“Rolling Out the Red Carpet” for Bus Riders on Broadway

Brandy Davis waits for the 0 at Broadway and Alameda. Photo: David Sachs
Brandy Davis waits for the 0 at Broadway and Alameda. Photo: David Sachs

Everywhere you look, Denver’s transportation system treats drivers like VIPs at a club while bus riders get the D-list treatment, queuing at the door just hoping for a table.

Transit advocates wanted to flip the script, so they gave bus stops along Broadway a makeover this weekend and literally rolled out a red carpet for buses and the people they carry. The event was to celebrate a six-week-old 24/7 bus-only lane outfitted with red paint to separate it from car lanes. The project by Denver Public Works and RTD has already made transit faster and more efficient than the previous setup, bus riders say, when the lane only prioritized buses during rush hour.

“It is faster, which is pretty good because they don’t have to worry about making it to the stop on time due to the rest of traffic,” said Brandy Davis, who was waiting with her two kids at the bus stop at Broadway and Alameda Avenue. “It’s pretty neat.”

Photo: Meghann Perez-Darby
Photo: Meghann Perez-Darby

A bus decorating contest, organized by the Better Broadway Coalition, was about more than prettier bus stops and good vibes. It was a demonstration. Advocates wanted people to understand that transit should not be a second-class way of getting around.

Henry Gonzales, a man without a home or car, walks and takes RTD everywhere. He likes the changes because the bus is “very much so a lifeline” he said Friday, after stepping off the 0 at Broadway and Alameda to fill a prescription.

But the city’s transit system is far from a VIP experience. Some Denver bus stops are so pathetic that people build makeshift benches. Others are missing sidewalks, and most lack shelter from snow and rain. Walk phases at pedestrian crossings last seconds while drivers enjoy luxuriously long green lights. And, on every city street except three (Broadway, Lincoln, and the 16th Street Mall), buses full of people get caught in congestion caused by single-occupant vehicles.

“The bus stops need to be lighted better because some of us work at night or can’t make it where we need to be,” Gonzales said. “And more bus stop seating. There is not hardly any seating anywhere. Some people would just like to sit down and take a chill.”

Denverites are looking forward to a time when treating transit riders like important people is the norm, not a special occasion.

A Broadway bus stop, adopted by Go Play Denver, is decked out with art from Chris Haven. Go Play Denver won the decorating contest. Photo: Jill Locantore
More bus stop art by Chris Haven on the bus stop adopted by Go Play Denver. Photo: Jill Locantore
  • mckillio

    Glad to see these improvements and I rode the 0 for the first time yesterday since the new lanes were put in. I didn’t notice much of a difference but I’m sure there is and it will obviously benefit those that ride it on a regular basis. What I would really like to see is a bulbout for the bus stops so that the buses don’t have to pull over and it would get the stops off of the sidewalk. This would speed up the process and make it a smoother experience for riders.

  • John Riecke

    If the buses ran more often then seating wouldn’t be such an issue.

    • TakeFive

      Wut? Oh you’re referring to sitting at the stop. Nvm

      BTW, I recently read a study out of USC that concludes “first and last mile” are more important than route frequency. https://news.usc.edu/126791/how-transit-affects-job-seekers-the-first-and-last-mile-to-the-station-make-all-the-difference/

      The different ways riders leave and arrive at the stops closest to home and workplaces — what researchers term “first- and last-mile access” — can close this gap, even more effectively than more traditional and costly public transit measures like increasing transit frequency by adding buses and drivers. Those short distances that bookend a commute are crucial, according to the study’s lead author, Marlon Boarnet, a professor of public policy and chair of the department of urban planning and spatial analysis at the USC Price School of Public Policy.

      Ofc some routes like E Colfax and So Broadway already have strong demand so this would be more of a general observation. With respect to your suggestion of more frequency on So Broadway is this something that needs to be added to Denver’s buy-in list?

  • TakeFive

    I just happen to read about bus stops while doing some reading about Portland TriMet. I’d guess much is the same with Denver and RTD. http://trimet.org/betterbus/#newbuses

    We know that access to stops is a big concern for riders. With this in mind, it’s important to note that the majority of our stops are located on land that belongs to someone else — whether it’s a city sidewalk, a county right-of-way, a state-owned highway or private property. In these cases, we need to rely on others for infrastructure such as sidewalks and crosswalks. In some cases, it comes down to either having a bare-bones stop with no amenities, or not having a stop at all. Many neighborhood stops … do not have space for amenities like shelters and benches. Sometimes, even highly used stops don’t get a shelter. For example, on land connected to private property or parking lots, sometimes a shelter simply won’t fit.

    • Bernard Finucane

      In other words, there is no political will to improve bus stops.