Skip to content

Denver Proposes Arterial BRT on East Colfax

The Colfax Corridor Connections project held two public meetings last week, following a year of extensive modeling and analysis, to review the “preliminary locally preferred alternative” of arterial bus rapid transit on Colfax between Auraria and the Anschutz Medical Campus, with all-day service and using exclusive lanes during peak hours. Previous public meetings described the screening out of non-traditional urban corridor options, and options that would only be appropriate in areas with vastly higher capacity needs. This third phase closely analyzed the three remaining alternatives: enhanced bus, modern streetcar, and bus rapid transit.

The three alternatives, which would replace today’s 15L service, would all feature distinct low-floor vehicles with multi-door boarding, off-board ticketing at bulb-out stations, real-time passenger information at stations, signal priority at intersections and frequent operations with 5-minute headways.

Image source: City of Denver: www.ColfaxCorridorConnections.com

Image source: City of Denver: www.ColfaxCorridorConnections.com

In keeping with the Denver Strategic Transportation Plan’s direction to use multimodal improvements to increase the person-trip capacity of our streets (a true multi-modal evaluation, rather than older methods counting vehicle capacity), this study used DRCOG’s Focus Travel Model, an activity-based demand model, to estimate total corridor person-trip demand under the remaining alternatives. By evaluating alternatives with an eye towards total corridor person-trip demand, and confirming that the proposed service can meet the demand generated by the new service, BRT demonstrates nearly all the capacity benefits of the streetcar alternative at approximately 25% of the capital cost and at lower operating cost.

The lower capital cost of the BRT alternative means that the project would be appropriate for federal Small Starts or New Starts funding (total capital costs of less than $250 million), which have relatively low local match requirements. The project team told attendees that the very good “cost effectiveness” for this alternative  – a number calculated based on an Federal Transit Administration formula for an all-inclusive cost per rider – shows that it would be highly competitive for federal funds, driven by the high ridership on the corridor.

A key feature of the BRT and streetcar alternatives is exclusive use of one lane in each direction during peak hours. This is critical to alleviating the unpredictable arrival times of buses on Colfax which today “bunch up” due to getting caught in traffic – a situation that would only get worse without the dedicated lanes as traffic and demand increase over time. The modeling estimates that daily transit demand would only increase from 22,000 today to 26,000 in 2035 with no action, or to 33,000 with an enhanced bus option in shared lanes. But transit ridership would increase to 43,000 per day under the BRT proposal with peak-hour exclusive lanes. (Streetcar with peak-hour exclusive lanes would be similar, with a small further increase due to slightly shorter end-to-end times and a passenger bias to use rail.)

Another way to look at the higher person-trip capacity on Colfax with these improvements is to realize that the demand for east-west travel will exist whether or not the improvements are made – but without the improvements, Colfax won’t be able to carry as much of it, meaning increased traffic in adjacent neighborhoods and less economic activity on Colfax.

Is it a bold proposal? I would say it’s a bold, smart proposal. It’s a bold proposal because it will take real political will, backed by the support of urbanists, to walk our multimodal talk and make choices such as peak-hour dedicated lanes to optimize for person-trip capacity on this key urban corridor. We cannot let our elected leaders become paralyzed with fear of offending those who only think about the world as a single-occupant-vehicle driver. It’s a smart proposal because it captures nearly all of the benefits possible at a reasonable price with a good shot at near-term funding.

This should be just the first in what becomes Denver’s new direction to lead on transit planning throughout the city.

~~~

Joel Noble is a Denver native who focuses on neighborhoods, transportation and city development topics through his many volunteer roles. He is President of Curtis Park Neighbors, Co-chair of the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation‘s Transportation Committee, a Boardmember with the Five Points Business District (FPBD), and a member of the Denver Planning Board. He has been an active participant in developing area plans, business district plans, streetcar and transit plans, and in the citywide Zoning Code Update. Joel believes that there is great power in bringing community together with city departments and other agencies to develop vision and to implement plans for the future of our city. Professionally, Joel works in IT as a systems engineer.


The biggest bikeshare station in each US city

New York’s 67-dock station. Photo from Google.

New York’s 67-dock station. Photo from Google.

The largest individual station in Denver’s B-Cycle network, the REI station, has 27 docks. How does that stack up to other cities?

New York’s Citi Bike has by far the biggest stations in the US. Its largest, which is outside Penn Station, has a whopping 67 docks. That’s almost 50% larger than the next city’s largest station.

Here’s the number of docks at the biggest station in America’s main big-city bikeshare systems. The 30 or so US bikeshare systems that aren’t listed here are all smaller, and all have smaller biggest stations.

Largest individual bikeshare station
Rank City Largest station Docks at largest station
1 New York Penn Station 67
2 Boston South Station 46
3 Washington Dupont Circle 45
4 Chicago Michigan/Washington 43
5 Minneapolis Coffman Union and Lake/Knox 32
6 Miami Beach 46th/Collins 31
7t Denver REI 27
7t San Francisco Market/10th and 2nd/Townsend 27

WalkDenver’s Policy Advocacy Gains Momentum

By Jill Locantore, WalkDenver Policy and Program Director

2014-08-08_PetitionQuote

Timothy is just one of more than 900 people who have signed (electronically and on paper) WalkDenver’s petition calling upon the City to establish a Pedestrian Advisory Committee and adopt a Denver Moves Pedestrians implementation plan. More than 30 partners have provided letters of support as well–view the full list on the WalkDenver website.

This groundswell of support is having an impact: last week the WalkDenver team met with senior city officials to discuss our policy goals, and was very well received. We learned that the draft 2015 City budget includes funding for a Denver Moves Pedestrians plan. With support from Public Works and Community Planning and Development we have initiated the process of establishing a Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Now we are working to schedule a meeting with the Mayor, to emphasize the importance of walkability in Denver and ensure funding for a pedestrian plan is maintained in the final City budget.

The more petition signatures and support letters we can present to the Mayor, the greater our chances of success. If you haven’t done so already, please sign the petition today, and help us spread the word! If your organization would like to provide a letter of support, contact WalkDenver’s Executive Director Gosia Kung at gosia.kung@walkdenver.org.

