Insane to the Airplane: The Ride to DIA

Its one of the routes in Denver that feels like an afterthought. A route so miserable and unfinished that the destination has disowned it from their media .

The bicycle ride along Pena is a route I wouldn’t recommend to my greatest enemy. I felt worse along that stretch of road than I have felt during any thunderstorm, any busy summery day, and a blizzard. Instead, I would like to talk to the “Official” route that DIA recommends, a challenge in and of itself. This ride was taken on February 28th of this year.

The Route

The Approach

As I started to go along 56th Avenue from Rocky Mountain Arsenal, I was struck by the industrial elements I was passing through, with what appeared to be large plants to the right of me. The traffic along 56th was moderate, comparing to midday traffic on a Sunday in central Denver. Once I got closer to the northernmost part of Montbello, there was a decent series of trails that acted as a sort of buffer from the traffic. Police were along 56th for some unidentified incident. The trails disappear on the approach to the intersection of Buckley, with ongoing construction to the right acting as something that puts you in the worst of the airport traffic. The Pena underpass feels like the unofficial “beginning” of this route, a beginning that reminds you that you are on your own.

56th to Picadilly

I encountered the last bicycle rider along this stretch: a man heading westbound with his cruiser en route to Denver. A pathway appears again here, the last goodbye before the world that is all too familiar to bicycle riders in Denver, a world of intense loneliness and an acute sense that a wrong move, a wrong turn, could make you another statistic.

Picadilly to Jackson Gap

This stretch is the ultimate no man’s land, a visual complement to the plains mentioned in “America, the Beautiful”. The beauty from the song disappears, however, as the stretch from Picadilly to E470 feels congested, unaccommodating, and downright scary. With temperatures in the mid teens, I was beginning to feel the cold of the late winter day along this stretch, turning to the music of Daft Punk to distract from the misery.

Passing E470 felt like a breath of fresh air. While the rolling nature of the hills felt a little scary, the lack of traffic beside a handful of cars and a sketchy pickup put me at ease. Rather than turning at the suggested road by DIA, I turned at Jackson Gap, which fundamentally had the same route as the recommended route.

Jackson Gap to TSA

A winding road with little more than business and larger truck traffic, Jackson Gap was the last bit before the main entrance to the airport. Ending at the eastmost part of the Pena route, it was less than a mile towards the main stretch, the most congested mile. A “Spot” bus passed by me as I rode through an old piece of ice and made my way past the terminals cutting through the TSA as a shortcut to the elevations. I carried my bike down to the RTD station, and boarded for Union Station.

Stopping along 71st Ave for a quick picture with Blucifer

Final Thoughts

Even though Denver International Airport boasts about its bicycle friendliness on its website, experiencing even their most traveled route makes you out to be an intruder of sorts. The half done job along Pena, the route that still takes you through dangerous sections, and the final ascent that sparks confusion rather than relief are all concerning. In many different ways, the path is reminiscent of the greater issues of pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Denver. From the incomplete streets along federal amounting to a death trap, to the recent opening of City Park to car traffic, the hard fought victories of advocates result in things like an airport that advertises accessibility but routes in spire terror. Unlike the Pena route, however, I could see a more experienced rider doing well on the detour. Overall, much like the story of cycling in Denver, approach with intense caution and skepticism of what lies ahead of you.

The Bayaud Shared Street: An Improvable Launching Point for Neighborhood Bikeway Infrastructure

Last Saturday, I took a ride on the Bayaud Shared Street near South Broadway and Lincoln Street. This bikeway, which stretches from Downing Street to Cherokee, acts as a connector for several different pieces of infrastructure in the Baker area, including the South Broadway bike Lane, the Alameda RTD light rail station, and the Platte River Trail

The Approach

I entered the bikeway roughly around 5:30 PM from the bike lane on Washington, going westbound on it. The most obvious infrastructure improvements for me upon entry were the curb extensions

Curb Extensions via bollards in the Bayaud Shared Street

For me, this felt similar to the curb extensions along Santa Fe Drive, which are helpful given the narrowness of the streets. The sharrows did not go unnoticed as well, a point of frustration for me because study after study bears out that they don’t work.

Riding in the Street

As I approached Pennsylvania, I started to notice the usual car traffic of the Baker area on a Friday night. After Pennsylvania, Logan to the traffic circle on Grant felt like it had a low volume of traffic as well versus the usual slew of people vying to park on the side streets.

