Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Will Red Rocks finally get public transportation? Here’s an inside look at the proposal to expand service for concerts

Updated (at 1:30 p.m. March 26): This story was updated to reflect proposed revisions to the RTD board that would scale back some of the reduced service hours on the W-Line.

Music and nature lovers who chafe at the traffic jams and parking hassles at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre might get relief via public shuttles from the Regional Transportation District’s westernmost light-rail stop — if RTD can keep the trains running late enough.

A Denver City Council member and a Jefferson County commissioner have joined social justice leaders in pressing for public transportation that ensures easier, safer access to and from the venue near Morrison as well as less air pollution.

Under their proposal, concertgoers and other visitors would travel by light rail along the RTD W Line to its end at the domed Jefferson County Government Center in Golden. From there, vans or buses would ferry riders about 3 miles to Red Rocks and back, starting with a pilot project in 2025. Costs and possible fees haven’t been determined.

“We have our mountain parks to provide access to open space and green space for Denverites. That’s the premise for our mountain parks. The difficulty is the access,” said Denver Councilman Darrell Watson, who has been leading the push with Jefferson County Commissioner Andy Kerr.

Denver has owned Red Rocks since 1927 and in 1941 opened the public amphitheater, which ranks among the nation’s highest-volume outdoor concert venues. Nearly 1 million people a year attend concerts at Red Rocks and 2 million a year visit the surrounding park for hiking and picnics.

But RTD plans may complicate their initial approach.

RTD directors this month are mulling service reduction proposals that initially would have ended rail runs on the W Line to and from Denver’s Union Station to Golden after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, before many concerts at Red Rocks end. But the proposal has been revised to continue service through midnight on those days, with less of a reduction. The proposed service changes, though, would maintain weekend service with W Line trains that now run until 1:25 a.m. Friday and Saturday extended to 2 a.m.

At an executive meeting on Thursday, RTD directors said they’re aware of the efforts to provide public transportation to and from Red Rocks. RTD general manager Debra Johnson said there are no plans by RTD to extend service.

However, board member Michael Guzman said he sees potential for helping to boost RTD’s lagging ridership, suggesting service reduction on the W line should be reconsidered carefully to allow for a role in helping residents reach Red Rocks.

Ending rail service early “might not be beneficial to helping our riders,” Guzman told fellow directors at the meeting. “Engaging in the conversation and trying to understand what Jefferson County and Denver are doing would be the most beneficial and potentially increase ridership.”

A Red Rocks public access project also could help reach RTD goals of decreasing emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by giving metro residents new options “so that we are not taking individual trips up to Red Rocks and can utilize the public transit system that has been placed through Golden and back to Denver for concertgoers,” he said.

In Jefferson County, Morrison and other communities have been deluged with vehicle traffic before and after concerts as music lovers try to reach the 868-acre park and its sandstone outcrops, where the Rocky Mountains meet the high plains.

Jeffco Commissioner Kerr rides his bicycle in the area and documented peak traffic congestion in photos.

“The entire valley is at a standstill, jam-packed, like Interstate 25 through Denver during rush hour,” he said. “What we’re proposing would help the situation. People could leave their cars at home and take a train and bus.”

RTD wouldn’t be directly involved at first.

“We’ve talked to RTD about what we are thinking about,” Kerr said. “We’re talking about centering this at an RTD station, the Jeffco Government Center at the end of the W Line. And we are not shutting them out. But we know we cannot wait for them either. We want to move ahead. We need to move ahead with a pilot program that is not based on RTD at this point.”

For a decade in central Denver, GreenLatinos director Ean Tafoya has been advocating for public transportation to Red Rocks and other mountain parks as a matter of social justice.

“This would open thousands of acres to urban dwellers,” he said. RTD reduction of rail service “would not be helpful for concertgoers but I don’t think that would stop this,” he said, suggesting transit routes to the Denver Federal Center Station as an option.

Jeffco officials in 2020 published a plan for ferrying rail riders to and from multiple foothills attractions, including the Apex Park, Dinosaur Ridge and Matthews-Winters Park, before shelving it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“More than 90% are using cars,” Watson said. “Our focus, first, is the concerts. And we expect to have a pilot project by next (2025) summer.”

Get more Colorado news by signing up for our Mile High Roundup email newsletter.

Popular Articles