluses and minuses to each.


    P1040741.JPG
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    2016 Summer 203k.jpg
     
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  11. Jun 22, 2019 #11

    COTraveler

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    One other inconvenience on the drive would be the I-25 construction project. If the #6 is delayed for several hours you also face potential lane closures between Castle Rock and Monument, making a late night even later. See https://www.codot.gov/projects/i25-south-gap/traffic-alerts
     
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  12. Jun 24, 2019 #12

    Charles785

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    If I arrive in Denver on the Amtrak California Zephyr, is there a train that runs from Union Station to downtown Golden? I don't know if the question is significant when talking about a train ride to Golden, but what is the difference between 'commuter' rail and 'light' rail?

    Oh - as far as ticketing on trains that would go to Golden (or the airport, for that matter), are there real live ticket agents at Union Station? I'm not sure I would understand how to use what's called a kiosk (I never use self-check-out at retailers -- I know myself well enough that something would not work right if I tried it myself). And is there a phone number to call for ticketing or for other questions? And I don't have a smart phone - just a flip phone that's not connected to the Internet.
     
  13. Jun 24, 2019 #13

    chakk

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    no train to downtown Golden. the line ends at the Jefferson County govt center, 3 miles east of downtown.

    all ticketing of A line trains at airport is via vending machine, but there are staff available in a platform booth to ask for assistance

    telephone 303-299-6000 for questions about RTD Denver
     
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  14. Jun 24, 2019 #14

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Ever time I have been at Denver Union Station there was RTD Police in abundance on the platform area. Very helpful and friendly when they are not engage in Police business.

    My way of dealing with this trip, would be spend the night right at Denver Union Station at the hotel, and travel the next morning to Colorado Springs. Avoid the airport rental fee if I could. Bus down rent a car there would be a plan to consider.
     
  15. Jun 24, 2019 #15

    Rasputin

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    Is the airport rental fee a one-time charge made by the airport authority and does anyone know how much it is?
    Thanks.
     
  16. Jun 24, 2019 #16

    RSG

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    There are some extra costs with rentals at Denver International Airport, but since that is the main rental car location in metro Denver, the cost differential isn't that great due to competition. (Hertz and of course Enterprise operate downtown and at other locations, but due to supply-and-demand, may be more expensive than renting at the airport.) Thus it can pay to travel from Union Station to DIA and rent a car there.

    In the past, I've had good luck renting vehicles through Priceline and Hotwire (including the blind bidding options) at DIA. IMHO, that's the best use for such services, since a car is usually a car and almost all vehicles have the same amenities (like A/C), unlike airlines or hotel rooms.

    Check around between various companies and travel sites (there's an app or two for smartphones and tablets that specifically price out car rental options).

    Something that no one has mentioned about the A-Line is that it routinely experiences delays and glitches, from persistent signal issues to obstructions--including people--on the tracks. RTD is pretty good about putting shuttle buses in place when there are issues, but that definitely slows things down when it happens. Check the "Rider Alerts" page at www.rtd-denver.com before departing to see what the current status is, and as usual for urban travel, avoid rush hours if possible.

    As a side note, DIA is operated by the City and County of Denver, so there is motivation to have a positive traveler experience and thus keep the tourism and business travel industry happy (and people off the backs of the mayor and city council). As such, the "tourist trap" experience at some airports is less profound in Denver.
     
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  17. Jun 24, 2019 #17

    Willbridge

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    Regarding the differences between Light Rail and Commuter Rail there's an explanation with photos in message #10 above your query.
    The Denver regional ticket machines are slow, because they are designed to deal with new customers. At Union Station if a security guard isn't available there are usually customers who will help. And note that your transit rail ticket is also good as a bus transfer. There are a couple of good ways to get to downtown Golden by bus from the Union Station and they both offer suburban off-street transfers with shelters and info signage.
     
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  18. Jul 5, 2019 #18

    cruisegary

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    Rental cars and EVERYTHING are expensive at Denver airport.

    Some of the downtown rental locations do not charge extra for airport dropoff. On our upcoming trip, right downtown Hertz locations were high. Go about 5 miles from downtown and the rates drop way down. Well worth the $10 uber ride.

    Taking light rail to airport means you then have to find the shuttle locations to hotels, then shuttle back next day, then find rental car shuttles. Tons of hassles.

    Double check other car rental locations near downtown and stay there that night.
     
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  19. Jul 6, 2019 #19

    saxman

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    There are quite a few reasonably priced hotels by the Central Park Station along the A-Line to the airport. It's located where the old Stapleton Airport use to be. It's 15-20 minute ride from downtown and almost all the hotels have shuttle service to the station. Pretty sure there are rental cars companies there too.
     
  20. Jul 6, 2019 #20

    me_little_me

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    My Hertz car rental by the Central Park Station was MUCH cheaper than airport rates. They picked us up and dropped us off at the station at no charge, to boot.
     
  21. Jul 7, 2019 #21

    Rasputin

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    Thanks for all of those suggestions. I recently checked the Hertz prices for 5 day rental of the Buick Regal and found that the airport cost was slightly over $200 more than the cost at the 2001 Welton Street location (which seems to have longer hours than other downtown locations). Is the Welton Street location near an A-line station and is it a long way from Union Station?
     
  22. Jul 7, 2019 #22

    PVD

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    I have used the Welton location to pick up a car for my trips to Colorado Springs for USA Hockey meetings. They have either picked me up or dispatched an Uber/Lyft when they didn't have a driver. Call them directly to make sure they still do, it is not that far from Union Station.
     
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  23. Jul 8, 2019 #23

    penguinflies

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    Stay downtown next to union station..train next morning. i personally did this. aline takes about 45mins end to end.

    There are a ton if hotels a 10 minute walk west from the 40/pena stop. a few marriot brands, few hiltons /hyatts, a couple of other lower cost options. Most have free shuttles to airport.

    I use to live there off 58/pena. job put me up at the residence inn for a month off 40th before i found a rental.
     
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  24. Jul 9, 2019 at 3:21 PM #24

    cruisegary

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    As to getting a rental car. Lots of people actually take hotel shuttles and then rent a car "off airport". Do not waste your time and money going all the way to DIA. As to taking a train to get to car rental place from Denver train station, Uber/lyft/Cab would be much easier. As said above, some of the car rental places in city center are higher than just a few miles up the road. Go figure.
     
  25. Jul 9, 2019 at 6:01 PM #25

    basketmaker

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    Keep in mind that DIA is 25 miles northeast of Union Station an Colorado Springs is 70 miles due south. Also I-70 construction can be troublesome. Another this is that there is a 11.11% "Airport Recovery Fee" charged for vehicles rented within a 20 mile radius of the terminal. Union Station is outside of that radius and exempt from the fee. The A-Train fare is $10.50 for a Day Pass.
     
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