Denver Post Fails to Imagine Denver as a City, Prefers Cowtown: Part 1

The sub-heading on the recent Denver Post editorial regarding the mix of drivers and other users on city streets was titled “We support transit solutions that take cars off Denver streets…” and then spent the rest of the article explaining why the opposite was true.

In the first paragraph they say that Denver “society is dependent on vehicles and will continue to rely on cars” as if our choices of where to spend hundreds of millions of transportation dollars won’t effect how people choose to get around. We’ve spent billions over seventy years to make driving not just the easiest way to get around Denver but often the only way; of course we’ve become dependent on cars. If we spent those hundreds of millions making transit and biking the easiest way to get around, guess what? People wouldn’t continue to rely on cars.

So the question becomes, do we want to be a city that is forced to rely on private automobiles, with their expense, pollution, and congestion? Or do we want to be a city that provides a transportation system that works for everyone, saves us money, and keeps our air cleaner? City council has already proclaimed for years that they want to move us away from streets clogged with commuter traffic to sidewalks filled with people. Most of the official city and neighborhood plans call for the same thing, but the Post seems incapable or unwilling to imagine a city that works well for everyone instead of just automobile drivers.

The Post seems to imply it’s somehow poor planning to create a transportation system that moves more people for less money in less space. They say it’s unrealistic to ask Denverites to get out of their cars and onto transit. I counter that what is unrealistic is trying to stuff ever more cars onto our streets. There’s a problem with physical space, in that there’s no more to be had. Traffic is gridlocked because everyone is in their own car, refusing to get out, and has never been asked to look for another way. Is this civic pride? Trying to stuff size 12 traffic into size 6 streets? Like the cliché middle-aged jock that still “fits” into his high school letterman’s jacket, the Post thinks that Denver can continue to stuff cars into our limited street space without making any changes to our transportation mix. Denver can try, but the city will look just as ridiculous as that jock with his beer-belly hanging out over his jeans.

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This is Part 1 of a six-part response to the Denver Post editorial of February 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of WalkDenver.

By | 2017-03-14T19:07:03+00:00 March 4, 2017|Categories: Bicycles, Motor Vehicles, Pedestrians, Transit, YIMBY Denver|Tags: |11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. James March 6, 2017 at 1:24 am

    John, you are still talking in an echo chamber here – articles like these complaining about people who hold to the belief that Denver’s reliance on cars is not so easily undone are not changing minds of those people who disagree with you. DenverInfill functions as a source for tracking development, that offers us readers content that is educational. DenverUrbanism used to examine a lot about transit, and even tried to build a vision (Beyond FasTracks for example) but it doesn’t really go into detail about that very much anymore…transit and sustainable growth are what you need to start writing about more. You have made your orientation on cars very clear.

    Please, and I mean this sincerely…use DenverUrbanism to offer a specific vision, not complaining about people who disagree with you by only marginally rebutting their arguments. Build on the vision for a denser Denver with more options for transit that is more prosperous and an overall never place to live…talk about how we can get there, specifically! Show people that your vision is better, do your homework to explain how we can get there, and SHOW people who disagree with you that you have a better solution.

    • Ken Schroeppel March 6, 2017 at 3:54 am

      James–thank you for your thoughtful comment. It is much appreciated. I agree and we are making plans to do just that!

    • John R March 6, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      James, we already know what to do – more protected bike infrastructure, everywhere. Dedicated transit lanes on our major streets. Elimination of parking minimums. Denser, mixed use corridors and intersections in our neighborhoods. All these things have been done in other cities, and successfully built wealth and reduced car use. It’s the out-moded co-dependence on automobiles that keeps us from moving forward, not a lack of vision on what course to pursue.

      To this point in time the pro-active transportation crowd in Denver hasn’t been organized or vocal enough in rebutting the myths associated with the single occupancy vehicle. If what I write gives them some ammunition and gets them fired up I’m happy. I presume the DenverUrbanism readership has the knowledge within their own neighborhoods to propose tailored requests to DPW.

      • James March 7, 2017 at 4:46 pm

        John, the amount of time you spend on a subject makes insinuates priority – and what you write about often sounds punitive many Denver-area residents, the majority of which still do not live within walking distance of transit that is good enough to change their math on whether to drive or not. We want to change minds, and to do that we need to offer solutions – not abstract or academic ones, but specific improvements to specific areas that will benefit people who live in all different types of neighborhoods.

        More protected bike infrastructure?
        Ok, where do we need to put it, who needs it first?

        Dedicated transit lanes? Denser mixed-use corridors and intersections.?
        Ok, where and why? Who benefits, how does traffic flow change, how do we pay for it?

        I think they’re wrong about certain ideas, but this is why Seattle Transit Blog is so effective and has such a large following. You are still not being specific enough to describe what people are getting when they are giving up/committing to pay for stuff that on-paper make it more difficult or expensive to commute with a car. Too much of your writing does not sound constructive, and rather punitive with benefits remaining unarticulated or abstract. Therefore the people who are already on board stay on board with you read these pieces and say “yes” and “ok”, but those are not convinced are not convinced. The value you can add is to add specific things Denver needs to change/build for particular areas and let transit advocates and urbanists decide what they should take to the city or RTD to support. That type of content will bring value.