~~~

A version of this post also appeared on WalkDenver’s blog at http://www.walkdenver.org/walkdenvers-policy-advocacy-gains-momentum/


Adaptive Reuse: Avanti Food and Beverage

Adaptive reuse—that’s planner-speak for the repurposing of an old building—is an important part of helping cities revitalize and grow in a sustainable way. Some adaptive reuse projects are no-brainers, where the historic and architectural quality of the existing building is so great that to demolish the building instead of reusing it doesn’t make any sense. Good examples would include the Colorado National Bank (now the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel) and The Source.

Then there’s the adaptive reuse project called Avanti Food and Beverage at 32nd and Pecos in Lower Highland. The existing building looks like this today:

2014-08-02_avanti_1

Okay, maybe not an architectural masterpiece, but that’s alright! Even if the structure itself isn’t all that glamorous, the reuse of an old building—in addition to being an environmentally friendly option—helps preserve some of the neighborhood’s physical scale and offers a reminder of fast-changing Lower Highland’s economic roots. This structure, built in 1935, was occupied by Avanti Printing and Graphics for many years. Here’s a view of the inside:

2014-08-02_avanti_2

After its physical transformation is complete, this will be the home of Avanti Food and Beverage, a “collective eatery.” The concept behind this project is really cool. Most people are now familiar with coworking spaces, where small start-up companies share office space and resources and collaborate with each other. Avanti Food and Beverage will be very similar, except it’s for restaurants instead.

The building will house eight different restaurants, each operating out of a modified 8′ x 20′ shipping container. This allows restaurant entrepreneurs, particularly up-and-coming chefs, the opportunity to launch a new restaurant or test a new food concept for a fraction of the cost of building out a traditional restaurant space, all while fostering creativity in a cooperative “restaurant incubator” environment. Customers will have a great selection of affordably priced and innovative food, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating areas to share, and two bars offering adult beverages.

Here are a couple of images, courtesy of the Avanti development team. Here’s an example of the shipping container-turned-kitchen:

2014-08-02_avanti_3

and here is the ground-level interior floor plan showing five of the eight shipping container/restaurants, shared seating areas, and one of the bar areas:

2014-08-02_avanti_4

Three more restaurant spaces, the other bar, and additional seating will be built out on the roof, providing awesome views of the Downtown Denver skyline. Here’s a rendering of the rooftop deck, followed by a photo I took from the roof (the power lines will be buried):

2014-08-02_avanti_5

2014-08-02_avanti_6

The building will be given a thorough makeover and new windows will bring a lot of natural light to the interior. The grounds will be landscaped along with additional patio seating overlooking Highland Gateway Park:

2014-08-02_avanti_7

Renovation work will be getting underway soon and the project is planned to open Spring 2015.   

The Avanti Food and Beverage project is fantastic in so many ways. It renovates an old building in disrepair; it infuses energy and activity next to a small public park; it adds an innovative concept to Denver’s booming culinary scene; and it brings another great dining option to Denver’s hottest restaurant neighborhood.


It’s a huge weekend for US transit openings

Mid summer is prime time for big transit openings, and this weekend is a doozy. Three big projects around the US are opening today or tomorrow.

  
Left: Denver Union Station photo by Ryan Dravitz. Center: DC Silver Line photo by Fairfax County. Right: Tucson streetcar photo by Bill Morrow.

By now, probably everyone who reads DenverUrbanism knows the interior of Denver Union Station officially opens tomorrow.

Out east, that same day, Washington, DC’s new Metrorail Silver Line opens. The Silver Line expands America’s second busiest subway network by about 10%, although the new portions are above ground.

But Tucson beats both Denver and DC by one day. Their Sun Link streetcar opens today, at 9:00 am Mountain Time. It’s the first modern rail line in Tucson.

All these projects have been a long, difficult road. It’s great to see them starting to pay off.