Mayor Han­cock’s big mo­bil­ity plan

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

In his State of the City ad­dress Mon­day, Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock called for a ma­jor new-ur­ban­ist ex­pan­sion of bus ser­vice, pro­tected bike lanes and a com­pleted and im­proved side­walk sys­tem that is cer­tainly bold — if not just a lit­tle too op­ti­mistic — and the kind of for­ward think­ing our city needs. De­tails that ex­plain how some key com­po­nents of the plan are to work are forth­com­ing, and will need care­ful re­view, but the over­all grand vi­sion is an ex­cit­ing one.

Han­cock seeks to com­mit the city to spend­ing $2 bil­lion over 12 years on in­fra­struc­ture. About $400 mil­lion of that would come from a $900 mil­lion bond pack­age the mayor is ask­ing the City Coun­cil to send to vot­ers this elec­tion sea­son. The city would in­crease its yearly spend­ing on roads and tran­sit from $75 mil­lion to more than $100 mil­lion. As al­ways, of­fi­cials would con­tinue to look for state and fed­eral fund­ing.

The mayor also plans to cre­ate a new city de­part­ment fo­cused on mo­bil­ity. Such a move, in place in other large cities, sounds rea­son­able, but much will have to be worked out with the Re­gional Trans­porta­tion Dis­trict.

A big com­po­nent of the plan is to trans­form bus ser­vice on Col­fax Av­enue down­town into a ded­i­cated bus rapid tran­sit sys­tem to make room for big­ger buses that run more fre­quently. The city has been study­ing the shift for years. Find­ings sug­gest that changes could im­prove tran­sit travel time by 10 min­utes. The find­ings are based on se­ques­ter­ing the far lanes in the cor­ri­dor for buses only dur­ing the morn­ing and evening rush hours, as is presently done for buses on Lin­coln and Broad­way.

We’ve ex­pressed sig­nif­i­cant reser­va­tions about such a strat­egy, and look for­ward to see­ing de­tailed plans later this sum­mer. But who can doubt the cor­ri­dor dur­ing rush hour is only get­ting worse? Should the mayor present a so­lu­tion that drains car com­muters from neigh­bor­hoods along its path — which also rea­son­ably serves tra­di­tional com­muters, and doesn’t over­whelm nearby streets — we would be happy to re­think our con­cerns.

The mayor also wants to ad­dress Den­ver’s bro­ken side­walk sys­tem. Presently, 23 per­cent of the city has no side­walks. A work­ing group as­sem­bled by the mayor is study­ing ways to find the money or the will to fix the prob­lem. Legally, it’s up to home­own­ers to pro­vide side­walks, but the po­lit­i­cal headache of an en­force­ment-only ap­proach has the group look­ing at other ideas, like a citywide tax to solve the $475 mil­lion prob­lem.

Yes, it’s a lit­tle op­ti­mistic, and more than a lit­tle patronizing, to sug­gest that Den­ver can lure vastly more driv­ers in our sprawl­ing city to ei­ther car­pool or leave their ve­hi­cles al­to­gether. Han­cock wants to push down the cur­rent rate of sin­gle-car trips — at 73 per­cent — to 50 per­cent by 2030. We would hope that in the push to ex­pand multi-modal op­tions, tra­di­tional driv­ers who need and will con­tinue to need their cars aren’t con­stantly re­ferred to as part of the prob­lem.

Den­ver’s pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to top 700,000 in com­ing months. And while growth slowed in 2016, it wasn’t by much, and re­mains on a bet­ter than 1,000-new­com­ers-amonth pace that makes plan­ning for the fu­ture vi­tally im­por­tant. We can’t sit back and call the present sys­tem — al­ready too sub­ject to grid­lock — ad­e­quate for our needs. Wait­ing for self-driv­ing cars to save the day won’t cut it.

With his mo­bil­ity plan on the ta­ble, Han­cock has pre­sented a citywide ap­proach to ad­dress­ing this chal­lenge. We look for­ward to more de­tails, and the com­ing conversation.

Den­ver Post file

Im­proved bi­cy­cle lanes and an ex­pan­sion of bus ser­vice are parts of a mo­bil­ity plan un­veiled on Mon­day by Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock.

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