From Grant to Lincoln felt very similar to the entrance to the bikeway in many ways with the overall volume of traffic. The end of the street had traffic modifications including bollards and clear signage at the corner of Lincoln and Bayaud. Beyond Lincoln, there isn’t a huge amount of infrastructure, owing mostly to the fact that its the beginning of the commercial district along South Broadway.

Concluding Thoughts

While I have had a lot of skepticism of bikeways in the past being an excuse for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to merely put up sharrows throughout the city, The Bayaud bikeway/shared street proved me wrong. Though I recognize that I am limited by the fact that I did this ride a singular time on Saturday, it still felt substantively different than when Bayaud was merely a shared street with barricades. For me, the improvements that I would like to see is the signage being a little more direct in regards to local traffic only and some sort of modification of the sharrows along the street. Overall, however, my experience in the Bayaud bikeway were positive, and I am excited to see them implemented throughout the city.

Searching for Humanity in Concrete: Loathing and Frustration at the Denver Tech Center

As some of you may know, I briefly took a job working for a startup that relocated to the Denver Tech Center in October of 2019, specifically the Greenwood Village section of it. I prepped myself for the move, realizing that it would make my normally 15-20 minute commute nearly an hour and 15 minutes from my apartment to the office. While there was a light rail station that provided nearly direct access to the area where my office was, the issues that RTD was facing in regards to inability to recruit and retain drivers began to show, as trains that I wanted to take either ran too late or ran too early.

First Impressions

When I began my first Lyft ride into the Tech Center to finish up the move of the startup’s office, I was struck with how it felt like every office park in Southern California, where I grew up. While Denver has giant skyscrapers in its Lower Downtown Area, the Tech Center feels is that, but with concrete car storage as far as the eye can see. From parking garages, to parking lots, to park-n-rides all throughout the RTD area, cars seem to be king in this area. Though RTD has a presence, including light rail 3-4 stations along the main stretch of the center and a couple of bus routes, that’s where transit ends. Going into the move, I was pessimistic, but ready to bear and grin due to the consistency of work.

denver tech center
An Aerial View of the Denver Tech Center, Photo From this BuiltInColorado Article

The Month in The DTC

Perhaps it didn’t help that RTD was constantly burdened by the driver shortage in regards to having consistent lines. Perhaps it didn’t help that it felt like snow removal in the DTC was geared towards making sure parking lots and streets were clear vs. sidewalks. Perhaps it didn’t help that, upon moving down there, my employer asked for the make and model of my car, assuming that I would be driving down to the Tech Center from Denver. The culmination of everything, however, was the fact that it felt inescapable. Company WiFi constantly had issues that none of us could resolve, yet the only refrain for most of us, who lived closer to downtown Denver, was to go to a nearby chain tavern when things went wrong. Bad periods of inclement weather in Late October meant that we had to work from home, with me hoping that a coworker would give me a ride.

There was zero way to effectively bike to the Tech Center from my apartment without waking up at 5:30 in the morning, and bike infrastructure was virtually non-existent without cobbling together a handful of trails and hoping that drivers would be generous. Even walking in the Tech Center felt like a struggle at times, with constant anxiety in regards to whether I would get hit when jaywalking to make my train on time. I could bear and grin for awhile because it was consistent 9-5 work, but something had to give. I tried to find the positives: at least I didn’t have to worry about the close quarter of a WeWork? After grasping at straws, I started to see the cracks in a bad way.

The Tipping Point: A No Good, Really Bad Halloween

While my Halloween costume from 2019, an RTD bus driver with a replica 15L, was a high point in my Halloween costume choices, the night after work heading home from the office broke me.

Image may contain: 1 person
A photo of me as an RTD Bus Driver, Halloween 2019

I remember the night well. I was taking the E line from the Orchard Station, the closest to where the office was, to the Alameda Station in Denver. After slowing down in approach to several stops, the entire train stopped between the Pearl and Broadway Stations. After about 2-3 minutes, passengers started to show concern due to the fact the delay seemed less of a pause and more of a full stop. 5 minutes later, the operator came on the radio, relaying to the passengers that the train was experiencing technical difficulties. Fifteen minutes after that initial warning, I was done. I held it together through the month of October solely based on the fact that I rolled with the punches that RTD was dealing me with my commute having to gradually get longer to catch the right train. After almost 30 minutes of being stopped, I felt like RTD had dealt a kick to the crotch that I couldn’t recover from. After the festivities of Halloween night ended, I cried, frustrated that I had fallen so far, and planned my escape from the Tech Center.

