Fix Col­fax Ave. with fast buses

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE -

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.

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