East Col­fax bus line nav­i­gates push­back

The goal is to open the rapid tran­sit by 2022.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jon Mur­ray Jon Mur­ray: 303-954-1405, jmur­ray@den­ver­post.com or @JonMur­ray

Den­ver city of­fi­cials this week un­veiled new pro­jec­tions for the pro­posed East Col­fax bus rapid tran­sit line that show it could at­tract even more rid­er­ship than ex­pected — if the city is able to lock down fund­ing for it.

But plan­ners still are nav­i­gat­ing some push­back against the loss of ca­pac­ity for cars and trucks on the busy four-lane thor­ough­fare. That was ev­i­dent this week at the first pub­lic meet­ing in Den­ver in nearly 18 months; a se­cond one was held in Aurora.

The new pro­jec­tions didn’t nec­es­sar­ily help.

The city fig­ures that ded­i­cated rush-hour lanes for buses and right turns in cen­tral Den­ver would de­crease au­to­mo­bile ca­pac­ity by 35 per­cent. Con­ges­tion would in­crease in the re­main­ing lane and di­vert many driv­ers to nearby streets, es­pe­cially 13th and 14th av­enues.

De­spite that, of­fi­cials say, the new bus line would in­crease the cor­ri­dor’s po­ten­tial ca­pac­ity for trans­port­ing peo­ple in 2035, via both bus and car, by nearly 26 per­cent, af­ter shift­ing more peo­ple to tran­sit. Buses could carry up to 50,000 rid­ers a day, up from 22,000 who ride buses on Col­fax Av­enue now.

Pro­jec­tions say that ca­pac­ity would roughly meet the growth in travel de­mand along the 10-mile stretch to be served by the new street­car-like bus line. It would serve 20 sta­tions be­tween down­town’s Au­raria cam­pus and the Univer­sity of Colorado An­schutz Med­i­cal Cam­pus in Aurora, sup­plant­ing much of RTD’s 15L bus route.

Given fund­ing hur­dles, the rough goal is to open the line by 2022.

But even among sev­eral at­ten­dees at the Knights of Colum­bus hall Wed­nes­day who like the idea of the su­per­charged bus line, the stark change spurs wor­ries.

“What’s go­ing to be done to make sure that the (traf­fic) spillover doesn’t cause th­ese neigh­bor­hoods to be­come a disas­ter?” said Scott May, who was among those who also lob­bied for a sta­tion in be­tween Josephine Street and Colorado Boule­vard to give res­i­dents bet­ter ac­cess. “Show us some love — if we’re go­ing to be af­fected, give us some­thing back.”

As­so­ciate city plan­ner Ryan Billings told him that need would get a look. He also said the city will ex­plore ways to im­prove traf­fic flow and safety on sur­round­ing streets.

Tran­sit ad­vo­cates at the meet­ing were en­thused by the plans: Buses would run ev­ery five min­utes dur­ing rush hour, and pro­jec­tions show rid­ers would save 10 min­utes from end to end.

That’s be­cause they would buy tick­ets at side­walk ma­chines be­fore board­ing the buses at roughly curb level at sta­tions, speed­ing up the process. The buses would get pri­or­ity at lights and travel in the out­side lanes re­served for buses and right turns dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods be­tween Broad­way and Syra­cuse Street, the busiest part of the cor­ri­dor.

The pro­ject’s cost — an es­ti­mated $125 mil­lion to $135 mil­lion — is mostly un­funded, with city of­fi­cials work­ing with Aurora and the Re­gional Trans­porta­tion District on ap­ply­ing for fed­eral fund­ing and find­ing other sources.

Den­ver’s city bud­get this year in­cludes $1 mil­lion to be­gin en­gi­neer­ing.

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