Aftermath and Reflection

I applied with my old company for a job closer to downtown and got it, albeit with slightly nontraditional hours, and started the healing process. It was late November of 2019, and I went into my job realizing that it would be a way for me to heal from a mental and an emotional perspective. While the healing was never linear, the process began then, with some lulls due to the global pandemic and shifts in my home life.

Looking back, I made the right decision. The Tech Center and the types of companies that it attracts are not for me. As someone that worked for a startup, I wanted the geographical positives of startup culture: being reasonably walkable/ridable/bike-able from my apartment, able to connect with people in my own age group near me, and close to places and spaces that felt human. Instead, I worked in the outskirts of suburbia, feeling like I was working for an anonymous company surrounded by anonymous companies. It felt more like working at Initech, where I was an anonymous face in a sea of anonymous faces, than a vibrant startup. The area surrounding also felt like a bedroom community, where, to quote a friend “Business Owners located offices there to take their clients to the nicer Illegal Pete’s”. When I couldn’t find humanity in the concrete, I escaped, and feel all the better for it.

Cover Photo is an Aerial Shot of a Hyatt located in the Tech Center

Rolling Through the Snow Part 3: Maintenance/Gear Talk

As I started writing this on an early Christmas morning and watch Elf, I reminisce on the excitement of the surprise presents that I got on Christmas over the years. From a weird video game about a fairy kid that I got a tattoo for 4 years ago, to a Nintendo Wii I got as an older teenager, I got excited every time an unexpected present came for me.

However, USPS delays have made it so my Christmas presents have gotten delayed, and like my presents, this final post blog has been delayed. Welcome to Part 3, or, how to maintain your bike during winter/what special gear to have.

Oil’s well that ends well: Or, Oil your dang chain

Due to the fact that chain gunk from snow, slush, puddles, and mid accumulates a lot more during the winter than during the summer, its important to oil and lube your chain a lot more consistently. The difference in wintertime is that its important to get a wet lube for oiling and lubing your chain. My recommendation is Finish Line, not because I am paid by them, but because they have worked fairly consistently for me. Some people add an outer layer of protection for their chain as well. I am not those people, nor can I give any specific recommendations to that aspect as an addition.

Wheel issues: What tires should I roll with?

While a lot of people insist on using larger tires like fat tires and higher end brands such as Continental All Season Tires, I have been pretty successful in sticking with my standard 700*35 tires and slightly studded mountain bike tires. I am always a questioner as to whether I need new gear, and most bike shops have told me that the more expensive replacement tires/wheels are great for to 5-6 days of the year Denver is incredibly snowy. Regardless, here are some best practices I keep in regards to wheels:

  1. Deflate them more than you normally would

This allows tires to cover a wider surface area, regardless of what size they are. Its utterly invaluable that you have that additional width during winter.

2. Be wary of things getting stuck in them

While this is a constant the transcends seasons, it often feels like winter has some of the crunchiest snow, which can lead to a tire or a tube bursting. While this is a bit of a crossover from the “riding” blog, its still relevant. Always carry a spare tube and, at the very least, a handpump with you. Use a tire lever to remove any unknown objects on the inside of a tire if something gets lodged in there.

Fenders: Need or Not Need?

Similar to the issues with tires, a lot of winter riders are curious about the need for fenders or not. My biggest piece of advice in regards to this is the following: if the weather is in the 30’s or above and there is still a mix of what I like to call “mashed potatoes”, a mix of dirt and crunchy snow, I would bring out a back fender. This is the one that I use.

SKS - X-Tra-Dry Rear Fender - Black

Fenders for me don’t seem to be needed until March, which is usually when temperatures around the Denver Metro Area start to reach the point where mashed potato snow is more common.

That’s it! If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Featured image is of the author’s bike with frame lights

Rolling Through the Snow Part 2: Riding.

As you can see by the cover photo of this article, you roll through a lot of interesting things in the snow. From ice, to patches of hardened snow, to the sandy mix that accumulates days after the storm, snow riding is a varied and unique thing. Here are some tips I have gathered over the years from riding in unique situations.

Slow Ride, Take it Easy

This is most important for riding in a storm/riding shortly after a storm. Ride at a slow but consistent pace, being wary of what materials lie beneath your bike at any given time. Remember that it may take a little longer for you to reach your destination, and budget time in regards to that.

Know your route/challenges you face during the winter

The biggest threat to a cyclist is the unknown during the winter. Whether its a snag of ice underneath thin snow (more on that later) a car that is unaware of your presence, wind, or wildlife, wintertime will bring things that summer does not. Keep that in mind as you ride around the city.

