Spinning our Wheels

Spinning our Wheels is a commuting blog about the challenges of getting around Atlanta by car, bus, MARTA, bicycles and on foot written by transportation reporter David Wickert

What might Atlanta's 'Union Station' look like? Check out Denver's

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week, at least one state lawmaker wants to revive dormant plans to build a multimodal passenger terminal in downtown Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed building a $1.5 billion terminal in the Gulch area of downtown. It would be a hub for MARTA, regional passenger train service, local and regional buses and other transportation services. Supporters say it could spark a building boom in one of the largest undeveloped areas of downtown.

So what would it look like? To get a sense of what’s possible, take a look at Denver’s Union Station.

The AJC visited Denver in June because its transportation network offers a glimpse of what Atlanta’s may look like in the future. Experts say the Mile High City has the kind of complex transportation network experts say is needed to address traffic congestion in booming metro areas.

Denver’s Union Station is the hub of that network and an economic dynamo. Commuter and light rail trains and express buses arrive from distant suburbs. Free shuttle ferry passengers around downtown. Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses carry passengers to far-flung cities across the West. “B-cycle” stations allow commuters to rent bikes and peddle to their destinations.

It’s like MARTA’s Five Points Station on steroids – if passengers could grab a beer or lunch or shop at Five Points. And if Five Points adjoined a bustling shopping and entertainment district. And if giant construction cranes erected new condominiums and office towers next door.

That pretty well describes the vision for the proposed Atlanta terminal. In fact, Denver’s Union Station inspired state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, to revive discussion of the Atlanta terminal, which has been in limbo for years. The chairman of the Senate Transportation committee, Beach held a hearing on the terminal last week.

“When I went to Denver and saw what that Union Station did for Denver, it was the catalyst,” Beach said at last week’s hearing.

You can read more about plans for an Atlanta passenger terminal – and the obstacles it faces – here. You can read more about how Denver’s transportation system offers a glimpse of Atlanta’s future here.

And you can check out a few of the photos I shot of Denver's Union Station below.






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About the Author

David Wickert covers transportation issues for the Enterprise team. He joined the AJC in 2010 and has also covered local government in Gwinnett and Fulton counties.