PERRY: Denver, CU train wreck of thought rumbling through Aurora


Is there anything Denver touches that doesn’t turn to mile-high mucus for the rest of us?

It’s a city that finally made sense of the Valley Highway with the state-funded, gazillion-dollar T-REX confabulation, and then they destroyed it by hot-wiring Sante Fe Drive into the northbound traffic.

It’s a city that has torn down thousands of affordable homes in and around Downtown, put up chic and pricey duplexes, condos, lofts and apartments everywhere and then started whining that there’s no affordable housing left.

Most recently, Denver wanted Aurora to mutually renege on the very contract with Adams County and Aurora that made Denver International Airport possible. The new deal is that Aurora and Adams County get a big chuck of the tax take of what Denver can make by building what  they’re calling an “aerotropolis.” Denver got talked into believing that big, cool, high-tech companies are just aching to be out at airports in the middle of nowhere. Because? I don’t know. Employees can walk from the airplane to work? They can get some of that epic terminal cuisine? Shop at those fabulous airport stores? Park? Stand in line for a friendly massage with the TSA? What could be a better place in the metro area to live and work than the gates of DIA? Maybe Thornton, Mountain View or anywhere, I guess.

It’s all good, they say, because people will want to get to nowhere and back on the new Air Train. Well, it used to be the Air Train. But that was then re-branded as the University of Colorado A Line train, which is what Aurora’s soon-to-open light-rail train was supposed to be named. But, no, now that’s called the R Line. And the name really has nothing to do with University of Colorado, other than the stupidity of using millions of public college dollars to “brand” itself on a publicly funded train that looks like it goes to CU and not the airport. What, you can’t keep up?

Now that little marketing gem came from the collaborative geniuses at the University of Colorado and the Regional Transportation District. CU officials figure it isn’t enough that half of the country is already dying to go to CU and that they get top dollar from students and families here paying their top-dollar tuition. CU was willing to pay $5 million to get their name out there, and RTD wasn’t grown-up enough to save them from themselves.

“People don’t go to Coors Field expecting a brewery tour,”  CU spokesman Ken McConnellogue told the Boulder Daily Camera last year when the deal was made, “The point of naming rights is to elevate your brand and make people aware of who you are.”

Gee. Who ever heard of the University of Colorado?

University officials say they need the $5-million mention, in addition to the millions they spend on other advertising, so they can attract the best students and staff.

Yup. If I was sitting in traffic just thinking how sweet my perfect ACT score was and a train went by with CU on it, the light bulb would spark for me. I’d think, if those people are smart enough to pay $5 million to paint their name on a train, they must run a damned-fine school.

This kind of brainstorm had to come only from the same folks who talked Denver into building their aerotropolis, which is eco-devo-ese for “big, fat business subsidy.” Because, face it, there are no real roads out there. No water. No sewer. No Starbucks. Who’s gonna pay for all that so they can have oodles of businesses line up to drop big money to watch dust and tornadoes work their way toward them all year, and then take the train back to civilization?

That would be Denver and the University of Colorado A Line train to DIA. Clearly RTD and CU will be spending more money soon on a campaign to explain why the University of Colorado train doesn’t go there. Maybe they can buy ad space on top of Denver taxis.

It was our name. And not only did Denver and RTD hijack Aurora’s train name, they kidnapped the train, making it seem like it is nothing but a bee line from Denver’s aerotropolis, oh, and, umm, the airport terminal, right to Union Station. Nobody wants to mention there are eight station stops on that train, a couple in Aurora. Nobody wants to point out that the thing crosses more streets than Denver has potholes as it chugs along old railroad tracks during its 40-minute journey for $9. Wee.

The thing broke down already as of Tuesday, less than a week after it started. It was a bad switch or a bad bait and switch, or something. I was at the crossing of  tracks at York Street in Denver earlier that day and watched the spanky new boom-gates malfunction, wondering why CU was running a train through Denver’s industrial park.

I have no doubt that it won’t be a year before Denver asks its own taxpayers and Aurora to pony up to fix what’s brand new and already broken. And, of course, we’ll be needing money for incentives to lure those enviable high-tech businesses out to the aerotropolis.

So let’s just go ahead and raise taxes now so we can hurry up to the next great thing Denver has in store for all of us. Time to rebuild I-70, and Denver has a plan.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]