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Archive of posts filed under the Transit category.

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.

~~~

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.


Photographic proof bikes and streetcars work together

Despite the fact that streetcar tracks can be hazards to cyclists, bikes and streetcars are great allies.

They both help produce more livable, walkable, less car-dependent streets. It’s no coincidence that the same cities are often leaders in both categories. In the US, Portland has both the highest bike mode share and the largest modern streetcar network. In Europe, Amsterdam is even more impressive as both a streetcar city and a bike city.

With that in mind, here’s a collection of photos from Amsterdam showing bikes and streetcars living together.

  
  
All photos from BeyondDC.com

Of course, it doesn’t just happen. It’s easy for bikes and streetcars in Amsterdam to avoid one another, and to interact safely, because each one has clearly delineated, high-quality infrastructure.

Chalk that up as one more reason to build both good bike lanes and great transit.


FasTracks Progress: Union Station

As I was out and about with my camera taking infill project photos for DenverInfill, I noticed something different about the north end of the commuter rail station at Union Station!

Recently, workers have been putting up the poles for the catenary wire system that will be used for the EMU trains. Electric (EMU) trains, with the overhead wire system, will be used for the Northwest, North Metro, Gold and East Line. Here are some photos!

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It’s very exciting to see all of the pieces start to come together!


Goodbye Market Street Station!

With the new Denver Union Station Transit Center now open, it is time to say goodbye to Market Street Station. The 30-year old station has served many transit riders including myself and I’m sure many of you have memories using this station throughout its legacy. Today we are here to say goodbye and take a look at some final photos before it becomes another memory in Denver history.

The outside of the station always had an interesting mix of architecture. From the 1970′s style waiting area mixed in with tents similar to Denver International Airport to chess pieces as benches, this plaza has always been a very unique sight. Also, did you notice 16M in the background? This intersection is going through many changes.

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For being a product of the 1970′s, these entrance buildings are still pretty sleek.

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Time to head down to the station! Unlike Chestnut Pavilion and Wewatta Pavilion, these are very narrow passageways with a narrow central staircase.

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Once you make it down, you are greeted with a very dark, green tinted great hall with very uncomfortable, round, granite seats. In the center, there is a ticket booth counter and restrooms in the back. Behind all of that, you will find Gate 5 in a nice, tucked away, easy to miss corner.

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When your bus arrives, the bus door is right up against the gate door. If you have any large bags, it’s going to be difficult to get them into the cargo compartments of the bus.

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No matter how dark, uncomfortable, and smelly Market Street Station was, it still held a lot of sentimental value to a lot of riders. Every wall in the station is covered with memories, and goodbyes to the station.

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Back outside, between the two entrances, you are greeted with the same uncomfortable, round, granite seats that skateboarders used more for tricks more than pedestrians for seating.

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And how can we ever forget the bright, red way-finders at each corner of the block?

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What’s next for Market Street Station? A pair of Denver developers have very high interest on redeveloping the block into a mixed use building or two, much like 16M. The only building that stays is RTD’s headquarters at 1600 Blake Street. For now, it’s goodbye Market Street Station!