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Archive of posts filed under the Infrastructure category.

Join the WalkDenver Data Challenge May 31-June 14!

Improving Denver’s pedestrian infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, etc.) is critical as more and more people rely upon walking as part of their daily routine. Making those pedestrian improvements in an efficient and prioritized way requires data. However, Denver doesn’t collect data on sidewalk conditions because the City doesn’t maintain or repair sidewalks. Denver property owners do. In other words, there is no equitable, citywide, proactive program for sidewalk maintenance and repair in Denver.

Our friends at WalkDenver have been working hard for several years to change that situation.

WalkDenver is launching a two-week-long WALKscope Data Challenge to collect sidewalk and crosswalk condition data across the city from May 31 – June 14. We need your help! You may even win $1,000 for your neighborhood in the process! All of the details are available on the WALKscope Data Challenge web page.

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WALKscope is an easy-to-use tool you use on your smartphone to collect and submit sidewalk and crosswalk data. Admit it: you walk around staring at your smartphone anyway, so why not do something helpful for your community while you’re at it?


RiNo Infrastructure Part 6: River North Promenade

So far in our RiNo Infrastructure series, we have taken a look at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, and Part 5: Delgany Festival Street. In this post, we will review the proposed River North Promenade.

The River North Promenade is essentially a redesign of Arkins Court between 29th and 38th Street into a pedestrian-oriented promenade. The promenade has been divided into three zones, each representing a different conceptual design. Here’s a Google Earth aerial showing the current condition and the project’s extent:

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This map shows the same area as above with the project’s three character zones. All of the exhibits below are courtesy of the City of Denver and landscape design consultants Wenk Associates, and are conceptual in nature. They are not final designs.

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A description of each zone:

Let’s explore each of these zones.

The Urban Residential zone extends from 29th Street to approximately 32nd Street. The “Urban Residential” name relates to the adjacency of several proposed multi-family housing projects, such as the Industry Apartments. In this section, Arkins Court would continue to provide access for motor vehicles, but with a rebuilt street offering one travel lane in each direction, on-street parking, and a pedestrian promenade ranging from 20-30 feet in width.

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Key features of this zone may include a River Overlook and a Linear Park:

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In the middle is the Park/Open Space character zone from 32nd Street to 35th Street. This zone’s main design influence is the proposed River North Park (visit that post for renderings). A feature here may include a Boxcar Garden:

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To the east is the Mixed-Use/Entertainment character zone from 35th to 38th Street, where adjacent residential, office, and restaurant land uses would help activate this stretch of the promenade. One idea for this zone is to integrate a café into the promenade design:

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The city and the local property owners recently identified funding to begin the preliminary (30%) design for the promenade. No funds have been secured yet for the construction of the promenade, but finding a way to pay for the project is a priority for RiNo stakeholders and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative. Some sections of the promenade may be built in conjunction with adjacent new private-sector developments.

Here is what Arkins Court looks like today:

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Next in our RiNo Infrastructure series: the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the South Platte River.


Denver Union Station Expands Bicycle Infrastructure

It’s taken a while since the July 2014 opening of Denver Union Station, but Denver B-cycle is finally back at the city’s busy transit hub. There was a small B-cycle station under the overhang near the south entrance to the historic station, but that was removed when construction on the project began. What took so long for B-cycle to return to Union Station? From what I understand, it definitely was not because B-cycle didn’t want to return, but more a matter of regulatory red tape with the city and RTD. Nevertheless, Denver B-cycle is back at Union Station, and back in a big way!

We recently covered the new bike/ped improvements at 17th and Wynkoop that included enhanced bike lane striping, pedestrian crosswalks, and painted bulb-outs with bollards. As part of those improvements, the curb lane along the plaza side of Wynkoop between 16th and 17th was also reconfigured. Previously, most of that block’s curb lane featured 2-hour metered parking spaces for private automobiles. Now, the half block closest to 17th Street provides a much-needed 5-minute passenger loading zone available to both private motorists as well as ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, while the half block closest to 16th Street provides space for bicycles and car-sharing services. It is here where the second-largest of Denver B-cycle’s facilities at Union Station is located: a new 21-dock station! Here are a few photos from very early on the morning of the A-Line launch:

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In addition to the new B-cycle facility, two new 5-hump bike racks were also installed in the Wynkoop curb lane near 16th Street:

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Finally, the last couple of spaces closest to the Wynkoop/16th Street intersection have been reserved for eGo CarShare and car2go.

