WHAT:  RMGA Familiarization Tour Union Station

WHERE:  DIA, Westin Hotel, University of Colorado A Line

WHEN:  June 15, 2016

ORGANIZER:  Michael Pearl, Ph.D., C.I.T.M. 

8:15 Meet at Union Station/Crawford Hotel

8:30 Guided Tour – RTD Rail Station and University of Colorado A Line – Tara Bettale

9:00 Ride University of Colorado A Line to DIA

9:45 Tour Transit Station at DIA

10:45 Tour Westin Hotel – April McGill

11:45 Lunch

1:30 Jeppeson Terminal

1:30 – 1:50 Welcome and Airport Overview DEN Overview and slide show - Sarah Bruton

1:50 – 2:00 Ambassador and CATS Program Program requirements and contributions - Mark Inzana

2:00 – 2:15 Customer Relations and texting Customer assistance and wayfinding - Marco Toscano

2:15 – 2:30 Terminal Operations and FIS Airport Security, Ticketing, Meet and greets, etc. - Adam Steffl

2:30 – 2:45 Ground Transportation Regulations and services offered - Mike Percy

2:45 – 3:00 Art Program Overview Art Facts, exhibits and commissioning - Heather Kaufman

3:00 – 3:45 Q&A Self-guided Terminal Tour - Sarah Bruton, Mark Inzana, Marco Toscano

3:45 Depart via RTD University of Colorado A Line to Union Station

4:30 Arrive Union Station, Tour ends​​

RTD A Line, Union Station, DIA, Westin Hotel 

FAM – June 15, 2016

​​FAM – University of Colorado A Line / Westin at DIA / DIA

Prepared by Nancy Brueggeman

Most of us took Light Rail to Union Station because parking in LoDo can be difficult and expensive during the week. We met in the lobby at Union Station near the registration desk for the Crawford Hotel. There are restrooms on this level down the hall past Tattered Cover (bookstore) and Snooze (restaurant). There are also restrooms across the lobby of Union Station and down the stairs near the Amtrak ticket office. The Transit Hub (Union Station) was remodeled at a cost of $500 million and reopened in 2014. Larimer Associates (Dana Crawford, et al) run businesses in Union Station. The train hall and the plaza were remodeled at a cost of $17 million.

We all then went outside to the platform where Mike Pearl introduced Tara Bettale, the Information Manager for RTD’s Eagle P3 Project (P3 = Public-Private Partnership). This program is part of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s Penta Program (Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program). The Penta Program offered funds to help build the commuter rail line to the airport. Three cities applied for these funds: Oakland, California; Dallas, Texas; and Denver. Denver was the only city that got a contract – RTD was already prepared to build the line to DIA. Of the $2.2 billion cost for the University of Colorado A Line to DIA, the government offered $1.03 billion. The construction financing saved Denver $350 million. $450 million came from the private sector – this group will maintain and operate the A Line for the next 29 years. RTD operates the rolling stock, dealing with the on-time percentage, cleanliness, and systems issues (i.e., lightning struck the rail and stopped the train in the first couple of weeks of operation). The on-time percentage hit 100% for two days recently and must maintain a 90% on-time average to avoid penalties.

All the train cars have to be railroad certified because of the line’s proximity to the Union Pacific rail line. The cars have been manufactured by Hyundai in Korea and in Philadelphia. Each car seats 91 people – a “married coupling” is two cars together. Each car costs $20 million and RTD owns 66 cars.

Tara also reminded us of the other commuter rail lines that will be opening this year: B – Northwest line expected to open July 25th, G – the line to Arvada will open this fall, and R – I-225 light rail line. The R line will connect to the A line near Fitzsimmons at the Peoria Station. The G line has several crossings and also crosses the Burlington and Santa Fe tracks in Arvada – requiring use of horns. The Flatiron Flyer, a bus line to Boulder, opened January 2016. It runs every 15 minutes during busy commute times.

There are six RTD tracks and 2 Amtrak tracks on the two platforms. The center tracks (Amtrak) were sunk 1-2’ to accommodate wheelchairs and luggage to get on the train without having any steps. The RTD tracks were lowered 4’ for the same reason. The light rail lines have a “high block” at each station, which is a ramp to the train for handicapped access as well as strollers, luggage, and bicycles.

We were standing on Platform 1, Track 1 – the trains are announced by voice and also a lighted sign that is readily visible as you exit the Union Station lobby. There should – remember “should” – be only one train at the platform in Union Station at a time. RTD expects to have a mall directory in place soon (a map of the area with a “You are Here” star). Tara provided each of us with a day pass for the A line as we started out from Union Station – allowing us a free ride both directions.

