Here’s What’s Missing From Hancock’s Budget for Transit and Safe Streets

Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2016 budget is a step in the right direction when it comes to streets and transportation. But it still falls far short of putting Denver on track to become a city where people can safely and conveniently get around without driving.

Denverites can weigh in on how the city should prioritize safe streets and better transit tonight during a public hearing at City Hall. Photo: OZinOH via Flickr

It’s up to City Council members to influence and improve Hancock’s spending plan, and tonight you can weigh in and tell the Council what you support and what you don’t at a public hearing on the budget.

Advocates for safe streets and better transit have made some headway in the 2016 budget — with funding secured for a Vision Zero plan, a full-time pedestrian planner, and a seven-person crew to install bike-ped improvements more rapidly. All this planning could be great for Denver — but only if the city follows through with implementation. Otherwise, the plans will just gather dust.

Here’s a breakdown of the kernels of good policy in Hancock’s budget, and how they need to be grown.

Vision Zero

There’s $350,000 in Hancock’s budget to create a strategy for Vision Zero, the goal of eliminating traffic deaths, and some funds to improve a few especially dangerous intersections. But what happens after the strategy has been drafted?

Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog covered that city’s Vision Zero rollout. He told me that without funding for implementation, the strategy alone isn’t going to be worth much. A smart street safety plan might whet the public’s appetite for street redesigns and other necessary steps, but the city will need to commit much more than $350,000 each year to make serious improvements in Denver’s appalling traffic fatality rate.

Denver Moves

Denver Moves is the city’s plan to make the city bikeable. Earlier this year, a scathing report from the city auditor concluded that City Hall had woefully underfunded the blueprint. Hancock’s budget devotes $2.2 million for Denver Moves, but while that does represent an increase in funding, it still isn’t nearly enough to make the 2011 plan a reality. At the rate of investment Hancock is proposing, it would take more than 50 years to complete the $119 million Denver Moves bike plan.

Full-Time Pedestrian Planner

This new position is a significant addition that shows a commitment to the most essential form of transportation: walking. Whoever the city hires will head a “citywide, strategic approach to pedestrian infrastructure,” according to DPW. Advocates have done a lot of the dirty work in figuring out how to make Denver’s shoddy walking infrastructure better, so hopefully this new hire will be outfitted with the resources to make that happen.

Denver’s Intra-City Transit Plan

The regional orientation of Denver’s transit agency has been an obstacle to connecting the city’s neighborhoods to each other through frequent, convenient transit service. Ideally this upcoming blueprint — dubbed “Denver Moves – Transit” — will lead to progress on intra-city transit. The city has requested bids from consultants to work on the strategy, and public works officials estimate it will take 18 months to complete. Like Vision Zero, the plan itself won’t mean much without funding to carry it out.

The City Council meeting begins at 5:30 tonight, but the public hearing likely won’t begin until well after that. If you want to go on the record, no need to rush to the meeting, which is at 1437 Bannock Street.