Denver Council, RTD consider plans to transform East Colfax

Center 'bus only' lanes under consideration

DENVER  — East Colfax Avenue has seen its up and downs.

There are stretches of the corridor, also known as U.S. 40, that are regenerating, while others have maintained their charm.

Long-term plans re-envision the entire five and a half-mile strip to a much more pedestrian-friendly destination.

'Main Street' Vision

East Colfax is RTD's busiest corridor.

An estimated 22,000 riders use it on weekdays. That number is expected to more than double in the next 20 years.

As Denver's population grows, more people will live and work along Colfax. There will be more development. 

"It's always been envisioned as a 'main street,'" said Curt Upton, of Denver Community Planning and Development. 

What will that development look like?

Upton said it would likely be mixed use.

"This idea of a 'main street' does encourage more density, so whether that will be one or two stories or five or six stories, that's what we'll figure out through the planning process," Upton said.

Upton said planners envision much more pedestrian traffic. He said bus rapid transit would facilitate that and so will better pedestrian amenities — more trees, benches and better sidewalks.

Bold Makeover

Upton, the project's principal planner, said that with more density comes the need to move more people, so Denver and RTD are eyeing a bold makeover — two dedicated bus lanes in the middle of Colfax.

There will be trade-offs.

People who ride buses will get to their destinations in a shorter amount of time, while those who drive cars will likely have to sit through more traffic lights.

"It allows the buses to pass through unimpeded, compared to a side running lane where cars would be pulling in front of the bus to make right turns," Upton said.

"If we're driving, we're just adding more time to our transport," said Marcus Johnson, a Denver resident who frequently drives on the corridor and occasionally takes the bus.

When asked if dedicated bus lanes will get him out of his car, he said, "Not at all. Not with the weather. Not with the congestion. Not with the activity that's here on the corridor. Not at all."

Bus Riders

Denver7 hopped on a bus to ask riders what they think of dedicated bus lanes and bus stops in the middle of the street.

"I don't want bus stops in the middle," Stevie Hayashida said. "It's not safe for children. If they're going to add (dedicated) bus lanes, do it on the side."

Another bus rider, Mike Williams, said that instead of putting money into new bus lanes they should spend it on the homeless.

Ronnie Harbey said he likes that Denver has good public transportation, but he's concerned that development along Colfax will "cause major displacement."

"There obviously are concerns about displacement of residents if rents rise," Upton said. "That's a concern we'll be trying to address in this process as well.

Businesses

Rising rents could also impact some mom-and-pop shops.

Other businesses welcome the transportation changes and development.

"It would bring more business in for us," said Rob Stan, manager of 710 Pipes & Tobacco. "More people would be wanting to come down and explore more of Denver's businesses as well."

Upton told Denver7, "It's really about  trying to envision a future the people, businesses and property owners really value and benefit from over the long term."

Ordinance

On Monday night, the Denver City Council will consider a bill for an agreement with RTD to spend $2-million to study the Colfax Area Planning Project, including the proposed dedicated bus lanes along the corridor.

If you'd like to learn more about the current proposals for development and transportation improvements along the Colfax corridor, click on these links: Link 1 and Link 2.

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