Fixing Denver Transit: Making It Easy to Walk or Bike to the Station

Fine-grained street grids with plenty of intersections make walking to a bus stop easy. Larger, disconnected street grids, not so much. The disconnected street network in Northeast Park Hill could more than triple the walk distance to transit, compared to Capitol Hill. Image: City and County of Denver
Fine-grained street grids with plenty of intersections make walking to a bus stop easy. Larger, disconnected street grids, not so much. The disconnected street network in Northeast Park Hill could more than triple the walk distance to transit, compared to Capitol Hill. Image: City and County of Denver

Transit doesn’t do people much good if it’s hard to get to. And in much of Denver, getting to RTD buses and trains by walking or biking isn’t exactly easy.

It doesn’t help that the city is missing sidewalks on a quarter of its streets. But another big problem, according to the Denveright “State of the System” report, is that street grids in too many neighborhoods are too disconnected to be walkable even if they have perfect sidewalks:

When deciding whether to use transit, one of the most important factors people consider is the distance to a transit stop. What matters for the traveler is not the straight-line or “as the crow flies” distance but rather the actual walking distance using the available streets and paths. A lack of street connectivity — longer block lengths and fewer intersections per square mile — can make it less convenient to access transit and can deter people from using transit.

Neighborhoods with walkable street networks — Congress Park and Capitol Hill, for example — have between .28 and .36 intersections per acre, and according to the Denveright report, those neighborhoods “show a higher than average percentage of residents that commute by transit.”

In less walkable neighborhoods like Northeast Park Hill and Stapleton, there are only between .03 and .15 intersections per acre.

Highways and rail tracks also form barriers to walking and biking access in several areas:

  • Several neighborhoods north of the A-Line do not have easy access to stations because of I-70.
  • Railroad crossings at the Alameda and I-25/Broadway stations make it “nearly impossible” for walkers and bikers to access the stations from the west side of the tracks.
  • I-25 makes it inconvenient to use the Colorado, DU, Louisiana-Pearl, Yale, Bellview, and Southmoor stations — unless you’re in a car.

The report includes maps that indicate the area within walking distance of rail stops, as well as bike connections to transit.

Image: City and County of Denver
West central. Image: City and County of Denver

Check out the full report for six more rail access maps.

Catch up on Streetsblog’s Fixing Denver Transit series with our posts about the shoddiness of Denver’s bus stops, the lack of dedicated bus lanes on city streets, and the need for fairer fares.

  • TakeFive

    There is a spiffy new bridge for Colorada Station. Whether convenient or not I couldn’t say.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a000511e0d10b88dec8231a462f6e56478c7e83c61d6be51cb444ef6f6d0f8ce.jpg

    • I hear that the purse snatchers and muggers hang out at the far end of it after getting chased out of the immediate Colorado Station area by extra security.

      • Brian Schroder

        No. It’s a pretty quiet area. I’ve seen families after dark. Purse, snatchers and muggers? The boogeyman might be hiding out in the shadows too.

      • EMB

        The worst I’ve ever seen is the occasional broken glass, cigarettes, and dog poop. Also there was a pair of boots yesterday morning.

        The bridge is a huge improvement over having to use Evans to get to and from Colorado Station. It’s not perfect, but it is safe and convenient. We just need to improve all the other connections in that area now that the bridge is done.

        • Looking at the Denver Police Department Crime Mapping tool for the last year between March 19th, 2017 and March 20th, 2016 the Virginia Village neighborhood had 431 felony crimes, with 384 of those felony property crimes. There were an additional 42 drug and alcohol crimes during this past year.

          The area along I-25 between Evans and Colorado, north and east of the freeway, as well as along Colorado to Mississippi Ave, the north boundary of the neighborhood, west of Dahlia, had by far the highest crime rate.

          According to the DPD there were 33 felony crimes within one block of the other end of the bridge in the past year. Within 3 more blocks the number jumps up to 79 felony crimes.

          https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/police-department/crime-information/crime-map.html

          Make your own map for your own neighborhood as plenty of Denver neighborhoods have much higher felony crime rates than Virginia Village does.

          • Brian Schroder

            Seriously, it’s a nice neighborhood compared to other places in Denver and at 2AM I’d say you’re a lot safer around that bridge than downtown Denver at the same time.

      • According to DPD stats the unnamed neighborhood at the other end of the bridge had a felony property crime rate 12 times that of Broomfield in 2015.

        • Little Big City

          Speaking as a resident of Broomfield, that is probably because Broomfield is a horrible place to live and there’s little ability and therefore reason to travel anywhere without a car (I tried to bike to a neighborhood shop and, what do you know, not a single bike rack anywhere in the retail development). Just because the BPD haven’t recorded crimes doesn’t mean they don’t happen. The Park-n-Ride always smells like weed because the top three levels are always empty.

    • mckillio

      Eh, it’s not incredibly convenient but a huge improvement compared to before it was around.

    • Elayna McCall

      I love this bridge! When I worked off Colorado and Evans, I used it every day after getting off at the Colorado station. It’s easy to access and lighted at night. I have used it at all hours of the day and felt safe.

  • Here is what I am trying to figure out: “Several neighborhoods north of the A-Line do not have easy access to stations because of I-70”.

    What, Montebello? What else? Everything between Vasquez and Quebec north of I-70 is industrial/warehousing as is everything between Central Park and Peoria. Between Quebec and Central Park is mostly retail. Everything between York and Jackson gets to walk right under I-70. What other neighborhoods are we talking about as you said several?

    “Railroad crossings at the Alameda and I-25/Broadway stations make it “nearly impossible” for walkers and bikers to access the stations from the west side of the tracks”.

    Remember that there is such a place as “the wrong side of the tracks”.

  • Brian Schroder

    The placement and alignment of a light rail line along a highway is cheaper, but doesn’t serve people who don’t want to use cars. The question is why were these locations chosen when they were not near transit oriented development?

    • TakeFive

      Is that a rhetorical question or are you a Denver short-timer?

      In any case the magnificence of FasTracks is seen in DUS neighborhood with a “Thank You” to the ARRA. When conceived in the 1990’s through voter approval in Nov. 2004, nobody had even heard of TOD unless that happened to be their friend’s name. I’ve calculated the rail portion at a cost of ~$5.8 billion or roughly $58 million per mile. I’ve posted comments (elsewhere) of maybe a dozen cities that idolize RTD’s FasTracks; a couple of more cities are scheduled to visit over the coming year.

  • Ian Peters

    As far as light rail accessibility, I disagree with a couple of your comments
    – Louisiana-Pearl is highly accessible from both sides of I-25 using Louisiana or Washington St bridges. This is one of the most accessible stations in the network in my opinion.
    – Southmoor is inaccessible from the same-side of the highway due to the only access point to the station going underneath I-25. Probably a NIMBYism issue preventing direct connection to the adjacent neighborhood.
    – Belleview is also very convenient using Union St bridge. However the sparsity of development on the west side of I-25 here makes the station bit of an island.
    – A direct connection from DU station to South High School would certainly enhance accessibility for reisdents of Wash Park and Cory Merrill. Access through the I-25/University intersection is a bad place for folks not in cars. Franklin St bridge is good though for folks further north west.

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