Denver Rail & BRT

Like another sprawling Western metropolis, Los Angeles, the Mile High City is constructing a complete regional rail network from the ground up, ASAP. As approved by voters in 2004, the FasTracks system will eventually include more than 120 miles of light rail and electric commuter rail (the first west of Chicago), and much of it has already been built. Unlike L.A., where motivations often seem less pro-transit than anti-traffic, Metro Denver is driven by a consensus vision for the region. However functional and polite its politics may be, though, planners and policymakers have so far taken the easy way out, opting for available freeway and freight rail rights-of-way while urban neighborhoods are left waiting for a better bus (unlike in another of Denver’s peers, Seattle, where rail will directly serve high-density neighborhoods).

DESIGN NOTES

For a long time, RTD’s official rail map was an embarrassment. It’s now conceptually interesting and competently executed, if still kind of awkward. This map manages to show downtown shuttle routes (a key link in the regional system, as the “central” hub of Union Station is on the edge of downtown) without being quite so downtown-centric, it provides more information about freeway BRT service to Boulder, and it differentiates between all-day and peak-only services. The typeface is RTD’s official one, Proxima Sans.

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