Originally Posted by bobg
2 hours for 37-40 miles sounds about right off-peak and from one periphery of the metro to the other.That's about what you would get from the N suburbs of Chicago to the south suburbs on Metra (IE Evanston Davis to Palos Heights) . That's also about what you would get going that distance from Long Island to Jersey (assuming you aren't able to use the amtrak to secaucus or newark penn). The frequencies on the LIRR/NJ Transit and Metra aren't that much better, and in some cases worse than RTD offpeak so the waiting would be about the same as for the BV.
Yeah, I was having the same thought while reading this exchange. I don't know that anybody, even the folks at RTD, would say that this is what the system is set up for. And as bobg points out, very few systems are... Palo Alto to Berkley via Caltrain with a transfer to BART in the center of SF would be another similar example. There simply isn't enough traffic going between these two far-flung suburban locations to warrant a rapid transit link between them. If there were, then there would be talk of a direct line between the two that bypasses downtown (kind of like the I-225 LR to the Tech Center).
But this in and of itself doesn't make the system a failure. America's low-density suburban forms don't really make it possible to foster these kind of connections anyway. And it certainly wouldn't make sense to build high-frequency connections from suburb to suburb before they have even been adequately connected to the city center. The best we can do at this point in history is build what is feasible (park-n-ride based commuter lines), and plan for additional density around these stations in the decades that follow. I hope we're not under the illusion that transit should provide origin-to-destination service for every single-family resident in the metro area. Only the city center has the kind of density to consider that kind of a system (streetcar or subway), and even this is debatable since Denver isn't as dense as most cities that have a robust subway system.
It's a chicken-and-egg situation; there simply isn't the density in place to support an interconnected web of origins and destinations, and the density will never come at all if the infrastructure remains 100% auto-based. We have to start somewhere, and if park-n-rides are what can generate the required ridership in the short term, then so be it. I am one of the optimists that believes that in time density will, in fact, grow around commuter stations; and that transit may even eventually turn it into a viable option for a large portion of the population. But this doesn't mean that it will ever
work for the majority of single-family homes in our region, nor that we should expect it to.