Denver Aims to Cap Parking Around 41st and Fox RTD Station

Without a limit on parking around the 41st and Fox Station, this rendering will be wishful thinking -- the streets will be clogged with cars instead. Image: CPD
Without a limit on parking around the 41st and Fox Station, this rendering will be wishful thinking -- the streets will be clogged with cars instead. Image: CPD

Denver Department of Community Planning and Development reps want to cap new parking spots around the 41st and Fox RTD station, an anchor of current and future development in Sunnyside and Globeville.

We knew parking maximums were on the radar, but implementing them would be a significant change of course for the city, which for decades has baked minimum parking requirements into the zoning code. Those mandates generate car traffic, saturate city blocks with sprawling parking lots and monolithic garages, and lard sidewalks with curb cuts where drivers cut across the path of people on foot. They are antithetical to walkability and good transit access.

CPD officials don’t want this area — 184 acres they call “Fox Island” — to be a parking crater like so many other Denver transit stations, especially once the station opens (whenever the G Line does).

“In broad strokes, I think that Fox Island in some ways is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the city,” Transit Oriented Development Manager Chris Nevitt told the City Council during a meeting of the Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last Thursday. “The problems here are particularity acute.”

If all the development in the pipeline comes to fruition without a change in parking policy, he said, the resulting car traffic “will overwhelm the street network by multiple times.”

The 41st and Fox station area. Image: CPD
The 41st and Fox station area. Image: CPD

Not only do parking mandates undercut walkability, they gobble up real estate that could otherwise house people and jobs. And with a construction price tag of $17,000 per stall, parking spaces drive up housing costs.

Parking caps are a tool to create more walkable streets “in areas where our vision is to prioritize people and walking land uses, and housing and jobs,” Director of Planning Services Caryn Champine told council members.

CPD reps are not yet sure how many new parking spots will be allowed in the area once all is said and done. “At this point the math is still rough,” Nevitt told Streetsblog. “Our goal is to set maximums tight enough to have a meaningful impact on traffic generation, but not so tight as to stifle good development.

“What is clear, however, as was identified in the station area plan, is that the existing roadway infrastructure, in the absence of any traffic mitigation measures, cannot support the full build-out of the area.”

Better sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and bike parking will be part of the solution, Nevitt said. So will “transportation demand management” — incentivizing people to take transit, walk, and bike with things like transit passes and bike-share memberships.

The zoning change must go through a public review period, approval by the Planning Board, and adoption by City Council. The parking maximums will apply to what’s considered the “station area” by previous plans. A draft of the zoning change will be ready in a few months, Nevitt said.

  • TakeFive

    Wait… what about the long-planned Fox Island Freeway?

  • Sophia Pinella

    I’m confused. The spots have been there for almost 2 years now. If not those spots, To which spots would they be referring?

  • mckillio

    If only all of the stations had had parking maximums, no minimums, well planned and implemented pedestrian and bike infrastructure from the get go, we’d be in a much better situation right now.

    • TakeFive

      Thanks to FasTracks at least Denver has a lot of stations with lots of potential. There’s got to be at least a dozen cities around the country trying to figure out how to do what Denver did. Remember parking lots can also placeholders for future development… like at Broadway/I-25 and they’re also taking a 2nd look at DU. Other than Peoria and depending what Stapleton does… I’m having trouble thinking of stations with a lot of parking.

      • mckillio

        Absolutely true but it’s better and easier to do at the outset.

        County Line is just a parking lot, not to mention the sea of parking adjacent to it at Park Meadows, Central Park (but I can’t if or how much is going away with the coming development), dry Creek has a garage, and there are surely more that we can’t think of.

        • TakeFive

          Ahh, we were on different brainwaves. While your heart may be in the right place any wishful thinking outside of the City of Denver is, well, veeery tentative for the time being.

  • Zeb Clay

    Walking across the parking lot from Fox to the train platform is like crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats. This parking lot belongs in Weld County exurbia. Not a good precedent to set for the city’s first “parking maximum” region (though I applaud the city’s efforts to move from parking minimums to maximums. It’s about time.)

  • What about the West side of the station area in Sunnyside? Similar acute problems exist there. I hope this is part of the conversation with Nevitt.

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