These new bicycle facilities on Wynkoop Street complement the existing bike racks in Wynkoop Plaza itself, which are often in high demand like we see here from last Friday:

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Also, a few of these were installed on the sidewalk on the LoDo side of Wynkoop Street:

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On the opposite side of the historic station is the other new Denver B-cycle facility: a 30-dock station located directly adjacent to the Wewatta Pavilion by the commuter rail platforms, along with a bunch of additional regular bike racks:

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The remaining major piece of bicycle infrastructure to be added at Denver Union Station is the proposed Bike Hub at Tail Tracks Plaza. Hopefully, that will be installed sometime later this summer.

2016-05-15 edit: The number of docks at the Wewatta Pavilion B-cycle station has been corrected. It’s 30 docks, not 15!


RiNo Infrastructure Part 5: Delgany Festival Street

Up next in our series examining the infrastructure investments supporting the River North area’s transformation as a thriving mixed-use arts district: Delgany Festival Street. Previously we’ve looked at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, and Part 4: River North Park.

The Delgany Festival Street is a new city street planned for where Delgany Street would be between 33rd and 35th streets. However, 33rd Street in this part of RiNo doesn’t exist, so a short stretch of 33rd Street will also be built as part of the project. Let’s get you oriented with the location of the new 33rd Street and Delgany Festival Street:

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Proposed alignment for 33rd Street and Delgany Festival Street. Background image: Google Earth

(Note: Currently, the proposed street is referred to on all the city documents I’ve seen as just “Festival Street.” I doubt that will be the street’s final name as it would be inconsistent with the city’s street-naming convention. So for now, I’m calling it “Delgany Festival Street” until an official name is finalized.)

Why isn’t there a 33rd Street on either side of Brighton Boulevard? What happened to Delgany southwest of 35th Street? While we’re at it, where is 34th Street? It all goes back to subdivision plats and right-of-way vacations and other fun planning things. Time for a little history…

In addition to the Ironton and St. Vincent subdivisions, the other subdivision that contributed a small part to the RiNo urban fabric was Case and Ebert’s Addition of 1868—Denver’s first subdivision outside of downtown. A small part of Case and Ebert’s extended north of the railroad tracks, but the only streets platted in this area were Wynkoop and short sections of Wazee, 29th, 30th, and 31st. Not included were 32nd, 33rd, or 34th streets, as large iron mills and foundries occupied the space where these streets would have gone.

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Case and Ebert’s Addition of 1868 plat map. Source: City and County of Denver

By 1871, the expansion of the Denver Pacific Railway grounds caused all of these streets except for 31st Street to be vacated, as the city engineering quarter-section map below shows.

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City Engineering Quarter-Section Map NE-044. Source: City and County of Denver

As part of the Ironton 1st Addition, a short segment of 34th Street was platted between Delgany and Chestnut, but south of Delgany, 34th was never laid out due to a large wedge-shaped exclusion in the subdivision’s southwestern boundary. The subdivision map below also shows that Delgany between 34th and 35th—the northeastern part of the new Delgany Festival Street—was platted, but Delgany never existed southwest of 34th.

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Ironton 1st Addition of 1881 plat map. Source: City and County of Denver

In 1953, these two short street segments where RiNo Park and the Delgany Festival Street will be built were vacated by the city:

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City Engineering Quarter-Section Map NE-045. Source: City and County of Denver

OK, let’s get back to the future!

