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Archive of posts filed under the Infrastructure category.

Crowdfunding a New Protected Bike Lane on Arapahoe Street

By Peter Bird

At the Downtown Denver Partnership’s October Member Forum, the DDP announced an exciting new project on Arapahoe Street. Following a few temporary projects on that street—and supporting the larger Denver Moves Plan—they will be implementing a permanent protected bike lane.

Here is an image of the prospective bike lane provided by Alta Planning + Design:

Proposed protected bike lane on Arapahoe Street

The lane will extend along Arapahoe from Broadway to Speer, and will serve as a vital bicycle avenue through downtown—and through a thriving business district. However, the most novel aspect of this project is not necessarily its design or planning, but its funding structure. The DDP already secured $85,000 from the Gates Family Foundation as well as $35,000 from the business community, but they have also initiated a crowdfunding campaign to cover the remaining $35,000 needed for the lane’s construction.

This crowdfunding structure for a large-scale public infrastructure project is the first of its kind here in Denver. It was originally inspired by a similar project in Memphis, TN that was very successful. Aside from the structure’s usefulness as an alternative revenue stream, its grassroots nature allows for a level of public involvement and ownership not typically available.

Many downtown businesses have already expressed strong interest in the proposed bike lane—evidenced by the initial $35,000 raised by the greater business community. The crowdfunding campaign is available here and will be open to contributions until December 12.

Aylene McCallum, Senior Manager of Transportation & Research at the Downtown Denver Partnership, commented that this structure will allow business owners as well as individuals to show the city that they want these resources. Planners often tout the phrase, “if we build it, they will come,” referring to such infrastructure projects. But this project’s crowdfunding structure turns that idea on its head. It puts the power into the hands of individuals and businesses, and says, “if we come together, they will build it.”

More and more, we’re experiencing the positive effects of protected bike lanes on cities and neighborhoods. They encourage healthy behaviors, mitigate pollution and congestion, and promote vibrant business communities, among other things. And this crowdfunding structure, if successful, will send a clear message to key decision makers: We want more urban bike infrastructure!

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Peter Bird grew up around the country and, after completing his Bachelor’s degree in linguistics, moved abroad, living in Hungary and Estonia. It was there that he first developed a love for cities and the transportation patterns within them. He currently works for BikeDenver and is also pursuing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from the University of Colorado Denver with a special interest in bicycle/pedestrian transportation planning.


Two-Way Conversion of 18th Street in LoDo Opens

This past Sunday, November 2, Denver Public Works completed the conversion of 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake Street in Lower Downtown to a two-way street.

The conversion of these two blocks from one-way to two-way traffic is an important step in helping make Lower Downtown into an even more pedestrian-friendly district. One-way streets exist primarily as a way of maximizing the movement of vehicles through an area, but they also force people to have to drive farther to get where they are going and they also encourage people to drive at faster speeds. One-way streets certainly have their place in the city, but speeding vehicles pose a threat to pedestrians and bicyclists; consequently, one-way streets are not desired in pedestrian-focused areas like around Denver Union Station. As evidence, simply compare your experience as a pedestrian along slower-speed, two-way Wynkoop Street versus the faster-speed, one-way Blake Street.

The 2000 Lower Downtown Neighborhood Plan identified 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake as one of several one-way streets in LoDo to be converted to two-way. Others included Wazee Street between 15th and 20th, converted a few years ago, which has greatly improved Wazee as a pedestrian-friendly street.

Here are a few photo (courtesy Ryan Dravitz) of the newly-converted 18th Street on Sunday afternoon shortly after the conversion work was complete:

View from Wynkoop looking southeast toward Downtown:

2014-11-03_18th-Street-conversion1

View from Blake looking northwest toward the Union Station area:

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View from Wynkoop Plaza of the 18th and Wynkoop intersection:

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Overview of the two-blocks of 18th Street between Wynkoop and Blake with the integrated bicycle lane and MetroRide station.

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Space provided for pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and transit—a nice multi-modal street!


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.


It’s a huge weekend for US transit openings

Mid summer is prime time for big transit openings, and this weekend is a doozy. Three big projects around the US are opening today or tomorrow.

