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Help Create “Great Paths” for Walking in Northwest Denver!

By Jill Locantore, WalkDenver Policy and Program Director

Donate to “Great Paths: The Boulevard at Jefferson Park” on Thursday, October 23 and your contribution will be matched dollar for dollar!

WalkDenver is leading a project called “Great Paths” that will make walking in northwest Denver neighborhoods more safe, comfortable, and fun. Like many urban neighborhoods, northwest Denver is experiencing a true renaissance. With new restaurants and businesses opening their doors on and near Federal Boulevard, there are more places to visit and more people moving in to enjoy these amenities. Residents would like to walk to local destinations but there are many barriers that discourage walking such as busy streets and poor sidewalk conditions.

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On Thursday, October 23, we have just 24 hours to raise $8,000 ($4,000 from local donors and $4,000 in matching funds) for the Great Paths project, which will fund:

  • a community mapping exercise that will identify the top destinations for walking in northwest Denver and a priority path that connects these destinations
  • improvements to that priority path such as pedestrian wayfinding signs or public art; and
  • a series of fun community events that will raise awareness of and celebrate the improvements to the priority path.

Will you help make this project a reality? Every dollar you contribute to this project will be matched 100% by our national partner, but you must donate on October 23!

The Great Paths project is led by WalkDenver and involves a unique coalition of neighborhood interests including the Federal Boulevard Business Improvement District and Partnership, Jefferson Park United Neighbors, and Sloan’s Lake Citizens Group. Our national partners, ioby and the Transit Center, are providing the matching funds.

Please join us in this effort, which will demonstrate the type of quick, low-cost improvements that can improve walkability in neighborhoods throughout Denver. You can learn more about the project and make a donation directly through WalkDenver’s ioby campaign page here.


Denver Urbanists Unite! MeetUp #8 Coming October 8, 2014

Hey! Do you love cities and consider yourself an urbanist?

Please join us for Denver Urbanists MeetUp #8 on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 starting at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins Restaurant and Bar, 2100 16th Street. Please note the new location! McLoughlins is a great neighborhood pub right next to the Highland side of the Millennium Bridge.

Never been to one of our MeetUps before? Stop by! There is no program or anything formal, just a bunch of friendly people getting together to chat about city-building and to promote a positive urban agenda for Denver. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and build relationships.

Click on the link below to see additional details. It’s free! Registration just helps give us an idea of how many people to expect. You don’t need to bring the RSVP ticket with you, and if you don’t register, that’s OK too. Stop by anyway!

Denver Urbanists MeetUp #8 Eventbrite RSVP

We hope to see you at Denver Urbanists MeetUp #8 this Wednesday, October 8 at 5:30 PM at McLoughlins!


CU Denver Students Celebrate PARK(ing) Day 2014

by Jenny Niemann, CU Denver Master of Urban and Regional Planning student

On Friday, September 19, the Planners Network – CU Denver Chapter turned a parking spot at 14th and Larimer into a temporary parklet. Graduate students in the University of Colorado Denver’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program participated in the International PARK(ing) Day to raise awareness about the vast amount of space dedicated to parking spots in the US and to start a conversation about more productive uses of these spaces.

PARK(ing) Day “is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. The project began in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art and design studio, converted a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in downtown San Francisco. Since 2005, PARK(ing) Day has evolved into a global movement, with organizations and individuals (operating independently of Rebar but following an established set of guidelines) creating new forms of temporary public space in urban contexts around the world.”

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The Planners Network – CU Denver Chapter parking space was filled with seating, games, books, and an opportunity for Denver residents to participate. Seemingly surprised by the unusual furniture set up in the middle of a parking space, many pedestrians stopped to read an information board describing PARK(ing) Day goals and the state of parking in the US. Passersby were asked to contribute to a board asking what else this 9′ x 18′ space could be besides empty asphalt dedicated only to cars. Ideas ranged from bike parking to affordable housing and a water slide. Throughout the day, students from the College of Architecture and Planning utilized the space for studying and socializing with peers.

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Books were also collected for a “park library” and visitors were invited to take a book home with them. Remaining donated books were given to The Arc.

Students hope to continue PARK(ing) Day efforts throughout the year and more Denver organizations will host parks for PARK(ing) Day next year, which is always held the third Friday in September. For more information on international PARK(ing) Day, see http://parkingday.org/.


USDOT Prioritizes Safe Walking and Biking

This post was written by WalkDenver Board member Gideon Berger and was originally presented here:

WalkDenver was excited to participate in the Pro Walk/ Pro Bike/ Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh earlier this month. While there is always lots to learn from advocates and practitioners from all around the country at this national conference for walking and bicycling professionals organized by the Project for Public Spaces, federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx also made headlines by announcing a new US Department of Transportation initiative to enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Called “Safer People, Safer Streets,” Secretary Foxx—who was once hit by a right-turning driver while jogging during his first term as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina—called the action plan, “the most comprehensive, forward-leaning initiative U.S. DOT has ever put forward on bike/ ped issues.” While there has been a 33% reduction in passenger vehicle occupant deaths in the US in the past decade, the DOT reports the number of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities has increased by about 15% since 2009. And pedestrian fatalities are a far larger problem: 4,743 were killed while walking in 2012 compared to 726 cyclists.

Recent data also indicates that residents of low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately involved in bike and ped injuries and fatalities, and low-income neighborhoods often have fewer sidewalks and other safe infrastructure. Ped and bike safety is also a more serious problem in cities and urban areas: 73% of pedestrian deaths and 69% of bicyclist deaths in 2012 occurred where interactions between vehicles and non-motorized users are frequent, and where many people walk or bike to reach destinations or transit stops and stations. The majority of fatalities occur on urban arterial streets.

So what is DOT proposing to do about all this? Over the next 18 months they will be rolling out a variety of new resources and highlighting existing tools for transportation practitioners. On pedestrian safety, these will include:

  • bike/ped safety assessments of selected corridors throughout the country
  • a new road diet guide (studies show that road diets reduce all traffic crashes by an average of 29%)
  • an “aggressive research agenda” on a range of topics including pedestrian safety, performance measures, design flexibility and network development
  • an updated resident’s guide for creating safe and walkable communities
  • evaluation of pedestrian safety engineering countermeasures at urban and suburban mid-block crossing locations (about 70% of ped fatalities occur away from intersections)
  • pedestrian countermeasure crash modification factor study (focusing on sites and 18 countermeasures in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami)
  • a new Road Safety for Transit Patrons Initiative to bring staff from federal agencies to provide technical assistance to transit operators
  • requiring transit agencies to establish policies for encouraging safe access to transit as part of their Transit Agency Safety Plans
  • promoting the improvement of pedestrian networks such as by evaluating new ped facilities for inclusion in the next addition of the federal traffic control device manual in 2016
  • evaluating new law enforcement and education techniques as pilots in New York City, Philadelphia and Louisville, Ky.
  • developing new safety campaign materials

As we gear up for a new pedestrian plan in the City & County of Denver, we at WalkDenver could not be happier about the timing of this announcement. We hope to see the city officials take advantage of these new resources, tools, guidance and research.


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.

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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.