Denver International Airport Automated Guideway Transit System

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DIA Automated Guideway Transit System
DIA Train 1.JPG
Concourse C Platform
Type People mover
Locale Denver International Airport serving Denver
Termini Terminal/Ground Transportation/Baggage Claim
Concourse C
Stations 4
Opened February 28, 1995
Operator(s) City & County of Denver Department of Aviation
Character Serves sterile parts of the airport
Rolling stock 31 Bombardier Innovia APM 100 vehicles
Line length 1.25 mi (2 km)
Highest elevation Underground
Route map
Main Terminal
A Gates
B Gates
C Gates

The Denver International Airport Automated Guideway Transit System is a people mover system operating at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado. The system opened along with the airport itself in 1995, and was conceived as a means to connect all of the midfield concourses with the south terminal and quickly transport passengers between them because of the longer distances between each building, especially when compared to Stapleton International Airport, Denver's former airport.[1]

Layout and operation[edit]

The interior of the Innovia APM 100 vehicles

Located within the secure areas of the airport, the AGTS utilizes two mile-long tunnels traveling underneath the aircraft taxiways and passing through the center on the concourse buildings. Four stations exist, serving each airside concourse (Concourses A, B, and C) and the Terminal (which serves Ground Transportation and Baggage Claim). While it is possible to walk from the main terminal to Concourse A via a pedestrian bridge over the taxiway, the train is the only way for the public to access Concourses B and C.

The cars themselves ride on rubber wheels and roll along a concrete track. Each station has an island platform configuration, and the Terminal station also includes additional side platforms on the outside of each track. In accordance with the Spanish solution, when a train arrives at the Terminal, the outboard doors open first to allow arriving passengers to exit before inboard doors then open, allowing departing passengers to board. At the Terminal station, trains reverse direction, and use a switch at a crossover located just north of the station to switch into the northbound tunnel. Additionally, crossover tracks exist between each station, so traffic can be routed around stalled or disabled trains if necessary.[1] A maintenance facility is located just beyond the Concourse C station, which is also where trains reverse at the north end.

The AGTS's layout is based upon to the layout of The Plane Train at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and the systems are nearly identical.


Concourse A Platform

Nearly one percent of the construction budget for the airport was dedicated to artwork and art installations. Audio heard on the train system makes up one of the airport's art installations known as "Train Call," which delivers station information and warnings to riders provided by well known voice talent from the Denver area. The messages are each preceded by a variety of short musical sound effects. Train Call was recorded by Denver sound artist Jim Green, who is also known for recording the audio for the singing sinks in the restrooms at the Denver Art Museum and the "Laughing Escalators" at the Denver Convention Center.

The recordings feature the voices of former Coors Field announcer Alan Roach, and local KUSA-TV anchor Adele Arakawa. Stations are configured so that one voice delivers information for trains on one side of the platform, while the other voice delivers information for the other side. Only one of the voices delivers information inside any given vehicle, with the two voices split amongst the system's fleet. Trains usually consist of vehicles with both voices, so Alan Roach can be heard in one car while Adele Arakawa is heard in another. Each individual announcement is preceded by its own sound effect with some having separate sound effects for the same message, depending on which voice delivers it. The exception to this is the message that announces that the doors are closing. The sound effects feature a contemporary music theme, and include sounds from pianos, synthesizers, and electric guitars (performed by guitarist Scott Bennett).[2]

In addition to Arakawa and Roach, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock delivers a "Welcome to Denver" greeting that plays prior to arriving at the Terminal and Baggage Claim station. His welcome includes portions in both Spanish and English. Former mayors John Hickenlooper and Bill Vidal delivered the welcome message during their respective tenures as Mayor of Denver. Other recordings have been utilized on the trains for special events. For two weeks in late January 2014, after the Denver Broncos advanced to Super Bowl XLVIII, a recording by Champ Bailey was used, saying, "This is Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos. I'd like to invite all of our great fans across the nation to unite in orange as we prepare to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Go Broncos." During the 2014 Winter Olympics, a recording by Lindsey Vonn was used, saying, "Welcome to Denver. This is Lindsey Vonn of Vail, Colorado. Let's cheer for our Olympic team this month in Sochi, Russia, and the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships coming to Colorado next year. I'm especially proud of my fellow Coloradans for competing for the gold at the Winter Olympics. Go USA!"

