17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection?

With the 2014 opening of the Denver Union Station project, it seems like the epicenter of Downtown shifted dramatically to the northwest. In many ways, Union Station now feels like the heart of Downtown, and this is before next year’s launch of RTD’s new rail lines and the completion of almost a dozen more infill developments in the area.

Denver Union Station during grand-opening weekend, July 2014.

As expected with the great success of the Union Station project, the streets and sidewalks around the station have become busier. One intersection in particular—17th and Wynkoop—stands out. Due to the huge appeal of Wynkoop Plaza and the iconic station’s architecture and mix of uses, the corner of 17th and Wynkoop has blossomed into a thriving public space, with pedestrians flowing across the street to and from the plaza and station building. Pedestrians are increasingly “owning” the intersection, and driving a vehicle through there now requires some patience.

The fact that pedestrians feel empowered to confidently occupy the crosswalks and control the tempo of the intersection through their movements is a strong indicator of a successful urban place! At Union Station Advocates, we couldn’t be more thrilled with this situation as it’s exactly what we had hoped would happen. I and other urbanists in Denver believe that the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop is perhaps now the most important pedestrian intersection in all of Downtown Denver. We need to nurture and grow that condition.

Before continuing, let me be clear about an important point: Cities are for people, and especially in downtowns pedestrians must be given the highest priority in the use of the public realm. Downtown Denver was declared a “pedestrian priority zone” by Denver City Council in October 2007; the Downtown Denver Area Plan identified “A Walkable City: Putting Pedestrians First” as one of five vision elements; and the Downtown Denver Pedestrian Priority Zone Plan identified Wynkoop as a Transformative Street—the highest pedestrian-quality street type. Prioritizing the pedestrian is especially important around transit stations, and there are none bigger or more important in the city than Denver Union Station.

Back to 17th and Wynkoop: Unfortunately, not all drivers approach the corner with deference to pedestrians. There are still drivers and bicyclists who operate through the intersection with disregard to pedestrians, particularly when making right turns from Wynkoop to 17th or vice versa. The 2016 launch of the A Line, B Line, and G Line will significantly increase pedestrian activity on Wynkoop Plaza and at this intersection. We need to make sure 17th and Wynkoop and all of the streets around Union Station are well-prepared to maximize ped/bike mobility and safety and appropriately manage cars, taxis, tour buses, valet services, and all other transport options.

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Modest bike lane striping along Wynkoop Plaza at Denver Union Station.


 
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Taxis and other vehicles routinely block the bike lane along Wynkoop Plaza.

Currently, 17th and Wynkoop has the standard crosswalks, signs and other public right-of-way design elements you might find at any regular downtown intersection—nothing that would indicate the importance or pedestrian focus to the corner. With as many as 100,000 people a day expected to flow through the Union Station Transit District once all of RTD’s lines are up and running, it is critical that we proactively plan for the happy onslaught of pedestrian traffic around the station.

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Standard crosswalks on Wynkoop connect Union Station with LoDo.


 
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Lack of signs that emphasize pedestrian priority at Union Station’s crosswalks.

To that end, Union Station Advocates will be holding a special public meeting to talk about options for improved signage, street striping, lighting, parking controls, and other design features that could be installed both in the short-term (before the A Line opening in April) and in the medium- and long-term. We will be exploring options for not just 17th and Wynkoop, but 16th Street and Wewatta Street as well.

Here are the meeting details:

Pedestrian Safety and Mobility @ Denver Union Station – Public Meeting!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Mercantile Room, Wynkoop Brewing Company
18th & Wynkoop Streets

Please stop by to learn what some of the design and regulatory options might be and to give your feedback on how you think pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles of all types should be managed around Union Station. Representatives from Denver Public Works will be there to hear your ideas and to provide additional information.

See you on November 4!!

By | 2016-12-27T18:26:40+00:00 October 27, 2015|Categories: Advocacy, Events & Meetings, Transportation, Urban Design, Walkability|Tags: |7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Denver October 28, 2015 at 7:33 am

    […] City Must Prepare for Influx of People Walking Near Union Station (DenverUrbanism) […]

  2. mckillio October 28, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Thanks for the much needed article Ken. I remember going on one of your DUS walking tours two or three years ago and how few pedestrians there were compared to today. What I think this intersection and Denver as whole needs are curb extensions and speed tables. Anywhere with an allway stop that is unlikely to change should be a candidate for a speed table and anywhere that has or wants/is likely to have high pedestrian numbers should be a candidate for curb extensions.

    I think I’ll try and make this meeting, thanks for the info.

  3. Chris October 28, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I agree 100%. I walk though this intersection like I and other pedestrians own it. Cars actually make the area less favorable. To that extent, I can see three options for this intersection and the stretch from 16th and Wynkoop to 18th and Wynkoop.
    1) We only enhance the PED signage to increase safety.
    2) We close off the two blocks from 16th and Wynkoop to 18th and Wynkoop to pedestrians only and continue to enhance the areas value to what it is becoming.
    3) The most expensive option (and never going to happen) is to take the cars underground for those two blocks and let the PED area above be used as it should be to this thriving area of downtown Denver.

  4. Brent October 28, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    You don’t need to close those blocks off to vehicles or (crazy) move cars underground. Nothing so extreme. I would start with colored pavers/bricks in/around the entire intersection – that would be a great first step to signal to cars that “this is a pedestrian zone.” More effective even than any signage. It’s just expensive.

  5. gojoblogo October 29, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I agree with Brent. There are ways to make it pedestrian friendly and prioritized without major infrastructural change. I would like to point out though, that “expensive” is a very relative term and when compared to the sort of money and consideration given to car mobility, this is not a big cost overall. It is a matter of priorities.

    • Ken Schroeppel October 30, 2015 at 10:39 am

      I agree. I think a combination of pavement treatments, signage, lighting, striping, public art, and other techniques can sufficiently transform Wynkoop into a very pedestrian-friendly street while still allowing traffic. See Larimer Square.

  6. […] That needs to change, according to Union Station Advocates. The group sees 17th and Wynkoop as the most important pedestrian intersection in the city. As Schroeppel wrote on his blog, DenverUrbanism: […]

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