[Source: Casey Newton, Arizona Republic] — On a sunny summer day in downtown Denver, tourists stroll down a shady boulevard bustling with shops and restaurants. Along the mile-long district known as the 16th Street Mall, which is closed to cars, free shuttles carry visitors from the vibrant central business district to Coors Field, the Pepsi Center, and beyond. A few blocks from the Colorado Convention Center, in the center of the mall, the shuttles stop at 16th Street and California. There, passengers transfer to Denver’s regional light-rail system: 35 miles of track that link the stadiums to the skyscrapers, the shops to the suburbs.
The system opened its first 5 miles of track in 1994. Like Phoenix, Denver in those days was a large Western city where many people were skeptical of light rail. Getting the system approved and built took nearly 20 years. But once it opened, public response was overwhelming. Planners had to scramble to keep up with the demand. On a recent visit to Denver, in interviews with riders, pedestrians, business owners, and transportation officials, the story of Denver’s first year of light rail offered a gentle warning of what Phoenix can expect when its rail service opens Dec. 27. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]