There are ticket kiosks on the lower level – take the escalator down from the back of the Union Station lobby to the bus gates and walk toward the west end. These kiosks are not always manned, though. There are also ticket machines to purchase tickets. Each ticket is only good for one day – today – whether light rail or commuter rail. RTD is testing a readable, reloadable “smart” card – several RMGA members have this card already. This card will not expire at year end, as current paper tickets do.

Expected ridership is 18,600/day – RTD met this goal for the first time the week of June 13-17, 2016 – not quite two months after starting operations. The majority of ridership is expected to be commuters. Eco-pass works for major employers who provide passes for their employees. You can also buy a monthly pass. Local passes are good for 1-2 zones and regional passes for 3 zones. Fares provide only 15% of RTD’s income – the bulk (85%) comes from federal grants, local grants, FTA, and naming rights. University of Colorado paid $5 million over five years for the naming rights to the A line. All of RTD’s major assets have the ability to be named.

The University of Colorado A Line runs 22 hours/day. It is closed for two hours each day for cleaning and routine maintenance. The schedule currently is: from 3-4:30 am the train runs every thirty minutes, from 4:30 am-9:00 pm, it runs every 15 minutes, and then drops back to every thirty minutes after 9:00 pm, until it shuts down for cleaning. Be aware, there are no trash receptacles or restrooms on this train. RTD does not want food or drinks on the train. There are lots of luggage racks, bike racks, and racks for oversize luggage.

There is lots of security – there are 400 cameras on the trains, the track, at the stations, and at Union Station. These cameras can see two blocks away. There is also an armed security guard on each train. Security guards call first responders (medical emergency). RTD security guards are also fare inspectors.

PUC regulations require horns at each level crossing for blind pedestrians. Crossing flaggers are currently in place to monitor each level crossing and the mechanisms that close the gates and reopen them. Municipalities can apply for quiet zones after the crossing flaggers are no longer necessary and the timing of the crossings is fine-tuned. RTD and Union Pacific each have their own crossings. PUC required crossing upgrades that were not safety issues and also shortened the gate downtime. Rails in some places are pre-fixed so that flooding won’t wash out the tracks.

There are two substations to power the train. There is a “phase” break 80’ long between access to these two stations – the train must be travelling fast enough to coast from one phase to the other. The pantograph (the jointed framework that connects the train to the overhead wire) cannot connect to both these stations at the same time – bad things happen!

There are public art works and windbreaks at each station. Each municipality that the train travels through can choose its own canopy design and public art for its stations. There is a concrete barrier required between RTD’s track and the Union Pacific’s rails, if the distance is less than 25’ between these two tracks.

Federal railroad regulations require a Positive Train Control (PTC) safety switch, which will shut the train down if the operator goes too fast, misses a red light or a station. At York Street there is an “S” curve which will slow the train. All the track on the A line is new – the right-of-way had to be shifted to allow for RTD’s tracks alongside UP’s. Denver is the first train in the US to have PTC throughout. The trains cannot travel faster than 79 mph – over 80 mph, federal mandates apply for “high-speed” trains.

Real-time data will be rolling out on buses soon, and RTD expects to roll out real-time data on light rail and the A Line by year-end. RTD will then know where each vehicle is, whether bus or train, and if it’s on schedule, as well as other pertinent operating data. The Parking lot at 40th and the parking lots at each station can be expanded if needed.

International businesses and new businesses are moving to the area – Panasonic is moving to the 61st and Peña Blvd. area – they expect to have 500 employees. RTD may build a line from DIA to Tower Road to accommodate hotels in the area. The Skyride (bus) to DIA from Union Station has been eliminated. The Sky Ride from Arvada will also be eliminated (it is privately operated). The CDOT bus service (Bustang) to Colorado Springs and Glenwood Springs will continue to run.

After a less than 40-minute ride we arrived at DIA. RTD designed the platform at DIA and DIA built it out. There is space along the platform for an additional RTD rail line to be added in the future. Arrival is on Level 1 – on your right is an RTD booth where you can get questions answered and purchase tickets. This booth is not staffed 24/7. On your left is an entrance to the Westin Hotel – there are elevators to Level 5 and security. Also on your left are public restrooms on this level. The current Skyride buses drop off at the street just in front of you. Also, the outlying parking lots drop off and pick up here now. There is also a bag drop for domestic flights. At this level (1) there is also the potential for storefronts, i.e., coffee shop, etc. This escalator is reputed to be the longest west of the Mississippi. Looming in front of you is the 5-story tall escalator with public art displayed as you ascend.

Our next stop was the Westin Hotel. The design of the Westin is meant to resemble wings. The footprint at the base could not be enlarged and the hotel could not rise above the height of the airport control tower, so the hotel blossomed at the top on each side. In order to be economical, the hotel has to have 500 rooms and it must maintain at least 80% occupancy – the Westin has been averaging more than 93% occupancy at $349/night, rack rate. They also have a “day rate” – from 8 am-3 pm – you can shower and sleep for $154. There are 519 rooms, including 35 suites. When the airport was closed for “snow days” last winter, the hotel ran out of food.