According to Public Works documents, the new 33rd Street will have one 11.5-foot wide lane in each direction with 5-foot-wide sidewalks, special 6-foot-wide storm water planting beds for landscaping and water quality, and an 8-foot-wide parking lane on the northeast side. Delgany Festival Street will be narrower, with one 10-foot lane in each direction and shallow mountable curbs that blur the distinction between the street and sidewalk, for a total right-of-way width of 29 feet. The corner of 33rd and Delgany Festival Street will eventually tie in with Arkins Court and the proposed River North Promenade, the next project to be featured in our RiNo Infrastructure series.

The city’s plan is to pave the Delgany Festival Street in asphalt, but the neighborhood’s vision for the street as a public space demands a better paving material than asphalt, so the River North Art District is working on funding to upgrade the paving to concrete.

As the word “festival” implies, this is a street that will feel like an extension of River North Park and can be closed down for special events. On the south side of the proposed street is the new home of Great Divide Brewery where the design of their Phase 2 project (featuring a Beer Garden and Tap Room overlooking the proposed River North Park) will integrate with Delgany Festival Street to create a lively public space.

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Future site of the Delgany Festival Street looking southwest from 35th Street. Great Divide Brewery is on the left and the future River North Park will be on the right.

Along the north side of Delgany Festival Street southeast of River North Park, a proposed townhouse development is in the works. More about that project coming soon to DenverInfill.

Work on the new 33rd Street/Delgany Festival Street project should begin in the fall 2016.


17th and Wynkoop Receives Ped/Bike-Friendly Upgrades

Now that the A-Line to Denver International Airport is up and running, the number of people passing through Denver Union Station has increased. This is making the corner of 17th and Wynkoop—the historic station’s downtown-facing portal and popular tourist photo-taking spot—busier than ever, with bikes, cars, taxis, pedicabs, tour buses, delivery trucks and pedestrians seemingly navigating the intersection at the same time. This slow but continuous dance of people and their transport machines gives the corner an urban energy that reflects the vitality of the Union Station district and Downtown Denver. However, the standard crosswalks, bike lanes, and other design and regulatory elements in place at the intersection were too minimal, confusing, ineffective and/or biased in favor of the automobile.

In fall 2015, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I decided to push for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to the 17th and Wynkoop intersection in anticipation of the A-Line launch and the other FasTracks lines opening later this year. We held a public meeting and spread the word about the issue, as described in my post from last October, 17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection? Fortunately, Denver Public Works shared our views on this and put a rapid-response team in place to plan, design, and implement a package of high-visibility, lower-cost improvements for the intersection in just a couple of months! Public Works was very responsive and great to work with—particularly planner Riley LaMie who led the planning effort—and, just in time for the A-Line opening, 17th and Wynkoop has been upgraded to a much more pedestrian/bike-friendly intersection. Here are a few before-and-after shots:

Wynkoop crosswalk:

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17th and Wynkoop south corner:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking southwest:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking northeast:

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Wynkoop crosswalk:

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The new crosswalks are certainly more visible, and the painted bulb-outs with bollards significantly shorten the pedestrian crossing distance. The new painted bulb-outs also prevent cars wanting to make a right turn from illegally using the parking lane as a right-turn lane by squeezing between the sidewalk/curb ramp and cars stopped in the through lane. The project also included new parking-lane signs that clearly designate passenger loading zones along the Wynkoop Plaza side of the street:

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Despite these new signs and street markings, motorists still find ways to do dumb things, like stopping right in the middle of the bike lane to let passengers out…

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…or stopping half in the bike lane, half in the traffic lane, for the valet parking…

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…or driving on the bike lane between traffic and the parked cars:

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I took those last three photos within minutes of each other. #streetfail #streetfail #streetfail

Nevertheless, these are wonderful improvements that clearly communicate that pedestrians and bicyclists have the priority at the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop!

Shouldn’t every intersection in the city look this good?


Post A-Line Coverage Preview

Yesterday was a wonderful day for RTD and the Denver metro area. I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the Denver Airport Station as a preview for what’s to come this next week. The station is truly beautiful!

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What an amazing sight from the platforms.

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I hope everyone is enjoying the celebrations going on today along the A-Line. As a reminder, the whole rail system is free today!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: TOMORROW!