When the airport first opened, the audio featured the voices of local radio broadcaster Pete Smythe and former KCNC-TV anchor Reynelda Muse, who was also the first African-American woman to anchor a local news program in Denver. The original sound effects featured a more whimsical circus-like theme, and some of them were based on western folk songs, such as "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" and "Home on the Range."[3] The original edition of "Train Call" was retired in 2007 when the current edition debuted. The change was necessary because some of the individual message needed to be updated, with the most noticeable change being the reference to the concourse stations. The original audio announced "This train is approaching Concourse A," where it now says "We are approaching the station for all 'A' Gates." Station signage was also changed to reflect this. Some information regarding Baggage Claim monitors in the Terminal station also caused confusion and needed to be removed from the messages, since the monitors themselves were removed from the station years prior.

Tunnel artwork[edit]

Kinetic Light Air Curtain

The train system's tunnels are home to two of the airport's visual art exhibits, which interacts with the passing trains and can be viewed through the train's windows as they travel through the tunnels.

Kinetic Light Air Curtain[edit]

The northbound tunnel features an art exhibit known as the "Kinetic Light Air Curtain." Designed by Antonette Rosato and William Maxwell, the exhibit includes 5,280 propellers mounted on the wall. The propellers are accented with blue fluorescent light, and wind from the trains causes some of them to spin as they pass by. The number of propellers represents the number of feet Denver (the mile-high city) is located above sea level. Also, the total number of blades of all of the propellers combined represents the height of Colorado's tallest fourteener, Mount Elbert, which is 14,440 feet tall. Contrary to common belief, the propellers do not generate any electricity for the trains or any part of the airport, and are strictly decorative.[4]

Deep Time/Deep Space, A Subterranean Journey[edit]

The southbound tunnel contains the exhibit "Deep Time, Deep Space: A Subterranean Journey." Designed by Leni Schwendinger, this art display primarily consists of over 5,000 feet of colored reflective metal strips arranged into a variety of images. Various other items, sheet metal cut-outs of pick axes and hammers stand out from the tunnel walls to accent the scenes. The exhibit gradually transitions from displaying examples of older technology to newer space-age technology. The art is lighted by an advanced lighting system, which is activated by photoelectric sensors which detect passing trains. The overall work is inspired by Colorado's industrial and mining history.[5]


The AGTS project was announced publicly in October 1992 at a cost of $84 million, and it opened with the airport on February 28, 1995. The initial system consisted of 16 cars that were paired together in groups of four to traverse the length of the tunnel.[1]

Six more vehicles were added to the system by 1995, and an additional five were added in 2001. Today, the fleet consists of 31 Bombardier Innovia APM 100 vehicles, which have a maximum capacity of 100 passengers.[6] Trains generally run at 1.5 minute intervals during peak times resulting in an 11-minute travel time from end to end.[7]


The train system is essential for the airport to function at its full capacity since it provides the only passenger access to Concourses B and C. In rare instances of the train system being out of service, shuttle buses have been used. While the system is highly reliable, one major system failure took place on April 26, 1998. A routing cable in the train tunnel was damaged by a loose wheel on one of the trains, cutting the entire system's power. The system was out of service for about seven hours. United Airlines, DIA's largest airline (who operates a large hub out of Concourse B), reported that about 30 percent of their flights and about 5,000 passengers were affected by the failure.[8] The day of the failure is now referred to as "Black Sunday" by airport personnel.[9]



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