Sep 1, 2022 - News

Denver A-Line train to DIA airport is pricier than alternatives

Data: Axios research; Note: Costs are for three-day round-trip transportation; Tory Lysik/Axios

The free rides for RTD trains to the airport are over.

  • Now it no longer makes financial sense to take the train, an Axios Denver analysis finds.

Why it matters: The steep cost to take the light rail to the airport — $21 roundtrip — is a barrier to boosting ridership. RTD's bus and train rates are the highest in the nation among major metro areas.

  • Moreover, when it's typically faster and cheaper to drive and park at Denver International Airport, it makes it harder to reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

How we did it: We put together 16 travel scenarios for various trip lengths to find the average cost to get to the airport.

  • The options included: Ride-share services; RTD park and ride; ride-share to the train; and driving and parking in the airport shuttle lots. We considered both individuals and families.

What we found: If you can walk to the train, that's the cheapest option. If you can't, the train costs more in most cases when you combine the fares and the cost to get to a station.

  • For short trips of two to five days, it's more affordable for two adults and families to drive and park at the airport.
  • For longer trips of seven days, using the park and ride or taking ride-share to the train are the cheapest options — but it's essentially the same cost as a ride-share trip directly to the airport.

Yes, but: The park and ride for the train is the most cost-effective option if you are an individual or senior, the latter of which receive discounted fare. Yet again, it's only about $5 more to drive and park.

Between the lines: RTD is undergoing a re-evaluation of its fares this year, including for the A-Line, spokesperson Pauline Haberman tells us.

  • The current rates were set by the agency after a prior study.

John's thought bubble: I wrote this analysis while riding the free train — work I couldn't have gotten done if I was driving. Factors like this may tip the scales when planning travel.

  • For instance, I opted for the more expensive option — taking a ride-share to the train station — because I didn't want to park at an RTD lot, where stolen cars and break-ins are rampant.
  • If I was running late, I would have taken a ride-share the entire way to the airport because it's often the fastest option given the train's schedule and frequent stops.
  • Not until this analysis did I realize I should have driven and parked to save money.

The bottom line: We each have our own preferences, but cost is a factor working against the A-Line.


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