Eyes on the Street: New Dedicated Bus Lanes on 15th Street

Under a new road configuration, the city dedicated the right two lanes of 15th St. to buses and right turns. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Under a new road configuration, the city dedicated the right two lanes of 15th St. to buses and right turns. Photo: Andy Bosselman

Last night the city installed a series of red markings on the road to indicate new bus-only lanes on 15th Street Downtown. The move is expected to accelerate buses up to 42 percent, according to Nancy Kuhn, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Works. And if buses become faster and more reliable, people may start to ditch cars in favor of buses. 

“It enhances their experience,” said Kuhn. “Maybe more people will say, ‘Hey, I don’t always have to take my car. I can take the bus sometimes too.'”

15th Street moves 60 buses per hour, carrying many more passengers than the 4,700 picked up per day along the corridor. The move is part of the city’s climate goals and Denver Moves Transit plans to reduce the number of people commuting alone in cars, from 73 percent today to 50 percent by 2030.

“This is to help congestion,” said Kuhn. “You can move a lot more people in a bus than you can in a car.”

Under a new road configuration, the city dedicated the two right two of 15th St. to buses and right turns. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Under a new road configuration, the city dedicated the right two lanes of 15th St. to buses and right turns. Photo: Andy Bosselman

But in a tweet, Jonathan Fertig, a local mobility advocate, questioned how much difference the bus lanes will make.

“Due to the fact that traffic doesn’t exist in downtown Denver outside of two 15 minute periods/day, this bus lane is borderline pointless,” he wrote.

John Riecke, another mobility advocate, disagreed, responding in the Twitter thread that buses get caught in congestion.

“I’ve had to wait for the 15L while it’s stuck in traffic,” he tweeted. “Freeing the bus is step one on changing [the share of people taking transit] for downtown workers.”

Road markings indicate two lanes of traffic dedicated to buses on 15th St. near Champa St. Photo Andy Bosselman
Road markings indicate two lanes of traffic dedicated to buses on 15th St. near Champa St. Photo Andy Bosselman
This image shows improvements coming to 15th St., including dedicated bus lanes, a bike lane protected with rubber curbs and plastic bollards, intersection treatments that keep cars from turning in the bike lane and high-visibility crosswalks.
This image shows improvements on 15th St., including dedicated bus lanes, a bike lane protected with rubber curbs and plastic bollards, intersection treatments that keep cars from turning in the bike lane and high-visibility crosswalks.

The city dedicated the right two lanes of 15th Street to buses, with other vehicles allowed to use the far right lane for turns. Later this year, the traffic signals will be adjusted to prioritize buses, too.

The bus lanes follow other recent changes on 15th Street, including the installation of a protected bike lane, which went in last month. Corner wedges, a traffic calming measure that slows drivers as they make left turns, were installed earlier this month.

Other downtown streets will add protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes, including:

  • 17th Street: Later this year or early next
  • 18th Street: Next year or 2021
  • 19th Street: Next year or 2021

Kuhn says that that Denver residents want a more efficient transportation network, and this is part of the answer.

“We can’t always take our cars everywhere. There’s just not enough room for all of us,” she said. “We’re looking for other ways to get around that are efficient, safe and appealing.”

Last night the bus lanes were installed on 15th Street between Court Place and Curtis Street. By Wednesday, the road markings will extend another three blocks to Larimer Street.

Broadway and Lincoln Street are the only other Denver streets with dedicated bus lanes. They operated during peak commute hours until 2017 when the city prioritized bus traffic 24-hours per day.

A 15 bus traverses a new bus-only lane on 15th St. near Welton St. Photo: Andy Bosselman
A 15 bus traverses a new bus-only lane on 15th St. near Welton St. Photo: Andy Bosselman

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