A new train line just opened up in Denver, Colorado, connecting the city to its international airport. It’s cheap and easy to use; the hardest part is finding your way out of the confusing international airport.
I recently traveled to Denver and used the newly opened train line to get from the airport to downtown. The train that serves Denver International is called the “University of Colorado A Line” and — despite the inexplicably confusing name that mentions neither downtown nor the airport — it’s a cheap and easy option once you know where to find it. According to Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RDT) website, it has only been open since April 22nd, 2016. Maybe that’s why the airport lacks proper signs to help passengers find the train. But don’t worry, this guide will cover what you need to know:
Step 1: Follow signs to baggage claim.
Eventually the baggage claim signs will take you to a series of two descending escalators that end at a train platform. This is not the train that connects to downtown, but rather an airport train that loops exclusively through the airport terminals. Take this train and get off at the baggage claim stop.
Step 2: From baggage claim, exit to the south, following signs for Westin Hotel Plaza and/or Transit Center.
Get your bearings by using signs in the baggage claim area that label parts of the airport as “Terminal East” and “Terminal West.” (Or, use the compass on your phone.) Head south until you see a large glass wall, which will probably have an American flag hanging from it.
As you head south, you will pass TSA security lines for people entering the airport. Walk out of the south doors, near the American flag.
Step 3: Go down a giant escalator.
Walk partway across the outdoor plaza until you reach a giant escalator. Go down. This escalator takes you down to the”University of Colorado A Line” train station platform and ticket booths.
Step 4: Purchase train tickets from vending machine
At the base of the escalator turn right to find a row of electronic RDT ticket machines. Purchase tickets by following the prompts on the screen. Select the Full Fare Option for the Regional/Airport day pass. (Notice a row of self check-in kiosks on the opposite wall when you return to the airport for the flight out, they may save you time standing in line upstairs).
Train tickets to downtown cost $9.00, are valid for unlimited use within 24 hours of the time you purchased it, and cover all connections on all RDT transit including light rail and buses.
The machines take cards, cash, or coins.
Step 5: Board the next train to downtown
All trains departing Denver International Airport go the same direction and terminate at Union Station in downtown, so just get on the first train you see. Keep your ticket handy. My ticket was checked by officers on both my train to downtown, and my train back to the airport the following day.
Step 6: Arrive at Union Station in downtown and connect if needed.
Union Station is within walking distance of the 16th street mall, many hotels, and tourist sites. Depending on where your final destination is you may need to connect to the light rail system (C, E and W lines), which is a couple blocks away.
To find Union Station’s light rail platform get your bearings first by finding the grand, historic, 19th century brick and stone Union Station Building (If you have time, peak inside; it’s beautifully restored and filled with little shops, eateries, and places to lounge).
With the Union Station building at your back walk two blocks northwest, crossing Wewatta Street and Chestnut Place. From there you’ll see the light rail platform where you can catch the C, E, and W lines. Wait for the train to double back before getting on (it enters first on one side to let commuters off, then returns on the opposite side for new riders to get on).
If you are connecting to a bus, descending escalators take you to the new underground bus concourse beneath Wewatta Street.
For more information on Union Station and it’s connection check out RDT’s official site.
— Laura Rowley