The Westin Hotel provided each of us with a book about airport Westin hotels worldwide and also three guides – Kelcie, Hannah, and Carrie. Our large group was divided into three smaller groups. The first level has RTD, security, and the porte cochère for the hotel. The second level is meeting space. There is no third level. Fourth is planned for a future TSA checkpoint. The fifth level is the plaza, the sixth level is the hotel lobby and floors 6-14 have sleeping rooms. The artwork in the hotel is Colorado specific – each Westin has artwork that is locality specific. Artwork is designated at 1% of the total budget of the construction – at the Westin $15.1 million was spent on artwork – all from Colorado artists. This Westin is designed to their new brand standard.

The hotel has 19 meeting rooms and two ballrooms – all are named for Colorado trees. Two of the meeting rooms are set up as board rooms. The chandeliers in the ballrooms were hand hung – it took two weeks just to hang the brilliants. The ballrooms are very quiet – food is prepared away from the ballrooms. There is a gold wall hanging in the ballroom lobby area that represents all the waterways in Colorado. There are also 15,000 sq ft of pre-function space that overlooks the A Line station and outdoor artwork – “Shadow Array” – a display of beetle-kill logs that stretch along the sides of the A Line station. On the ceiling is a map of Denver. Level 5 has a farm-to-table restaurant, “Grille and Vine” – 98% of the menu is Colorado grown. Also on Level 5 is the outdoor plaza – 60,000 sq ft of space for year-round outdoor activities – mini-golf, concerts, etc. There is another restaurant coming soon to the hotel – a brew house.

The 6th floor is the lobby and registration desk. This area is traveler oriented – there is a view of the plaza and the TSA lines. Some of the chairs are wingbacks – allowing for privacy. The Westin works with the airlines and corporate groups – they have four airlines that guarantee 20 rooms/night for their flight crews. They also cater to groups with different guest levels depending on whether there are more or less than 75 guests. All rooms have “heavenly” beds. We visited a junior suite on the 11th floor that costs $900/night. Every sleeping room has a view – the mountains, the plains, or the rest of DIA. Also on the 11th floor is the workout room and the pool – both have great views – either the mountains or the RTD station artwork. The Westin has a “play well” program – you can rent workout clothes for $5 – you keep the socks, the rest is washed and goes to charity.

We then went to lunch – each person paid for their own lunch. Lunch was planned for the 5th level – no fryers are allowed on Level 5 for security reasons, so food will not be deep fried. Our choices were the Boulder Tap House and Red Rocks Brewery. Adrian Swenson arranged for us to have a 10% discount at both places.

At 1:30 pm we met in the City Conference Room on the 6th level and had several speakers – all associated with DIA and how it functions. First was John Smithwick, Director of Customer Service. John gave us several statistics about DIA. First, DIA is the #1 economic engine in the Rocky Mountain West – $26 billion/year. DIA has 35,000 employees – of this number, 1,500 are Denver city employees. Since 2006, there has been $1.9 billion spent in construction – C Concourse expansion and the hotel. TSA is working to change the TSA checkpoints to the 6th level – they are currently requesting proposals.

Passenger statistics: 2014 – 53.4 million, 2015 – 54 million, 2016 – on track for more than 55 million passengers. United has 43% of the passengers and Southwest has 30% of the passengers. DIA has the third largest domestic network (after Atlanta and Chicago) with 20 air carriers, 175 domestic destinations and 25 international destinations. Each week sees 86 international arrivals. A new route is a direct Lufthansa flight to Munich.

SKIFT, the web-based travel industry news and analysis publication, reports that DIA is the most successful airport brand on social media. USA Today Reader’s Choice named Denver the second best for airport dining. DIA is considered the best airport for free Wi-Fi – DIA spent $1 million to upgrade – they are adding power hubs for recharging phones, etc. When completed, there will be a total of 2,000 hubs – many attached to seats rather than a kiosk. There are 140 shops and 4 restaurants at DIA. DIA covers 53 square miles of land (LAX, Dallas and Atlanta would all fit). DIA can expand and have lots more runways, if needed. Pena Blvd. is on DIA property and DIA connects with other cities and counties to deal with these roadway connections. Check Flydenver.com for security wait times.

We asked questions about airport signage – Ground Transportation or Transit Center, west shuttle, which is which, how do you get there???

Customer information kiosks are manned from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm, with information on concessions and retail offerings on all three concourses. These kiosks are manned by volunteers. Would they add more Ambassadors to answer questions – security guards are required by the FAA to be there and are only concerned with security – they don’t answer questions. The Customer Relations Call Center is open from 6 am-11 pm every day – you can text, too – 720.370.9002. There are booths and you can contact info@denver.com . In 2015, this Call Center responded to 59,000 calls and 19,000 texts.

