Multimodal Improvements Planned for Broadway, Lincoln

At the Community Workshop #2 held yesterday, the city revealed their recommended redesign for the Broadway/Lincoln corridor.

The highlights: a two-way parking-protected cycle track for Broadway and a dedicated transit lane on Lincoln.

2016-01-30_lincoln-multimodal

Image courtesy Denver Public Works

Image courtesy Denver Public Works

For complete details, please visit the DenverMoves-Broadway Community Workshop #2 page as well as the review and analysis by David Sachs at Streetsblog Denver.

Denver is heading in the right direction with these recommended changes by utilizing a portion of the public right-of-way for people who move about the city by means other than the automobile.

By | 2016-12-22T17:17:29+00:00 January 30, 2016|Categories: Advocacy, Events & Meetings, Transportation|Tags: |20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Jerry G January 30, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    What the city is proposing for Lincoln is in the right direction, but the preferred alternative for Broadway is an insult to pedestrians. All of the alternatives they presented before included a transit only lane for Broadway, but apparently that’s off the table now? If Broadway only needs three travel lanes during peak time, it only needs three travel lanes period. Instead what the pedestrians, residences, and business owners along Broadway are getting is four travel lanes, all of which are wider than the ones on Lincoln. That is a recipe for speeding and it facilitates a dangerous environment for people who want to cross Broadway. Fail!

    • John R February 1, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      +1

  2. Nash January 30, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    The City’s presentation, as usual, says nothing about putting rail in the Broadway-Lincoln corridor from Downtown to the Broadway RTD Station. At least an RTD official assures that the B-Way Station will be designed so that a rail line (aka Streetcars) can be incorporated into long-range planning. But so far, the City of Denver is tip-toing towards Denver’s obvious next big transportation step: Streetcars.

    Meanwhile, all the emphasis is on accommodating bikes, which is fine, for the very vocal 300-plus cyclists who currently use the corridor. Jerry G, you are right — the pedestrian aspect of the planning process is glossed over, with few details emerging on how the walking experience can be improved.

    “Safety” is the planning mantra at these hearings, with heavy appeasement for bikers — and an assurance that giving up a driving lane on Broadway to a two-way protected bike lane will make the street safer for bikes. And bulb-out sidewalks at intersections will shorten the pedestrian crosswalks, hopefully reducing car speeds and hazards to walkers.

    Denver Planning, Parks and Rec and Public Works are pushing the “Denver Moves” series of hearings this year, and this is the time and place to step up and support a street rail system on Denver’s big streets. Never mind that eighty years ago there were streetcars on every big street in Denver — a true alternative to the car, before cars took over and pushed out streetcars. Now, the idea of losing a driving lane, not just to buses but street rail is foreign to most “urbanists” here, who can only imagine peddling on two wheels, rather than riding on rails. In fact, the two modes go together.

    Long term, Denver’s car congestion will only be solved with a true alternative — street rail — and taking a lane away from cars for bikes may be a good start towards humanizing a big street, but not the way to get thousands of car trips off the roads.

    • Jimmy Z February 5, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      The fundamental reason why people who understand transit are not big fans of streetcars is that as long as the streetcar operates in city traffic, it ain’t no faster than the bus it replaces (replaces, not improves upon), it just costs way more! The 0 may not be sexy, but it certainly gets the job done, and if it’s your wet dream to ride a train between downtown and the Broadway station, YOU ALREADY CAN (just not on Broadway)!

      http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/09/overall-us-streetcars-just-arent-meeting-the-standards-of-good-transit/379516/

      http://www.citylab.com/commute/2016/02/new-york-brooklyn-queens-waterfront-streetcar/459984/

      http://www.citylab.com/commute/2013/05/case-caution-when-it-comes-building-street-cars/5699/

      • Nash February 6, 2016 at 12:12 pm

        Jimmy Z, thanks for the counter point. After reading through the many articles referenced in your links, it’s pretty obvious that many factors determine the cost-effectiveness of streetcars, each city, each line having different design elements — which have everything to do with the relative success of the line. I urge everyone reading this to scan the spectrum of articles in your links.

        What you’ll discover is that some designs work, and some don’t. For example, the New Orleans streetcars — a very old system — is very heavily used by not just tourists, but locals, who’ve developed strong dependence on the three lines.

        Fares have a huge impact on usage. RTD keeps raising fares — to help pay for escalating Fast Tracks construction costs — which of course discourages ridership. It’s a key factor on any transit system, which RTD seems to ignore.

        RTD also made a very short-sighted decision, in choosing to buy now-obsolete rail cars from Seimens, rather than their new low-floor, easy-boarding cars, which cost more. Result: the old three-steps-up RTD doors don’t meet current ADA standards, can’t accommodate wheelchairs and bikes at all doors, and we’re stuck with these obsolete rail cars for the next 30 years — the practical life of transit rail cars.

        On the other hand, the much longer shelf life of transit rail cars is a huge long-range cost advantage over buses, which average about ten years before replacement.

        And don’t overlook that fewer drivers are needed to operate higher-capacity streetcars than buses.

