Memo to Denver Post: What Makes Driving Miserable Is the Cars, Not Transit

Denver has to focus on moving people, not cars, in its limited space. Image: gillygilly via Imgur

They almost did it. The Denver Post editorial board almost wrote a smart opinion piece on the need for a transit overhaul in this city.

Launching from an excellent article by the Post’s Jon Murray that examined the many gaps in Denver’s transit system, the editorial included some nuggets of sensibility. Like “transit options are sparse and impractical in pockets of the city,” and “city riders wish for more frequent service on lines organized around a logical grid instead of the current focus on moving toward downtown.”

Then, just when you think the Post may have grasped the necessity for a city Denver’s size to wring more efficiency out of its streets by investing in transit, they drop stuff like this:

Meanwhile, we urge Denver planners to remember that the great majority of residents rely on cars to get about, and those commuters are too often stuck in traffic wondering what the city is doing for them. The recently upgraded commitment to bicycle lanes and rethinking use of the 16th Street Mall certainly fits as a piece of the overall equation. But a geographically large city at altitude must remember that most commuters get where they’re going in personal vehicles.

Ugh. The Post is not grasping a few basic concepts.

One is that making more room for car commuters doesn’t solve any problems. It just invites more people to commute by car — and with more people driving, traffic remains as miserable as it always was.

A second is that the city only has so much space to work with. With a swelling population, there isn’t enough room for 70 percent of Denverites to continue driving to and from work alone. Denver has to make more efficient use of the street space at its disposal.

The only way forward is to help people opt out of driving. That happens by vastly improving the transit system so that it’s fast and convenient. That happens by creating walkable and bikeable streets, and by mixing land uses so people don’t have to travel long distances to get to work, or school, or the grocery store.

So when the Post wonders what city planners and engineers are doing for people stuck in traffic? They’re trying to create great transit so car commuters don’t have to drive everywhere anymore.