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Thoughts and Experiences from the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado

RTD - Electric or Diesel?


RTD is struggling with a decision and are getting pushed both ways. Should the remaining lines to be decided be electric or diesel? These would be for the FasTracks lines to Arvada, the rail line to Boulder and Longmont, the north corridor near I-25, and the line to Denver International Airport. Right now the line to Arvada and DIA would be electric with the other two being diesel.

The proponents of the electric line cite the lower costs in the long-run and reduced pollution compared to the diesel engines powering the trains. The diesel line proponents are highlighting the up-front cost savings, $142 million, if they go with diesel.

But is diesel cleaner than coal? Here are my thoughts: Most of the electricity here in Colorado comes from coal and natural gas. (Don't tell me wind. It is not a reliable source of electricity yet.)

If we start running all these lines with electricity then that power has to come from somewhere and leads to more pollution and possible expense. Especially if the cost of natural gas keeps rising.

I don't know but there are some clean and interesting diesel technologies out there.

It will be interesting to see what happens. But right now, RTD is focusing strictly on cost in the short-term and not looking at the bigger and longer-term picture.

Read the story in the Rocky Mountain News: "Dozens urge electric, not diesel, FasTracks commuter rail lines".