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RTD will expand A-Line capacity despite ongoing problems, looming deadline

Plan to fix A-Line is due by the end of the week
Posted at 4:42 PM, Dec 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-12 21:22:00-05

DENVER -- The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is taking measures to essentially double capacity for the A-Line, citing demand as the reason.

There's no question the train has been a success is terms of ridership but problems have plagued the line ever since it opened. Now, RTD has to submit a plan to fix the A-Line to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) by the end of the week or face the threat of a shutdown.

Businesses, travelers and commuters have come to rely on the train. A spokesperson for Black Shirt Brewing, located by the 38th and Blake Station, says a lot of people stop in with their luggage.

"We love the fact that we’re right next to the A-Line. We get traffic from people obviously coming to and from the airport, a lot of out-of-towners... we’re their first stop," said Meghan Howes, Black Shirt Brewing Communications Director.

According to RTD, their averages show 21,200 people ride the train on a typical week day. Ridership is now exceeding numbers they expected to see in 2020.

"We didn’t anticipate needing additional trains for another year," said RTD Spokesperson Laurie Huff.

The trains currently have two cars but RTD wants four to meet demand. If everything goes according to plan, capacity will be increased sometime in January.

Denver7 asked why RTD is increasing the capacity if the A-Line is still having issues and if service could be suspended. Huff said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has identified several options "if an acceptable plan is not submitted, including revocation of the FRA waiver. Revocation of the FRA waiver is not the same as shutting down the line. RTD will do everything possible to ensure that the plan is accepted and implemented such that our service is not impacted."

The FRA's chief safety officer wrote a letter on November 15 calling the situation at crossing gates "unacceptable." RTD was granted a waiver to continue operating the A-Line when in opened in April 2016 after issues were discovered with new technology at the gates. Flaggers are still present as a safety precaution.

In that letter, federal regulators warned they could suspend service if an action plan is not submitted within 30 days.