        Maybe most important, WHERE will streetcar lines be built? In high-density corridors, or areas where political favoritism demands a line that’s not really needed?

        Yes, streetcars can only move at the same speed as cars, but the convenience and cost advantage of being car-free is a big plus for many riders.

        Also, Jimmy Z, your many references point out that streetcars have to run frequently — about every ten minutes in rush hour — to be attractive for riders. Most of the cities with new systems operate every 15 minutes, at best.

        So it’s about taking a smart design approach to streetcars, just like any form of transportation, if you want success.

  3. Tyler January 30, 2016 at 10:40 pm

    While I completely agree with Nash that more rail is what is needed to improve congestion on Denver’s streets and that Broadway/Lincoln is a prime place for streetcars, I must disagree with Jerry’s assessment that this plan does not improve the pedestrian experience. As its name suggests, Broadway is a very wide street with already wide sidewalks for the pedestrian. This plan would take the great wide sidewalks Broadway already has and buffer them with a 2-way bike lane one side as well as parking on both sides. This provides plenty of pedestrian safety and walkability (particularly as compared to some of Denver’s other streets, like 13th Avenue through Cap Hill which has narrow sidewalks and often no buffer between the pedestrian and speeding cars. While on the subject, 13th and 14th Avenues would be a great place to implement this same treatment that Broadway might get; remove a lane and install bike lanes that would better separate the cars and pedestrians). In addition to the parking and cycle track providing separation, the bulb outs and islands for the parking lanes will create better sightlines and shorter crosswalk distances for pedestrians, which as is obvious, are much needed on a wide street like Broadway. Besides eliminating several more lanes of automobile traffic or shutting down the street to cars all together (neither of which will, or should, ever happen), there is no better solution to improving the pedestrian experience on Broadway than the recommended plan above.

    • Jerry G January 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      I am not saying that DPW should eliminate “several more lanes of automobile traffic” or that the proposed changes are a total failure. Broadway has always had street parking, so that is not an improvement, and so the only changes that directly benefit pedestrians are the addition of bulb-outs and bus-bulbs. I am just saying that DPW has backtracked on changes that would do much to make this a true multi-modal corridor.
      The lanes are wider than those on Lincoln (11 vs. 10 ft.) and during the off peak times, there will be four travel lanes. That’s one more than there is during peak times and one more than there is on Lincoln at all times. DPW has already implied that that configuration is not necessary, with the reduction to three lanes during peak times, and excess capacity will only induce high speeds. Their research has already shown that it does. There has been no justification for why Lincoln only needs to be three travel lanes, or less, during off peak times while Broadway needs to have four.
      Finally, if there is any hope for a streetcar system to be implemented in Denver, and there should be, than the ROW needed should be secured now. If the city is unwilling to secure it on a street that has excess capacity during off peak times, than I have little hope for any real multimodal improvements let alone a streetcar system.

      • Nash January 31, 2016 at 10:08 pm

        Maybe I’m too cynical about the City’s tepid approach to streetcars, and I need to point out that the bus lane preserved on the driver’s right side of both streets in Option #3 is being preserved to be the logical place to lay down tracks, with streetcar entrance/exit through the right-hand doors, along the sidewalks.

        My rant is more about the timid discussion of opening up the issue of streetcars, per se. It will mean a mayor and an administration’s commitment to some costly projects — though nothing like the costs of subway or elevated rail — and the political will to take on the usual NIMBY opposition to rail development, and selling a financing scheme to the people of Denver — probably some kind of bond issue, paid for by special taxing districts adjacent to rail lines.

        Remember, Fast Tracks failed before the voters, before it finally passed. It takes a lot of political guts for a mayor to embrace an issue which can be a political career-ender.

        After decades of watching urban rail development in and around DC and LA, I expect the evolution of a streetcar system in Denver to take many years — maybe a couple decades. Hope we all live long enough to see it, but it starts with the Denver Moves: Transit “studies” beginning this year, and then a strong political leadership that’s committed to a long project, spanning several election cycles and a shifting economy.

        Most can agree, Yes, We should build a streetcar system in Denver. OK, now, how do we move beyond talking about it, to studying it, to actually making it happen?

        • Richard February 2, 2016 at 12:58 pm

          Kansas City will have a working streetcar system by April. Kansas City! It’s almost like after Fastraks Denver just stopped planning for future transit while congestion, especially downtown, has gotten worse and worse. The Broadway/Lincoln corridor needs a streetcar in transit ROW’s that ties into downtown, and eventually also connects Capitol Hill and Cherry Creek. Colfax can likely function with a high frequency BRT system and dedicated transit way.

      • SPR8364 February 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        Jerry,

        I thought that the dedicated bus lane on Lincoln was only from 8th to Colfax, the rest of the time it’s the same configuration as Broadway. So, basically, the north bound and southbound legs of this couplet would be pretty much the same. The only key difference will be lane widths on Broadway and the few blocks of bus only on Lincoln.

        Also, in the future, the bus lane can easily be converted to BRT or streetcar. If you propose that all now, there is sure to be more push back from the pro-car crowd who probably will already push back on the loss of a lane.

