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Denver Opts for BRT over 'Modern Streetcar'

The 10-mile Colfax Ave corridor has the city's highest bus ridership but plagued by traffic congestion. After a 2-year study, bus rapid transit with dedicated lanes was selected by city and county staff as part of a $115 million investment strategy.
August 22, 2014, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Jeffrey Beall

"Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, was picked over two other possibilities, including the so-called Modern Streetcarafter a two-year study of the snags along the East Colfax stretch," writes Monte Whaley of The Denver Post, though his paper's editorial board was quick to write, "Not so fast."

Already, there are nearly 7 million annual boardings on Regional Transportation District buses on Colfax, with more than 22,000 per weekday. It makes sense that a city-run bus system with new state-of-the-art stations and off-board ticket machines would thrive on that same stretch of roadway, officials say.

Crissy Fanganello, Denver Public Works transportation director, concurred. "Colfax serves as a critical backbone of the city's transportation network and has the highest bus ridership in RTD's system," said Fanganello. "BRT on Colfax will offer an upgraded, cost-effective transit experience that moves more people throughout the corridor, helping meet existing and future travel demand."

Key to the BRT are the dedicated lanes in order to overcome traffic congestion plaguing the line. Outside (toward the center) lanes, one is each direction, will be restricted to buses only in morning and evening peak commute hours as it "minimizes the potential problems of on-street parking," according to planners. Inside lanes presented potential problems with on-street parking.

"There is no doubt that congestion will continue to be a major issue unless something is done along the corridor," said Tykus Holloway, Denver's transportation project manager.

While BRT with the dedicated lanes, if only during peak hours, requires more study, it's significant that it beat out the other two options:

  • "Modern Streetcar, which is comparable in time savings and ridership but would cost about $450 million, Denver planners said."
  • "Enhanced buses, which are upgraded buses but without exclusive lanes."

Next step is preparing the environmental analysis for the selection, which pleased Whaley's editors, who wrote: "The thought of dedicating one lane in each direction solely to buses during rush hour in an already congested four-lane corridor is tough to swallow without more information."

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Published on Friday, August 15, 2014 in The Denver Post
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