How Not to Treat Street Design Near Transit Stations

The Denver Post published a story today by Megan Mitchell that depicts an uprising of sorts against smart street design near the Iliff Avenue Rail Station, which will open next year. Some residents, including Albert Melcher, president of the local neighborhood association, want to nix a planned bike lane and widen a nearby street to handle traffic from the planned mixed-use development.

The Iliff Avenue Station, part of the future I-225 Rail Line, is still under construction. Image: RTD
The Iliff Avenue Station, part of the future I-225 Rail Line, is still under construction. Image: RTD

From the article:

“Our major Anaheim concerns are the width of the street — 39 feet, 4 inches — and the increased traffic load in that congested area,” Melcher said. “This street is planned to have two lanes for parking, two automobile lanes and a multidirectional bike lane. Given the location of the bike lanes next to drivers opening their doors, the limited width of Anaheim, this seems like an accident ready to happen.”

The association’s recommendations for the neighborhood streets include removing a planned bicycle lane on Anaheim Street and widening and straightening Blackhawk Streets, but he said those suggestions aren’t being considered.

Good. As Mitchell reports, the Iliff station will be one of the busiest on the I-225 line. In sprawling southwest Aurora, the planned 30 acres of mixed-use development is the springboard to achieve more walkable and bikeable communities, where not every trip demands getting inside a car. Taking away the planned bike lane on Anaheim Street would rob people of a safe biking route — making it more likely that people will drive to the station and, ironically, creating more of the traffic that Melcher so fears.

Widening the two-lane Blackhawk Street, meanwhile, would induce more driving and higher speeds, making people less likely to walk or bike on it.

The rail station is already next to a highway and will have at least 600 parking spaces. More space for cars is not the answer for a new transit station. If Melcher is truly worried about congestion, his organization should fight for fewer parking spaces. The fact that abundant parking will make driving to the train a more attractive option and cause more traffic seems lost not just on Melcher, but public officials too.

Mitchell reports:

City officials say several methods to deter traffic were investigated with neighborhood residents, including an additional 300-space surface parking lot to be built across Harvard Avenue from the parking garage.

Bad idea. Once the I-225 line is expanded next year, travelers won’t need a car to fill the gaps between suburban rail stations. Passengers will be able to get from Lone Tree to DIA (and many other points north) without a car. Adding more parking will deter the very transit trips that this rail expansion is supposed to enable.