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Riders board the G Line at Union Station on April 26, the first day of the long-awaited service. Photo by Jay Bouchard.

Day 1 of the G Line: Better Late Than Never

An Arvadan works through her feelings about RTD’s long-delayed commuter rail on the train’s maiden voyage.

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The woman behind me has come all the way from Arkansas to take her grandson on his first train ride today. Cup of milk in hand, the toddler is being decidedly more patient than myself and the other coffee-clutching commuters queued up at the Olde Town Arvada Station to ride the long-awaited Gold Line. The digital sign indicates a Union Station–bound train is due in six minutes, but it’s been like that since I arrived a half hour ago.

Then, a bell clangs—alas, it’s coming from the east. The amateur train enthusiasts pull out their iPhones; a few professional photographers and videographers get into position; and the little boy’s eyes light up as he excitedly answers his grandma’s query about what trains say (“Choo-choo!”) and watches the incoming cars. I sigh and check Slack to make sure I’m not missing anything critical at the office; a man a few feet away continues his work call as if nothing interesting is happening.

After it pulls away, an RTD representative informs the growing crowd that the first train coming from the west is carrying VIPs and, thus, we won’t be able to board it. Groans ensue, tempered only slightly by the fact that he assures us another train will follow soon behind it.

The author waits for her maiden voyage on the G Line at the Olde Town Arvada Station. Photo courtesy of Jessica LaRusso

We could be forgiven for our annoyance; after all, it’s not just that we’ve been waiting these 45 minutes. We’ve been waiting for 2.5 years for the G Line, which was originally scheduled to start carrying passengers to LoDo from as far away as Wheat Ridge (in just 27 minutes) in October 2016. My husband and I, a one-car family, bought a house in Arvada with the expectation that I’d be able to take the train to work downtown. (In fairness, the RTD’s 55L bus route from Olde Town to Union—though subject to a much more limited schedule and weather and traffic delays—served me just fine in the interim.) More important, plenty of businesses bought or leased space near the G Line’s stations, counting on the foot traffic the train would bring. And then there are the people who live close enough to the track to be woken up by the horns the test trains were required to blare until regulators gave the OK to silence them in most places.

Right now, though, the noise of the incoming train we plebs are allowed to board is a welcome sound. As the cars pull up, resplendent in a goldenrod yellow wrap with a mountain silhouette and the words “Wheat Ridge” and “Arvada” in black, we surge forward in excitement…until we realize the cars are already packed with riders from the two prior stops. My buoyant stride turns to an inelegant shuffle as I wedge myself into one of the last cars, backpack between my legs. The door mercifully shuts behind me, and we’re off.

Despite the close quarters, the mood inside is jubilant: Recreational riders are snapping selfies; an RTD board member is enthusiastically bobbing and squeezing his way from group to group, answering questions about where exactly the train comes in to Union Station (track 7); and a few of us obvious commuters strike up a conversation. Yes, we complain a bit about the false starts—today and over the past couple of years—but mostly we talk about how we’re excited for a public transportation method to our jobs in Denver that won’t get held up in I-70 traffic. How we’re looking forward to not having to park downtown when we want to go to Rockies games and shows at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC). That it’ll be nice to enjoy happy hour downtown without worrying about getting behind the wheel later or paying for an Uber home.

About 20 minutes and four stops later, we pull into Union Station; the board member somehow gets everyone to quiet down long enough to remind us that the first two weeks of the G Line are free (after that, it’ll be a local fare of $3). Earlier in the day, I may have been tempted to mutter that it’s the least they can do, after all this time—but as we spill out into same platform that houses the A Line and Amtrak, sunlight filtering through the white canopy above, I find myself a little giddy instead. The choo-choo kid was right: Trains are cool. And now that the G Line is here, it’s time to let go of our ire and enjoy the ride.

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