        As to lane width, I’m sure that has more to do with having to rebuild all of Broadway instead of just the intersections. Or, they just know that people want to leave work faster than they arrive 🙂

        • Jerry G February 1, 2016 at 10:09 pm

          The dedicated bus lane on Lincoln is only from 8th to Colfax. However, south of 8th, the bus lane of Lincoln functions like this: bus only during peak time and parking during off peak. So that means during off peak times, Lincoln is still no more than travel three lanes and only two travel lanes south of Virginia. Broadway would be three travel lanes during peak periods and FOUR travel lanes during off peak. Again, no justification for why Broadway needs more lanes in off peak times than Lincoln does.
          As to your last observation, DPW can make the lanes smaller by just butting in a larger buffer between the parking and the cycle track. That would straightforward to do and should have less blowback.

          • Kevin February 5, 2016 at 6:52 pm

            Regarding the wider lanes on Broadway, I was told by a representative from the consulting team that the city doesn’t want to grind off the paint on Broadway and repaint the lanes because Broadway has recently been repainted and apparently grinding and repainting is too expensive (while Lincoln is due for repainting anyway). I was told this “doesn’t rule out” narrowing the lanes at some point in the future and adding the extra 3 ft of width to the bike lane buffer. I’m not sure I see the logic in their argument for not narrowing the lanes now, though, as surely grinding and repainting the street would be a relatively small proportion of the cost of the improvements they’re proposing, and if they’re going to make these big changes, they might as well do it right the first time. Personally, I wish they would make the lanes 10 ft and use the extra width to make a wider, more substantial (i.e. curbed, and maybe even planted) barrier for the bike lane, which would prevent encroachment from parked cars and really create a more attractive and comfortable streetscape for both bikes and pedestrians, but if they’re not even willing to repaint the street, I’m guessing a curb- or planter-protected cycletrack is out of their budget range.

      • DDV4171 February 2, 2016 at 5:03 pm

        I’d be interested to see the figures around the % capacity of lanes used on a given day. I can’t imagine this being higher than 10% at any point in the day, except morning/evening rush hour on Lincoln and Broadway, which could support eliminating “several more lanes of automobile traffic” as you are carefully avoiding above to get 2 auto lanes and a bus lane total. I agree with you that there doesn’t seem to be much improvement over exiting conditions in these plans which makes you wonder whether all of this money is better spent on a larger vision including streetcars when that is possible.

  4. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Denver February 1, 2016 at 9:01 am

    […] DenverUrbanism Highlights Bike and Transit Improvements Planned for Broadway, Lincoln […]

  5. Larry February 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I find the ongoing proposals for downtown streetcars very appealing. However, I hope proponents are not expecting RTD to foot the bill. Transit users in the eight county RTD district need to be considered as some in the urban center wish to continue to treat RTD as their private piggy bank (ie maintenance of the 16th Street Mall and the Free Mall Ride as examples).

    • SPR8364 February 1, 2016 at 12:31 pm

      I agree, and they should get rid of all those bus routes I don’t use either. (sarcasim)

    • Jimmy Z February 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Larry, I agree completely!

  6. DDV4171 February 2, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    I think it’s unfortunate that the city will still be asking pedestrians to cross 4 lanes, even with bulb outs, especially when initiatives could have been taken to add larger patios and sidewalks for the restaurants and other pedestrian benefits (food carts, a temporary market, etc). This is clearly needed on Broadway where many restaurants and bars have ultimately taken to rooftop patios, which while admittedly very cool, are much more expensive and less directly impactful to the pedestrian experience. All very confusing when Broadway is essentially empty all day, other than the 1 hour people are commuting.

    I also find it very odd compared to another cities I’ve spent extensive time in (Chicago and London) with significantly more cars and higher populations, which more often than not max out at two travel lanes. It’s amazing what smart investment in your intra-city rail infrastructure can do for your pedestrian experience.

  7. Mark smith February 6, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Any sane person knows that Broadway should be no more than two lanes wide with a dedicated bus lane. Surface highways will never grow livable spaces. Cars and trucks are killers. People want to walk, bike and transit

    A streetcar in a transit only lane would work. Or.. a troll bus which is quiet.

  8. Ivan February 29, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    Do you guys even live in downtown Denver? “Broadway is essentially empty all day, other than the 1 hour people are commuting.” Are you on crack?!!? I can’t wait to see the two bicyclists use the great new bicycle track while gridlock ensues on this roadway for almost all hours of the day. What a great way to improve the movement of people throughout the city. I am so impressed. We have no viable streetcar or intracity transit in the works and we continue to take away travel lanes for the “300 plus cyclists that use this corridor”. Do the same 300 use that highly successful 15th Street bike path too? I mean, I notice just how EMPTY that is most of the day. Bicyclists still ride in traffic and do some with total disregard to their surroundings. We are just wasting money for a tiny minority of people. But that’s okay. Downtown living is only accessible for the rich anyway. Let the nasty poor sit in their cars as they try to get to the urban oasis that is called downtown Denver. Pity those poor bastards. All those idling cars spewing out their nasty toxins into the air. I can only hope the EPA starts fining us so that we take mobility seriously instead of kowtowing to the 300+ bike nazis in this town.

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