Fix Colfax Ave. with fast buses
Buses traversing east Denver on Colfax are frequently at capacity, and the congestion on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares is only going to increase in the years to come.
Denver officials have spent a decade trying to figure out how to handle transit on this troubled corridor, considering options like a modern streetcar and a dedicated bus lane during peak hours has been studied.
We were skeptical of initial plans released in 2014 that would take the middle road between those two options and implement a bus rapid transit system. The idea would permanently take two lanes from cars and allocate them to buses that travel with limited stops and greater efficiency.
Our concern was that it would make traffic worse — not better.
But the city has moved slowly, and the latest idea coming out of City Hall, thoroughly covered by The Denver Post’s Jon Murray, seems sound.
The City of Denver would be smart to invest an estimated $135 million on an East Colfax bus rapid transit system, and even smarter still to increase the cost by about $35 million to make the buses run down on dedicated lanes in the center of Colfax that look and feel like a streetcar line.
If that strikes you as a lot of money, keep in mind that a light rail or street car would cost many multitudes that amount to achieve the same transit goals.
This is a critical corridor for Denver and one worthy of public investment.
The added street-scaping and neighborhood feel that a center-lane route would bring about would be attractive for businesses looking for places to invest and safer for pedestrians looking for an island refuge on busy Colfax.
We still have some concerns about the direction the project is headed.
It would be best if the city of Aurora were a full-partner in this, committed to ensuring the transit route has a high degree of continuity all the way from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus near Interstate 225 to the Auroria Campus near Interstate 25. We would hope Aurora officials would consider becoming a full partner in this plan with Denver and the Regional Transportation District.
Also, we are concerned still about the loss of traffic lanes and ideally we would support taking away on-street parking on Colfax and maintaining more room for cars, but understand that’s a very unpopular prospect for the businesses that call Colfax home.
City engineers must carefully plan the limited stops along this route to ensure maximum access and convenience for all users, as well as, ensuring businesses along the route aren’t skipped over.
RTD’S transit system would benefit greatly from an efficient cut-through that could serve thousands of residents from Old Town Aurora to Lowry who would have a long trip around if they wanted to use the light rails and commuter rails. There’s a clear hole in the system and Colfax is a good fit to fill it.
Selling this project to residents in Denver and Aurora won’t be without obstacles, but the city is planning outreach meetings to sell this concept to residents and business owners. Now is the time to give input into how to make this good idea even better.