It’s Thursday, and what a great Thursday it is! The ‘Train to the Plane’, ‘Denver’s Gateway to the World’, officially opens tomorrow! We couldn’t be more excited about this great accomplishment that RTD and the public/private partners achieved.

Today we will be focusing on two things: the Denver Airport station and the final details for this weekend. Let’s start with the Denver Airport Station. As you probably know, it is incredibly hard to access the station at Denver International Airport because of location, security, and the fact that it’s under construction with a single access point.

RTD has some great photos on their Flickr featuring this station; I recommend checking these out. Or, if you are in for a surprise, wait until tomorrow and see it for yourself. So what do I have to offer? When I was flying out in February, the plaza was open and I was able to get some night photos.

The Denver Airport Station features a brilliant glass canopy which you can look down on from above.

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Once you get off the train and go up to the main level, you have two options: Enter the airport or hang out on the plaza where there will be various activities and events. The plaza is quite a spectacular sight in person, especially with the new hotel above.

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That wraps up our countdown! Now for some final details.

This Weekend

Here is how this weekend is going to work:

Tomorrow, April 22nd – The grand opening ceremony will take place at the Denver Airport station at 10 am. After that, at 12 pm, the first trains will start running on normal 15 minute intervals. Rides will be free from 12-9 pm

Saturday, April 23rd – Free rides on RTD’s entire rail system will be offered from 5 am – 10 pm. There will be station parties at each of the stations along the A-Line for the public to enjoy from 10 am-2 pm.

This is a once in a lifetime event for Denver, so we hope to see you there!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: TWO DAYS!

It’s Wednesday which means only two days stand between us and the A-Line grand opening. We, here at DenverUrbanism, are so excited! Now that we’ve gone in depth about the technology and trains, let’s focus on the bookend stations; Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport. We have already covered the 38th and Blake and the Central Park Station in our previous posts and mentioned that all of the other stations in between will be nearly identical to these two, with the exception of Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport.

Today, we are going to highlight Denver Union Station. We have covered the commuter rail canopy so many times, but bear with me for just one more post since it is highly relevant to this line. The A-Line will be pulling into the first track, which will be closest to the historic station. This is great for quick connections to the bus terminal and Downtown Denver.

From shell to finished product, the commuter rail canopy is truly breathtaking; taking notes from Denver International Airport along with carrying its own identity.

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As we know, this station will serve all of the commuter lines in the FasTracks system as well as Amtrak and private trains, such as the ski train when it comes back. The structural system is comprised of 11 steel arch trusses, which span 180 feet, and is clad in tensioned PTFE fabric. The fabric itself can handle up to 90 mile-per-hour winds and snow loads up to 30 pounds per square foot. The station cost a total of $15 million to design and build.

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Day or night, this station glows white and has such a prominent presence in the Denver Union Station neighborhood. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, I would argue that this transit station is near the top of the list for best transit architecture in the country.

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Even from the air, the station is completely stunning.

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Tomorrow we will be covering the Denver International Airport station and give you the final details of what’s going on this weekend. Stay tuned!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: THREE DAYS!

Now that we have climbed over that Monday wall, I am pleased to announce that there are only THREE days left until the A-Line, connecting the world to Downtown Denver, opens. Today we are going to look into the commuter trains that will be hauling passengers to and from Denver International Airport at a top speed of 79 miles per hour.

The Silverliner V looks and feels like a very classic heavy rail / subway train. These trains are large, silver, and mean serious business.

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RTD purchased 66 of these cars, in the married pair configuration for $300 million. The trains were built in Korea, tested in Philadelphia, and then shipped to Denver. Philadelphia made a great candidate for testing because they use the same exact trains for SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority). The first Silverliner V’s arrived in Denver on November 20th and initially had to be pulled into Denver Union Station for testing since the overhead catenary wire system was still under construction.

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The 70 ton, 600 hp Silverliner V has been in full speed testing for months now and can be seen at regular 15-30 minute intervals along the line.

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In three days, we will all be able to ride this brand new type of train, how incredibly exciting!