We also heard from Adam Steffl, Senior Manager for Terminal Operations. Adam reminded us that it takes lots of cooperation to keep it all working smoothly. There are 11 assistant operations managers – someone is on call 24/7/365 and they deal with the passenger flow, roadways, and TSA. Terminal Operations runs a paramedic program and there are 5-6 paramedics in the airport at any time from a pool of 50-60 paramedics. There are 40 automated external defibrillator (AED) locations throughout the terminal and concourses. DIA offers stranded passenger assistance, providing blankets and cots. DIA also documents risk and safety.

The CEO of the airport has the ability to close the airport – they partner with the FAA, local fire and police and radio control. Operations is responsible for free speech, leaflets, hotel, plaza, RTD station, and the homeless (Road Home program). They are also the construction liaison for the roadways, terminal, and concourse construction. They do contingency planning i.e., road closures, train failure, tornado warnings, and disease outbreaks. They are also adding signage updates in reflective signage.

Operations partners with Customs, paramedics, police, and the Denver Fire department. There are 30 lanes of checkpoints. They see an average of 49,000 passengers daily. Weekends and holidays jump to 60-63,000 passengers/day. More than 1.6 million passengers go through security each year – 1.4 million of those during ski season.

Operations also deals with pet relief areas – all airports are required to have pet relief areas. Nursing mother areas are being constructed on each concourse.

There are 12 international arrival gates. DIA has automatic passport control – now mobile passport control, since 60-70% of DIA traffic is US residents. You can check security checkpoint transit time online at the A Concourse gates, and North and South lines in the Great Hall.

Smoking is allowed on Level 4 at doors 400, 401, 416 and 417 and on Level 6 at doors 601, 616 and 617 – basically on the four corners of the terminal. No e-cigs are allowed.

Lisa Dittberner – Manager of Volunteer Programs and Customer Service talked about the Ambassadors and the CATS – Therapy Squad. They have 26 dogs now, expect to double to 52 dogs by the end of the summer. All are certified therapy dogs. The dogs work 2 hours at a time.

There are approximately 300 ambassadors and they volunteer (work) 32 hours/quarter. This volunteer stint includes a parking pass which is usable anytime. Can’t park longer than 30 days. Shifts are 10 hours or less and ambassadors are stationed by the hotel, security, and the concourse trains. The group has briefings quarterly. They train and then shadow a veteran ambassador before they are assigned on their own. The ambassadors have new updated uniforms – custom Spyder uniforms consisting of a plaid vest and a black hat.

A question asked was – Would DIA offer an RTD pass rather than a parking pass to the volunteer ambassadors? – No answer yet.

DIA has new ID and logo – now DEN – so I can’t call it DIA any longer.

Heather Kaufman, Director of Arts and Public Events gave us an overview of the art at the airport. There are 50 permanent pieces (again, 1% of any construction costs goes to new art). The Blue Mustang – restoration work being done now – the red eyes are a tribute to the father of the artist who completed it after his father was killed when the piece fell on him and the eyes honor his father’s work in neon. There is also “Notre Denver” – two griffins near the baggage claim, sitting on a suitcase. Three new pieces are underway – near #35 fire station on Pena Blvd.

There are also temporary exhibits: Ansbacher Hall, Y Juncture, Level 5 Community cases, terminal gallery, AOB lobby, Great Hall and Baggage Claim. We looked at the outdoor art “Sheaves of Veins” in the Plaza that sway in the breeze and look like a field of grain swaying in the breeze. We saw the time capsule and the murals on Level 5 – depicting Mexican Americans and African Americans. There is also a film series. And there are 8 hand-painted benches. The “Shadow Array” along the A line station consists of 226 logs from the Del Norte area that cast moving shadows along the ground as the sun moves through the sky. Planted underneath is native grass and rye grass to protect the native grass until it catches.

The artwork on the escalator as we descended depicts water – our most important asset – in all its forms: steam, liquid, fog, ice, and running. And then we were back to the A Line station and our tour was completed.

Contact information:

Tara Bettale
FasTracks Public Information Manager – EagleP3 Project
Regional Transportation District
1670 Broadway, Suite 2700 l Denver, CO 80202
303-299-2641 (office)   720-934-5324 (cell)

Kelcie Kaiser
Sales Coordinator
The Westin Denver International Airport
8300 Pena Boulevard
Denver, CO 80249

Lisa Dittberner
Manager, Volunteer Programs
Denver International Airport
Global Communications, Marketing & Customer Service
Airport Office Building | 9th Floor
8500 Peña Boulevard | Denver, CO 80249-6340
(303) 342-4207 | lisa.dittberner@flydenver.com