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This website contains updated information only for those corridors actively in construction, the Southeast Rail Extension and North Metro Rail. All other content on this website is meant for historical purposes only and may not be up-to-date. Please visit RTD-Denver.com for the latest information about RTD.

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Commuter Rail Vehicle Technology


The RTD FasTracks Northwest Rail Line Project Team held three Public Workshops in September 2007 to present the preliminary recommendation that Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) be implemented as the Commuter Rail technology for the Northwest Rail Line.

The technology recommendation resulted from the Environmental Evaluation's analysis that compared DMU and Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) commuter rail technologies from a cost and environmental perspective. The evaluation also considered public input about the two technology options. Environmentally, both technologies positively influence regional air quality; noise and vibration impacts are slightly higher for DMU; and visual impacts associated with EMU are greater. Although public support was greater for EMU than DMU, implementation of EMU along the Northwest Rail  Line cannot be accommodated within the FasTracks schedule and budget. As a result of considering all of these findings, the Environmental Evaluation proposed DMU for the project. 


After the September Public Workshops, the Project Team forwarded the results of the Environmental Evaluation's analysis and the preliminary technology recommendation, including the public workshop comments and Northwest Rail Line  jurisdiction responses, to the RTD Board for its consideration. The RTD Board unanimously approved the use of diesel commuter trains on the RTD FasTracks Northwest Rail project at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct.16, 2007. The approval came after RTD Board Director John Tayer, District O, proposed the "Responsible Rail Amendment" which requires RTD to:

  • Buy commuter rail vehicles that rank high in environmental features, such as fuel efficiency and low emissions, and have the flexibility to accommodate future advancements, such as hybrid or clean-fuel systems. 
  • Work with railroads and local communities to address the noise concerns of residents along the Northwest Rail Line, including finding all possible funding sources to cover infrastructure expenses.

As a result of the RTD Board's decision, the Northwest Rail Line Environmental Evaluation will move forward by evaluating the impacts of implementing DMU commuter rail service and identifying how to address them.

August 2007


Communication from the BNSF Railway  

The RTD Northwest Rail Line Environmental Evaluation (EE) evaluated Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) and Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) technologies to determine which type of Commuter Rail vehicles will operate in the Northwest Rail Line (NWR). This issue was discussed at the Public Workshops that RTD conducted in July 2007 that involved nearly 400 participants from the communities along the project.

After the July Public Workshops, RTD received a letter from BNSF Railway (BNSF) that outlined the railroad's requirements that RTD would need to meet if the agency were to operate EMU Commuter Rail technology on the NWR project. BNSF sent this letter to clarify issues that had been raised in the ongoing negotiations between the BNSF and RTD about the operating plan for the project.

Upon receiving the letter from the BNSF, RTD staff reviewed the BNSF requirements and assessed the implications for operating EMU on the NWR project. On Aug.14, 2007, RTD staff presented their analysis to the RTD Board. It indicated that while BNSF's requirements would not prohibit RTD from operating EMU on the NWR project, implementing them would significantly increase the cost of operating EMU on the  NWR project and would far exceed the project's current budget to provide Commuter Rail service from downtown Denver to Longmont.

For additional information, please view the BNSF Letter and the Aug. 14, 2007, RTD Board Presentation. Also included are answers to some of the Frequently Asked Questions that RTD had provided as a result of that information when it had been released.

Public Workshops on technology were held in September 2007.  At the workshops, RTD discussed this information further, including how it influenced the technology recommendation for the project. Additional information about Commuter Rail technology selection for the NWR project is presented below.

Commuter Rail Technology Selection for the Northwest Rail Line

In the Summer of 2007, the RTD Northwest Rail Environmental Evaluation (EE) focused on selecting a Commuter Rail technology for the project. As such, Public Involvement goals for that time period were to:
  • Provide the public with information about the Commuter Rail technology selection  process, including its timeline and the criteria that RTD used to formulate its  technology recommendation for the Northwest Rail Line
  • Identify specific ways for the public to participate in the technology selection process 
  • Provide the public with the opportunity to review the cost and environmental information that RTD used to select Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) versus Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) technology
  • Collect public input on technology for the project and the study's recommendation, which resulted from considering the cost information, environmental analysis, and public input
During the Public Meetings that the project conducted in July 2007, participants expressed significant interest in Commuter Rail technology for the Northwest Rail Line.

What did we hear from you?

Of the roughly two hundred comments we received, both verbal and written, at the July 9, July 11, and July 12 meetings, nearly one-third of them addressed vehicle technology. Over half of these comments expressed some form of support for one technology over another, with more comments expressing support for EMU than DMU.

In general, the comments that supported EMU suggested that this technology type will be more environmentally beneficial than DMU, have operational advantages, and be able to better address future issues associated with fuel sources and supply. The comments that supported DMU were primarily concerned about the visual impacts of EMU technology. Many comments suggested that EMU or DMU technology would be more cost advantageous than the other and encouraged the study to examine this issue from both a short and long-term perspective.

Click here to view all of the comments submitted at the July Public Meetings.

How did RTD select Commuter Rail technology for the Northwest Rail Line?

During August, September, and October 2007, the RTD Northwest Rail EE worked to develop a Commuter Rail technology recommendation for the Northwest Rail Line. In mid-October, the study forwarded its recommendation along with all of the public input to the RTD Board. This graphic illustrates the activities that took place and their relationship to decision-making:

As you can see, in August the project communicated with you about the decision-making process, provided information about the two technologies under consideration, and collected public input. You can also see that during this time, the study conducted additional environmental analysis to compare DMU and EMU technologies.

In September, the project team presented its complete set of information to the public along with the study's preliminary recommendation. RTD formulated the recommendation by considering cost information, environmental analysis, and public input.  

How was the public involved in the Commuter Rail technology selection process?
The public was involved in the technology selection process by:
  • Contacting us and scheduling a small group meeting. We held meetings during the weeks of August 27 and September 3  
  • Inviting us to a meeting of their group, organization or homeowners' association. 
  • Attending one of the September Public Workshops. People on our mailing list, were notified with workshop dates, times, and locations. If you are not on our mailing list, please sign up, continue to consult this website for updates, and send us your comments.
How can I learn more about DMU and EMU Commuter Rail technologies?

The September Workshops presented comprehensive information that resulted from our analyses. Here is additional information:

Northwest Rail Technology Update

Different Features of DMU & EMU: Public Meeting Display Board

Noise Basics of DMU & EMU: Public Meeting Display Board

Commuter Rail Vehicle Technology Analysis

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