The future development of Lone Tree's RidgeGate area is dependent on the opening of the Southeast Rail Extension and, conversely, the bulk of ridership for the three new stations is reliant on the …
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The future development of Lone Tree's RidgeGate area is dependent on the opening of the Southeast Rail Extension and, conversely, the bulk of ridership for the three new stations is reliant on the current and future employees in the area.
Once the Southeast Rail Extension opens to the public May 19, the Regional Transportation District anticipates about 4,400 riders, on an average weekday, will access one of the three new stations in south Lone Tree within the first year. By 2035, RTD anticipates a ridership of about 6,600. Those numbers are projections based on the planned build out of the Lone Tree City Center and the surrounding villages and commercial districts.
About two-thirds of those riders will be using light rail for work, according to RTD, both to and from downtown Denver and the Tech Center. RTD officials said it would be more difficult to determine exactly how many people using the rail would be residents from Lone Tree, other parts of Douglas County, or elsewhere in the Denver metro area.
RTD uses a regional travel model conducted by the Denver Regional Council of Governments to asses ridership in a given area.
“These forecasts are very dependent on the population for employment and household forecasts coming to fruition, which is hard to know,” said Lee Cryer, a project planning manager with RTD. “Several years ago, when we were making forecasts, it was thought there would already be some development of the Lone Tree City Center by the time the project opens, which there is not. Getting that ridership data is dependent on the land use data coming to fruition.”
The regional travel model takes into consideration proximity to existing road and transit networks, such as I-25, I-70 and C-470, as well as population predictions from local jurisdictions regarding new households and employment. That includes places like Charles Schwab, the Kiewit regional headquarters and more than 12,000 housing units planned to come to RidgeGate. Coventry Development expects the plans for RidgeGate to bring 40,000 new jobs.
According to RTD, the city and local business associations in the southeast metro area contributed $25 million in cash and $3 million in right-of-way, permits and other in-kind contributions for the $233 million Southeast Rail Extension project. The contribution is 9.5 percent more than the 2.5 percent match RTD asks of its local partners. RTD invested $66 million and received a $92 million federal grant and a $9 million grant.
The new stations will allow passengers access to the R line through Aurora, the commuter train to Denver International Airport and to Union Station in downtown Denver.
The current end-of-line at Lincoln Station garners about 6,000 riders on an average weekday.
Sky Ridge Medical Center will have a stop on its doorstep, the Sky Ridge Station. Sky Ridge officials said it expects both employees and patients to use the stop for easier access to the hospital. Currently the hospital has about 40 employees who rely on light rail. The hospital pays for about 80 percent of a monthly pass for its employees. Sky Ridge officials expect the number of employees using light rail to grow once the Southeast Rail Extension opens.
“We are thrilled that light rail is opening, as this gives our employees and even our patients greater flexibility to reach the campus,” said Linda Watson, Sky Ridge's spokesperson. “Our employees are environmentally conscious as well, so taking light rail is good for the air and provides them with a stress-free commute.”
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