News Digest: A Busy Two Weeks for Walking, Biking, and Transit in Denver

The Square on 21st is, sadly, no longer. Photo: David Sachs
The Square on 21st is, sadly, no longer. Photo: David Sachs

When I planned my vacation several months ago, I figured mid-August would be a slow news period. Not so much. Here are some notable things that went down on Denver’s transportation scene while Streetsblog took a break.

Deadly Federal Blvd claims another life

A driver killed a person walking at South Federal Boulevard and West Arkansas Avenue last Thursday, according to a report from ABC7. That’s the fifth pedestrian death on Federal this year, meaning drivers on that street are responsible for almost half of the city’s pedestrian deaths in 2017. We’ll have updates beyond the news brief provided.

Council hands decision on $431 million in transport projects to voters

The long and winding road to finalize a list [PDF] of civic capital projects, maintenance, and infrastructure improvements worth $937 million officially came to an end August 14 when the Denver City Council unanimously approved it. If voters okay the bond measure in November, nearly half of the money will fund what the city calls “transportation and mobility” projects.

About two-thirds of that total will fund sustainable transportation projects to improve walking, biking, and transit around the city.

About one-third of that total, however, will fund a misguided widening of 56th Avenue and standard repairs to roads and bridges that the city failed to address with its general operating budget over the years.

The total in this chart does not include about $15.5 million in contingency money to account for changes in estimated project costs. Image: Denver Department of Finance
The total in this chart does not include about $15.5 million in contingency money to account for changes in estimated project costs. Image: Denver Department of Finance

DPW closes Bannock Street to cars, will study pedestrian plaza

DPW closed the section of Bannock Street between the City and County Building and Civic Center Park to cars August 25. A city press release says the streets department will conduct a five-week study of the area “as a pedestrian-friendly downtown plaza.”

The segment is often closed for weekend events — and to cars and bikes during setup and tear-down. With a string of events coming up, DPW will keep Bannock closed to cars through October 1, though open to bikes, “to provide more consistency to the traveling public” while also considering a car-free future for Bannock.

River North Pedestrian Bridge Finally Opens

After several long delays, a crucial pedestrian bridge opened earlier this month that connects RiNo, Cole, and Curtis Park to one another — and to the 38th and Blake RTD station. People on bikes will have to take elevators or lug their ride up the stairs, though, because there’s no ramp.

The bridge gives people a way to traverse the train tracks, connecting Wazee and Blake streets to one another between 35th and 36th.

The Denver Post gets behind East Colfax BRT

The Post endorsed Denver Public Works’ center-running bus rapid transit plan, though not with the enthusiasm you might expect for the most important transit project in recent memory.

The editorial board is “concerned still about the loss of traffic lanes” and would rather see fewer parking spots than fewer driving lanes. Colfax isn’t “losing” any traffic lanes, of course. It’s gaining the ability to move more people in less space. In a word, efficiency.

We’re mourning the loss of the 21st Street pilot that prioritized people, not cars

After two months, the block of 21st Street between Lawrence and Larimer that traded parking spots and car lanes for a park and biking and walking paths is gone.

The Square on 21st experiment, headed by the Denver Department of Community Development and the Downtown Denver Partnership, was a pilot to whet the public’s whistle for the 5280 Loop, an urban walking and biking trail-slash-park modeled after the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

RIP.

Bustang ridership gallops forward

Bustang, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s regional bus line, saw 53,000 more people use the young service in its second year of existence — an increase of 52 percent over its first year, the Denver Post reports. CDOT launched Bustang in July 2015.

Bustang operates lines between Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Glenwood Springs.

RTD demos driverless “mini-buses”

Earlier this month, RTD partnered with private company TransDev to show off how automated vehicles work. The agency did not test the 12-person driverless shuttles on crowded urban streets, however, instead opting to hold the event in a Pepsi Center parking lot.

The “mini-buses” might supplement RTD’s bus fleet in the future by taking people to and from transit hubs — the first-last-mile connection, RTD General Manager Dave Genova told CBS4.

This article was edited to include the pedestrian death at Federal and Arkansas.

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