        I am not trying to be a troll or just a critic, I want this site to go as far as it can to support the vision for Denver that we share, we need to just be tactful about how we get there in my opinion.

        • James March 7, 2017 at 4:52 pm

          Pardon the grammar – I’m trying to type this from a phone on a LA bus

        • JC March 7, 2017 at 8:56 pm

          Hi James: I think that John’s critique is helpful for those of us who haven’t been engaged in this dialogue for a long time and don’t have the same vernacular that he/you do. It is frustrating to see the Denver Post write such rubbish, and it is nice to know that there are places like Streetsblog Denver and DenverInfill/Urbanism that someone can turn to for a different opinion. Hopefully, you and other readers will chime in with ideas for how to make this alternative vision a reality. Personally, I’m glad to see the redesign of Brighton, with protected bike lanes and a road diet feel. I think that it’d be great if we could put a protected bike lane down MLK from out past Stapleton to downtown. I think we could do the same for 23rd and 17th from City Park east. 17th and 23rd from the Platte west to Edgewater deserve similar protected bike path treatments.

          While we are at it, let’s slow cars down in Denver. No street should have a speed limit above 25. I’d love some traffic calming devices (raised crosswalks or mid street lighted crosswalks) along Sloans Lake, near the new CDOT building over to the Decatur light rail station and near other parks). The city of Denver is looking at surface level transit (buses get priority or street car) down Colfax, let’s fast track that. As John noted, let’s get rid of parking minimums and create parking maximums (stick) and work with RTD to allow once-a-month (more often??) free days on buses or trains in order to get people comfortable learning new routes and routines. Maybe when they’ve learned that it isn’t as bad at the Denver Post makes it out to be, they’ll be more apt to use it in the future.

          We’ve got a bike plan (Denver Moves), we just need to fund it.

      • Ryan Dravitz March 8, 2017 at 4:22 am

        Here’s my take on this. I don’t think everybody who reads DenverUrbanism knows exactly what we need to do, just like many who aren’t enlightened with our ideas of urbanism and less dependence on the automobile. As you are making great, valid points we also need to be talking about how to achieve what you are bringing up, what alternatives we need to provide, how much its going to cost, and add in some real world scenarios for these alternatives. This can be defining corridors and modes of transit to going into more detail with your ideas along with bringing in new ideas and topics.

        There is more to Denver than just Downtown. There are some of us, arguably more of us, that are not fortunate enough to walk / bike and will need to rely on transit, myself included for the past 4 years. Think of how these arguments are read from someone in northern Sloans Lake, Mayfair, Lowry, Hale, even Cherry Creek. There are a lot of neighborhoods in Central Denver that have barely any access to transit and are getting out-transited by places like Lone Tree.In my opinion, that is just not okay and we need to advocate for a real transit solution that will actually compete with the automobile.

        From personal experience, I am cursed with having to drive to a park and ride or, if I’m in a hurry, I have to opt to drive because double – triple the travel time isn’t worth ditching the car. Here’s real world example. I open Google Maps and it tells me that it will take 25 minutes to get to Downtown Denver via car. I flip to the transit side and it says 1hr 15min. I decide to plan to take light rail, and drive to the nearest park and ride (about 4 miles away), my trip time goes up to just about an hour; over double the time it would take by car. Now, I have to take some photos for DenverInfill, and run some errands in Cherry Creek. What option would be best for me? Being a pretty busy person, I can’t afford almost 3 hours of just commuting, especially if it’s less than 15 miles round trip. As much as I don’t like having to drive, it’s something that you have to do if you are on any schedule and live in a transit desert.

        Your topics and arguments resonate well for Downtown Denver and its immediate surrounding neighborhoods.When you start moving further out, and have less access to the great amenities Downtown and its central neighborhoods provide, it’s harder to ignore the transit piece.

        As part of this team, I will say that I am very excited because we are going to start exploring the transit piece and are going to go into more detail with corridors, costs, and the challenges Denver will face. More on that later!

  2. JS March 6, 2017 at 3:51 am

    What a joke of a news source. Its’ embarrassing.

  3. Jake Cohen March 6, 2017 at 5:00 am

    My question is are you going to place this in the Post as an opinion piece? That is the best way to respond to their articles and you can have the audience that read the original piece view it.

  4. […] Denver Post Prefers Car Dependence to Modern City (DenverUrbanism) […]

  5. Matt Pizzuti March 18, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Another thing not mentioned in this essay is the number of people who literally move away from Denver or do not choose Denver because they can’t or don’t want to be dependent on driving.

    However I think the auto-dominant position is going to rapidly weaken nationwide. Within 5 years driverless cars are going to be nationwide and making a Lyft or Uber ride cost essentially the same as bus fare. That’s going to make it much easier for people to not own cars or forgo transit because they can still get a ride to transit-poor places when they need to, and people are also going to realize how much cheaper it is to never own a car. Whether or not you support those companies and whether or not you support automation, this change is coming, and we’re going to find a lot of those parking garages are suddenly empty, whether there’s currently a political will to built transit or not. I think we’re going to find the shift is more or less inevitable.

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