What is Denver’s Colfax BRT and what happened to the modern streetcar plans?

Current Plan (Nov 2018): Colfax BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)

ETA: 2019, 2021+

Where: On Colfax from I-25/Auraria campus (CU Denver, Metro State, Comm. Col. of Denver) to the CU Anschutz medical campus/ I-225.

What started as a feasibility study of reimplementing the historic streetcar route from 1887 (thanks Ryan Keeney!), this one has been in the works for years!  On Denver’s most infamous and one of the most heavily traveled streets in Denver, Colfax has been ripe for better transit for decades.  Not to knock the notorious 15, which is the most traveled bus line in Denver and provides immense value to its travelers, but ask Denverites and nicknames such as the “rolling mental health bus” and this especially egregious tirade from car and traffic lover Neil Westergaard from the DBJ are elicited:

“People don’t choose to ride the bus on Colfax… they often have to put up with belligerant [sic], dirty, smelly, disruptive and dangerous people”




Streetcar on Colfax
Denver’s Colfax Streetcar shortly before being dismantled in 1950

While the 2010 streetcar feasibility study was met with enthusiastic support from business owners and residents alike all along Colfax, the city eventually watered down the proposal to still use buses but make them “as train like as possible” with dedicated center running lanes and bus level concrete platforms.  Specifically, the 2015 alternatives cited their decision on environment (streetcar would not have required fossil fuels, and would have been less loud), cost (streetcars would have been more cost-effective according to the 2010 study) and deliverability (no one really knows but streetcar is “FAIR/POOR”).

Also, important, but completely left out of the evaluation, is the ability of streetcars to be a placemaker.  Streetcars have long been used as a tool for economic stimulation and development along corridors, and regularly boasts orders of magnitude greater property development than bus lines, which has the ability to make more areas of Denver actually solvent when it comes to covering their true cost of infrastructure.

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2015 – Colfax Alternatives Analysis
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Comparison of noise impacts from urban transport – Loughborough University 2007
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2010 – Streetcar feasibility Study


Despite Denver getting cold feet and backing away from their original bold and exciting streetcar design, the BRT will bring some much needed improvement to the most popular transit corridor in Denver and hopefully revitalize one of Denver’s most important, historical, and promising streets!

Colfax 15L
DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 23: RTD passengers load onto the 15L bus at East Colfax Ave and Lincoln St. February 23, 2018. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)



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