Denver’s Transformation Into A Multi-Modal City: Improving Urban Transit


This report outlines Denver’s transformation into a multi-modal city. The city has invested in an extensive light rail system and bus system, while also improving the regions’ bicycling infrastructure. These actions have been taken in response to growing problems with automobile congestion and national trends towards smart growth and sustainable development, as well as trying to attract millennials to move to the city. Here is a list of some of Denver’s notable rankings that reflect its efforts to appeal to the millennial generation:

  • 4th Highest % Young and Educated Residents (NYT, 2014)
  • 1st Best City for College Grads (Apartments.com, 2014)
  • 4th Best City for Job Seekers (Forbes, 2013)
  • 1st Largest Increase in Residents with College Degrees (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014)
  • 6th Fastest Growing Metro Area (Forbes, 2014)
  • 5th Best Place for Millennial-Aged Entrepreneurs (Nerdwallet, 2014)
  • 8th Most Innovative Transportation Options (Coprig, 2014)
  • Top 5 for Best Cities for Young Adults

The United States is experiencing a shift in transportation preference away from automobile travel towards public transit, biking, and car sharing. Between 2006 and 2011, the total number of vehicle miles traveled declined in 47 out of 74 of the largest urbanized areas in the U.S. [McCallum] While the millennials are leading this trend, there are still significant improvements that need to be made in urban transportation systems to encourage individuals to stop commuting alone by car. Policies not only need to be created to improve transit systems and infrastructure, but also to encourage and incentivize people to use the new transit options. However, to compel individuals to use the other transit alternatives, the local and state governments must prove that these options are easily accessible, more convenient, and more affordable. Denver is on its way to achieving this.

Operationally, Denver is improving the function and efficiency of already existing transit infrastructure to increase the service life of the transportation assets; this will improve traffic flow, create a safer travel environment, and reduce travel repair costs for the public. Physically, Denver has started projects to create bicycle separations (barriers from the road) and bridges, reconditioned sidewalks to have better connectivity between different transit modes, and upgraded transit services. The improvements to transit services include better service frequency, expanding hours of operations, expanding route structure, enhancing transit stops and passenger amenities, and implementing Transit Signal Priority, an operational strategy that gives priority to the movement of transit vehicles through traffic signal-controlled intersections. [Holloway] In addition to these improvements, RTD (Regional Transportation District, in charge of the FasTracks program in Denver that plans, designs, constructs, maintains, and operates the light rail system and bus system) has implemented a transit pass program to increase ridership further.

In 2004, under mayor (now governor) Hickenlooper’s insistence, regional voters approved $4.7 billion of new debt for the FasTracks program. The plan included 121 miles of new commuter and light-rail tracks, 18 miles of bus transit lanes, 57 new rapid transit stations, and 21,000 park-and-ride spots. Although the price has since moved up to $7.8 billion, by 2018 all but one of ten FasTracks lines, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, and 95 stations will be completed. Since most of the major infrastructure improvements have been achieved at this point, the problem now has become that the proportion of people in Denver that use buses or light-rail to commute is only 6%. [McCallum] It is in relation to this low percentage of transit ridership that I base my improvement recommendations upon at the end of the paper.

Full Report Here

302 White Paper

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