  
Left: Denver Union Station photo by Ryan Dravitz. Center: DC Silver Line photo by Fairfax County. Right: Tucson streetcar photo by Bill Morrow.

By now, probably everyone who reads DenverUrbanism knows the interior of Denver Union Station officially opens tomorrow.

Out east, that same day, Washington, DC’s new Metrorail Silver Line opens. The Silver Line expands America’s second busiest subway network by about 10%, although the new portions are above ground.

But Tucson beats both Denver and DC by one day. Their Sun Link streetcar opens today, at 9:00 am Mountain Time. It’s the first modern rail line in Tucson.

All these projects have been a long, difficult road. It’s great to see them starting to pay off.


FasTracks Progress: Union Station Transit Complex Opens!

It’s been a long, long time coming, but the $500 million Denver Union Station Transit Center is COMPLETE and will open for transit operations tomorrow! This is undoubtedly a game changer for downtown Denver and represents the realization of nearly three decades of planning efforts, if not more. Ryan D. covered the grand opening ceremonies in two posts (parts one and two) yesterday on DenverInfill.

The Denver Union Station Transit Center (any ideas for a nickname?) consists of three major transit components: light rail (open in 2011), bus (open now), and commuter rail (coming in 2016). Let’s take a look at each of those components and how they fit into one of the most expensive infrastructure investments since Denver International Airport.

RTD has produced (and agreed to share) this great image that gives a general overview as to how the three components fit together and where the different modes provide service to.

UnionStation-Map - Copy

The locations and facilities labeled in orange on the image above are now complete and will be open for the general public on Sunday, May 11, 2014. The Chestnut, Wewatta, and Union Station Pavilions provide the three main entrances to the underground bus station, complete with stairs, escalators, and elevators. The Platform 2 and Platform 4 Pavilions provide access from the Commuter Rail platform with stair and elevator access to the underground bus concourse (no escalators).

The light rail facility was relocated in 2011 and served as the first major component completed at Union Station as part of this massive project. This new station replaced the previous light rail platform which was located just south of Wewatta Street (right about where the Wewatta Pavilion is today). The 16th Street MallRide was also extended 2-3 blocks to serve the new light rail station at the same time.

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The underground bus station (which again….nickname?) is a sight to behold. A behemoth at 140 feet wide and 980 feet long, this 22-bay bus station has more than twice the capacity of Market Street’s 10 bays. The pedestrian concourse isn’t anything to sneeze at, coming in at 44 feet wide and 780 feet long. Every bus that services Market Street Station today will service Union Station, in addition to the free MetroRide. Buses from Greyhound as well as other private bus companies are a possibility in the future (no definitive plans as of yet). CDOT announced this week that its new inter-regional bus system—which will connect Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Glenwood Springs (and points in between) with downtown Denver—will serve the underground bus station. This new service starts sometime next year!

DenverUrbanism and DenverInfill have tackled the bus station through several previous posts, so I won’t bombard you with pictures here, but let’s take a look at some before-and-after pictures of the bus facility. Better yet, head on down and take a look for yourself. Honestly, I was wary when I heard about the yellow tile (can anyone say outdated and tacky?) but I think it turned out great. Combined with the seven skylights, it really helps brighten the facility up and makes it seem even larger (if that was possible).

2014_05_09_DUSBefore03 2014_05_09_DUSAfter01

2014_05_09_DUSBefore01 2014-05-09_DUSAfter02

The final and the most visible and stunning piece of transit infrastructure at Union Station has to be the commuter rail platform. Denver is known for lots of things (300 sunny days each year, active lifestyles, marijuana, etc.) but stunning and modern architecture tends to not make most people’s lists. This canopy will serve as an iconic welcome to those who arrive in downtown Denver by transit, whether it be the coming commuter rail lines, bus, or light rail.

2013_11_18_DUSCanopy04 2013_11_18_DUSCanopy09   

2013_11_18_DUSCanopy18 2013_11_18_DUSCanopy10

Union Station is big. It’s expensive. It’s important. It serves as the hub of the $6+ billion, decade-long infrastructure investment that is FasTracks. It will serve as the heart of transit throughout metro Denver. It will change how tens of thousands of people access downtown Denver on a daily basis. Get down there and take a look. Wander around. We all paid for it, and after decades of planning and years of construction, we can finally cash in on this investment.