When RTD proposed its series of cuts at a study session on December 19th, they slated 6 bus lines and special sports services such as BroncosRide, RockiesRide, and CU Denver Game rides to be completely eliminated. Outside of being slightly surprised about the game day lines being cut, I was dismayed to hear that the 16L bus was being eliminated as well. As a line that is one of the most direct ways for individuals to get from Downtown Golden to Denver County and vice versa, the 16L is a line that is worth saving due to the service that it provides.
Before I go further into why I believe the 16L should be saved, I will admit my bias here: The 16L was my former bus. As someone that works just south of downtown, the 16L was a bus that I would take constantly from where I was renting to where I currently work. Beyond just being my former bus, however, the 16L is a valuable resource for residents of Jefferson County.
Running roughly from just west of Downtown Golden to the corner of Colfax and Broadway along Colfax over the course of a little over 45-50 minutes, the 16L is the closest that anyone can take to get to Golden proper given that the W-Line stops at the Jefferson County Government Center Station, roughly an 8 minute drive or 45 minute walk from Downtown Golden or its suburbs. Along the way, it passes by staples of West Colfax, including the Chuck Wagon Diner, Casa Bonita, and the Colfax Museum. It also passes by big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Colorado Mills before it takes a turn off Colfax into Golden.
Why Is It Potentially Being Cut?
During the staff presentation of the service reductions, the justification for the routes to be eliminated were either that they were under-performing or that the route was a duplication of another service. Due to the fact that the 16L is a limited version of the regular 16, it was deemed to be a duplication of service and cut given that, out of all of the lines being eliminated, the 16L has the highest amount of ridership.
What is wrong with the 16?
To illustrate what a loss the 16L would be in comparison to its longer counterpart the 16, here are some maps of routes that each bus takes between two sample destinations: the Colfax at Auraria Station and Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza in Downtown Golden
The first route shown is the route that the 16 takes
While Google says that it takes about an hour and 10 minutes, my personal experience shows that it takes about an hour and 15 minutes on a good run.
Contrast this with the 16L
again, as a disclaimer, while google says it takes about 42 minutes, I would realistically say it takes about 45 minutes to 50 minutes from experience.
As you can see, the stop that the 16 takes at the Decatur-Federal station causes roughly a 20-30 minute difference from its counterpart, the 16L, which for many RTD services is the equivalent to a run. Even though, in the planning document, more runs of the 16 would be added, that would still not stop the fact that the prolonged stop at the Decatur-Federal station would make the trip from Denver to Golden more than an hour every time.
If the 16L had been cut by the time that I was working in Downtown Denver, I would have been unable to work in Downtown without having a commute longer than an hour from the Lakewood/Golden cusp to Civic Center Park. While RTD believes that bolstering the amount of 16 buses would alleviate the issue, all it would do is create a steady amount of longer trips from the Golden/Lakewood area to Denver, frustrating riders even more and driving down ridership in favor of an alternative like car commuting. For this reason, the 16L should be spared from the chopping block that is the service cuts RTD is considering, as it is the artery that makes the heart of RTD beat.
Featured image is credited to Paul Albani-Burgio from Colorado Community Media, and portrays a 16L bus bound for Civic Center at the 10th and Washington stop in Golden.