Multimodal Transport and Railway Systems – Denver Union Station

place_thumb.jpgThis weeks case study is the Denver Union Station, in Colorado, USA, a multimodal transit development located in lower downtown Denver. The article has been developed together with Donna Rubinoff, MD at Sustainability Advisors Ltd.

Denver is the capital and the biggest city in Colorado. In mid-20th century the economy in Denver was focused around oil and gas industry. When the price of oil in the world dropped radically in 1986, the city’s economy took a hit, and the unemployment rate grew to one percentage above national average.


The city began struggling with a declining economy and derelict downtown, as well as the pollution from the oil industry. In the late 1980s / 1990s Office vacancy rates became around 30 percent, and only a handful of people lived in the Central Business District.


Denver managed to recover over the next few decades thanks to timely federal grants, a small group of developers and three mayors who were dedicated to development of Denver. Voters backed up those efforts with taxes and bond issues.


The project of Denver Union Station has aimed to provide benefits, environmental, economic and social, to the whole Denver region by anchoring an ambitious metropolitan scaled public transport system. “Fastracks” will include integrated light rail, commuter rail, bus/bus rapid transit, standard gauge railway, local circulator buses, bicycle and pedestrian systems . Approximately 50 acres in lower downtown Denver is under development through a public-private partnership. The idea was to create an intermodal transit district surrounded by a mix of retail, office and residential spaces, as well as a network of pedestrian and public spaces around the site.

The construction of the multimodal hub was completed in 2014, and the Union Station was re-opened to the public on July 12th 2014. It is expected that the commuter rail line will be completed during 2016.


One of the challenges was how to incorporate the dilapidated but historic Beaux Arts station into the new multimodal hub. The station is located right next to the city’s central business district, which has highest office rents and lowest commercial vacancy rates in Denver. The new urban district was aimed to support major city businesses and activities.

The structure of the involved entities was as displayed:


It was important to note the influence of the project in all of the four sectors to put emphasis not only on the hard factors, but also on the soft factors of the project, mainly the effect it will have on the community.

In the graphic displayed below, we have mapped the vision of the project, through four main factors that we identified were relevant in all of the projects we analysed.


The financing of this project was achieved through innovative model of public-private partnership, similar to the ones from our previous articles, with several sources of income.

The City of Denver formed DUSPA in July 2008 as a non-profit, public benefit corporation, to finance and implement the project. Project elements were transferred to the Regional Transport District (RTD), as they were completed. RTD maintains each of those elements, and provides for maintenance and operation of the project as a complete transportation district, since substantial completion occurred.

Of the total cost of the project, $454.3 million represents TIFIA Eligible Project Costs. TIFIA stands for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, and it provides federal credit assistance with fixed rates that are often lower than what most borrowers can obtain in the private market

The total cost of the project is $487.7 million. The simplified scheme of the financing shows all of the funding sources.


The building of the station itself, 120 year old, has been transformed to house a number of shops, restaurants and bars, as well as a Crawford hotel with 112 rooms. The project is sensitive to the historic location and its surroundings, but at the same time forward looking and it sets the standard for 21st century multimodal hubs. In total, five different types of transit services meet at the Union station.


Below is the video of the opening of the Denver Union Station, from last July, which provides more insight into the new appearance of the station.

Denver Union Station reopens

In the next article we will be presenting the Södra Station area redevelopment, another example of an innovative rail-related project in Stockholm, Sweden.

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