DENVER -- Denver’s new $1.2 billion train line from Union Station downtown to Denver International Airport runs late about one out of every seven trips.
Since the opening of the RTD A Line on April 22 through the end of August, internal departure and arrival data proves the rail line showed up more than five minutes late at least 3,127 times.
Passengers arrived more than 15 minutes late at least 612 times.
And on 49 trips, the delays were so insurmountable that train operators described the route as “incomplete” or “canceled.”
The owners of the A Line, the Regional Transportation District, and the operators of the rail, Denver Transit Partners, have been keeping a close tally on “unexcused delays,” but until the FOX31 Problem Solvers acquired their vast internal time database, the public-private partners have been speaking about delays in general terms.
The investigative team reviewed 69,155 stops system-wide before concentrating on 21,525 time records specifically logging delay times between Denver International Airport and Union Station platforms for its calculations.
RTD fines train operator $70,000 for delays
“All A Line trains are running approximately 30 minutes behind schedule at this time. We apologize for the inconvenience,” are the words that have been playing on speakers over and over along platforms linking Denver's expensive new route from downtown to the airport.
It's easy to see the allure of jumping on a train at scenic Union Station, then buzzing peacefully along the rails toward DIA. When the A Line opened in April, politicians promised a 37-minute trip.
Instead, passengers have been repeatedly running into disappointing breakdowns, stoppages, cancellations and chaos.
In the past five months, thousands of commuters, such as Green Valley Ranch resident Kaleena Cain, have been stuck standing around waiting for a train that is significantly late.
“I’m probably about an hour behind schedule, so my husband had to pick our daughter up from day care,” Cain said. "I just got off work. I work downtown and am trying to get home in a reasonable amount of time. It was kind of nerve wracking trying to get everything rearranged.”
Exactly how often the train line has been late or delayed had been kept away from the public.
Arrival and departure data show on top of 3,157 late arrivals (defined by RTD as more than five minutes overdue), at least 119 trips have been more than 30 minutes late. The longest reported delay has been 97 minutes.
Spokesman Scott Reed said delays have been such a problem, RTD has been fining the agency it hired to operate the A Line for failing to meet its contractual “on-time” obligations.
So far, Denver Transit Partners have paid $70,000 in fines for running late train routes.
Reed said DTP has also paid an additional $1 million in fines for failing to honor smooth operations in other parts of the A Line such as the continued use of paid day labor to stand guard at every crossing because the safety arms don't come down at the proper time.
Denver Transit Partners is a consortium of private companies, which brought about $500 million to the table to help RTD build and operate the A Line.
“It’s common during the first year of operations to see some performance variables as the system adjusts to the new railroad,” Denver Transit Partners executive project director John Thompson said in a statement. "For example, in the months of July and September, roughly eight out of every nine trips between DIA and DUS or DUS and DIA were on time, so we saw an improvement there. DTP remains diligent and committed to providing the traveling public with a reliable customer-service experience, always keeping safety our number one priority.”
But five months after launching the A Line, commuters such as Tom Vyles are still hesitant to get aboard if they need to be on time.
“I wouldn't trust it right now until they get the kinks worked out,” Vyles said. "If I was actually trying to catch a flight? I wouldn't be standing here right now.”
The arrival and departure time records show delays aren't just affecting families pulling their luggage to the airport.
It appears the A Line delays are also making thousands of commuters late for work.
Records show 1,062 trips between Union Station and the 40th Avenue station (and back) have been delayed for more than 10 minutes.