Here are some of the coolest transit development projects to (possibly) look forward to in Denver!
-Colfax BRT, 5280 Loop Trail, 21st Street Plaza, Upcoming Bike Streets, Denver Transit Authority?, and dream big with ‘beyond FasTracks’
Current Plan (Nov 2018): Colfax BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)
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 trafficked streets in Denver, Colfax has been ripe for better transit for decades.
While the City of Denver watered down their original plans for a modern streetcar, they are currently planning on moving to a center running BRT (bus rapid transit) system which would implement buses that are “as train like as possible” with high platforms, updating upcoming bus times, and dedicated bus lanes.
5280 Bike Loop/Trail
This one comes as an awesome effort from the Denver Downtown Partnership, but has been oddly silent lately. It makes a full mile long loop around downtown Denver touching multiple important sites such as Union Station, Coors Field, the State Capitol, West High School, Santa Fe Arts District, Pepsi Center, and the Auraria Campus. The full concept presentation can be found here. It also includes the 21st street development mentioned below…
21st Street Woonerf / Bike Street / Urban Trail
What is a woonerf you say? A woonerf is a living street with features such as shared space, traffic calming, and low speed limits.
Creating a much needed connection down a particularly bleak and unused road, 21st is uniquely positioned in that it starts at Coors Field on the west side, extends through downtown and directly into Benedict Fountain Park in Uptown. Below images are taken from the 2015 original design.
Last summer (2018) Denver did a pop up park to test the feasibility of the concept, and as you can see in the video below, ‘The Square on 21st’ turned out pretty cool!
Upcoming bike street development?
We have a whole separate blog post dedicated to the ongoing projects, but here is a teaser image of the new bike crossing to City Park across 17th along Garfield St…
Northwest B Rail Line to Boulder
Originally funded by a .4% sales tax increase as part of the original FasTracks metrowide commuter rail program, there were a lot of pissed off residents of popular Boulder, Longmont, and Louisville when the completion date was pushed to 2044 as RTD cited funding shortages and breakdown of negotiations with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) for use of the right-of-way along BNSF’s existing freight rail lines, as BNSF was only ever willing to give up operating windows on its lines — times when RTD could run its commuter trains that wouldn’t interfere with BNSF freight cars.
In any case, this is still a highly anticipated connection to some of the most populated areas of the front range and will be an invaluable alternative for students at CU Boulder and tech workers who regularly endure the heavily congested U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder.
Dedicated Denver Transit Authority?
With Colorado voters voting no on Prop 110 to raise transportation spending by nearly 60%, the stage is even more set for Denver to break off from RTD and create it’s own Transit Authority for transit projects within Denver. As covered by The Denver Post:
Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration may move to create a new city transportation agency as Denver considers a transit investment that could total billions of dollars.
Denver officials have been talking publicly since 2017 about the idea of creating the new department. Now, the director of Denver Public Works says the decision could go to voters as early as May or November 2019, if elected leaders approve.
In the short term, the change could allow the city to better coordinate its efforts on transportation and mobility. It also could lay the groundwork for larger projects and changes.
The big idea
Currently, the city’s Department of Public Works handles everything from trash collection to automobile traffic and dockless scooters. The potential new department would take over all the city’s transportation-related duties, and it would be led by a new cabinet-level position, which would create new prominence for transportation issues in the city.
The change would have to go first through Denver City Council and then be approved in a local election. The decision comes as the city weighs long-term transportation plans that could cost billions.
The city’s plan for the next 22 years outlines about $1.7 billion worth of potential spending on sidewalks and trails alone. The administration also wants to build up transportation services on major corridors like Colorado Boulevard, whether it’s special bus lanes or new rail lines.
Moving beyond RTD?
Right now, the city relies on the Regional Transportation District for its bus and train service — but the city’s ambitions may exceed RTD’s budget.
Transit lines in Boulder, Golden and Aurora have all faced reduced service recently; RTD said the cuts were a response to low ridership. And a planned rail line to Boulder has been delayed past 2040. That has prompted some cities in the northwestern metro to consider a lawsuit, and Boulder also has looked at the idea of a new local transit authority.
In Denver, the creation of a new department would not necessarily come with new money. And the city is unlikely to replace RTD’s core services.
Beyond Fastracks? – Dreaming big for future transit in Denver
Back in 2005 when some of the first expansions to Denver’s light rail were coming to a close, Steve Boland & Dan Malouff set about thinking of how to connect Denver’s most populous near in neighborhoods with downtown, similar to the old, original historic streetcar routes from 1887 (thanks Ryan Keeney!). What they envisioned is bold and exciting and came with several options from the website now hosted at http://denverinfill.com/streetcar/ and observed below…
If I missed any current Denver development projects, please let me know in the comments below!