#Denver Union Station and #LoDo – a model?

I had a wonderful two day visit this past week to Denver, where I stayed a block and a half from Union Station.  I have not been in Denver since the light rail to the airport opened this spring.  The change in the “feel” of the LoDo (Lower Downtown) area is fantastic.  I was particularly impressed with the Union Station redevelopment itself. There are several important features that development of other urban train stations could take note of (are you listening Philadelphia 30th Street Station and  NYC Penn Station).  As an untrained observer of the urban environment, the following in particular stand out to me:

  1. There is a diversion of heavy automobile through traffic away from the area, in favor of pedestrian and bike access
  2. Seemless integration of rail, light rail and busses.  Also integration with a free 16th Street shuttle (think if Philadelphia had a free Market St shuttle from 30th Street to City Hall or even the Delaware river)
  3. Both in the station and surrounds, there are many local eateries, coffee shops, etc (not a single national franchise in the station!).  There is a hotel in the station as well as several within a 2 block radius.  This project has clearly been catalytic for development in the 5-10 block radius (the LoDo neighborhood).

It was wonderful to be able to walk from the airport baggage claim to the Denver RTD station at the airport to take a comfortable train ride – 37 minutes or so, with 15 minute headways, to Union Station, then walk 2 blocks to my hotel – without having to navigate a single step or even a curb.  This is intelligent multimodal planning. It is still not without glitches; one of my colleagues at the meeting had a two hour delay on his train due to a power failure.  So advice is to plan ahead heading to the airport.  But I had a smooth ride both ways.

Other cities should think about this as a model, although Denver has fewer short and long-haul Amtrak trains than Philadelphia or New York.







Outside of Union Station at night.  From: union-greathall-tooltip.jpg
















Interior of old trainhall (old ticket windows are now a bar).  From: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=imgres&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjV26vW4-bNAhVCPz4KHZJCDAMQjRwIBw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FDenver_Union_Station&psig=AFQjCNGIfjYDWg5oQA2tqZWwZyJRNp2O5w&ust=1468167337248878

Musings on Resiliency of Cities – More than Just Recovery to Ex Ante

I have just gotten back to the office after a day and a half conference on cities.  One topic discussed was resiliency.  A graphic used was similar to the one below:


(Source: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/geog030/node/327)

The concept is that given a shock — a natural or manmade disaster, resilience is a property wherein the ex ante state can be re-attained.


But I have started to wonder whether we should explicitly acknowledge that in fact this type of resilience is settling for second best.  Perhaps a highly surpra-resilient system can take advantage of a shock to recover to an even better ex-post state. 

Perhaps the concept of chemical activation energy is more apt.


(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_state_theory)

In this figure a low energy is considered more favorable.  But it is only the shock of a disruption that permits the system to attain a more favorable (lower energy) state due to the barrier.

So by looking merely to return to ex ante conditions, we are ignoring opportunities for improvement (e.g., more sustainability, more equity, etc.).