Wonder what is plowed or not? While they are currently transitioning to a new GPS tracking system, Denver’s Plow Tracker is helpful in locating where plows have already been. Can’t access the plow tracker? Here’s a good rule of thumb for the order of operations when plowing:

  1. Major Streets/Trails go first

This includes streets such as Santa Fe, Broadway, Colfax, and Federal and trails such as Cherry Creek Trail and South Platte River. While the major roads are not necessarily the most desirable for bicycle commuting, major thoroughfares and protected bike lanes are also plowed consistently. For instance, a plow designed specifically for the 13th Ave protected bike lane is deployed fairly early in the day after a big snow

2. Minor Streets and minor trails

Think Sanderson Gulch, 16th avenue, and the streets adjacent to major streets. My biggest suggestion for areas like this is to keep lights aimed at the snow and ride incredibly slow

3. Areas that never get paved

These are the areas that will, regardless of temperature fluctuation, have a trace amount of snow on them. Think alleyways that are north facing, incredibly low trafficked streets with buildings that cast shadows throughout the day, and unincorporated parts of surrounding counties. My general gut instinct and advice to newer riders is to avoid these stretches at all costs, as they may never get paved.

Snow after the large late-November snow from 2019

The Eternal Issue of Ice

When I talk to people that don’t ride regularly, the biggest problem that they usually cite besides temperature is ice being a large issue. I am not going to disguise it as all: falling on ice is scary as hell, and is still a thing I am always wary of after four years of riding in the metro area.

How to Approach Ice

  1. Don’t make any sudden movements.

Treat ice as if you just discovered that a bear was tracking you. The biggest mistake that many cyclists make is flinching when they feel terrain changing rapidly. Roll over ice slowly, and concentrate on getting past it.

2. If you fall.

This has happened to me a couple of times in my life. Here are some general best practice tips I would suggest when falling, loosely adapted from this article.

a. Don’t brace yourself for the impact

Falling on an elbow, hand, or arm will do a bad number on it. Keep hands on handlebars if possible and try and tighten them close to your elbows.

b. Pick a good landing spot

Picking a good landing spot is like picking a good war to serve in. My general gut advice is to try and fall away from traffic and into an area that is a lot more comfortable, especially thinly packed snow.

That’s part 2 for you! In part 3, we will talk about maintenance during the winter.

Stay Tuned!

Rolling Through the Snow Part 1: Layering Effectively and Visibility

The following series of blogs are a collection of writings that I have done over the years in regards to commuting in winter. For more information, please do not hesitate to ask

Layering advice on a bike is very similar to that of bus/walking layering, except that your layers should be compact so they don’t get caught in your bike. I have an oversized Pea Coat that runs the risk of getting stuck in my wheel/gears I try not to use around this time of year.

Image
Above: A sample layering scheme. From left to right: Blue middle layer, black outer layer a black scarf and a Wyoming branded face cover. The right most is a fortified Ushanka hat I use when riding

The above picture is a basic layering scheme that I would use in roughly 20-30 degree weather, minus gloves and leggings, which are a constant. Since all body types are different, gauge how you feel walking in your layering scheme and translate that to riding, where temperature and energy exerted can often cause a sweat to build up.

An old lighting setup for my mountain bike

Be really well lit like you are walking (I have 3-4 lights) and make sure your lights are mounted and fully charged. I have occasionally had the instance where I accidentally forgot to charge a light, and that caused me to be in total darkness at dangerous intersections. Additionally, ride in areas that are well lit if possible, making intentional movements when signaling to turn.

De-layering is also a factor that needs to be considered. Depending on where you are headed, you may have more or less opportunities to take layers off. Layer according to that, realizing that a lot of it is situational. An example of the differences of layering schemes in my own life is the difference between layering for King Soopers vs layering for my job (security at the museum). When I layer for King Soopers, I generally am layering for a trip that I know I won’t need to delayer a ton for since I will be in and out of Soops in 30 minutes, so I may bring heavier, less compactable layers. In a situation where you are going to be at your destination for a longer period of time, more compactable and manageable layers may be necessary. While I hate plugging products, some Uniqlo outerwear jackets are compactable, including one I have ridden with for over 3 years.

In the next installment, I will talk about challenges while riding. Stay Tuned!

The Blight Loop: Or, a ride into our mistakes.

Denverites and Coloradans are spoiled by the large amounts of bike infrastructure. While there is incredibly substantive criticism of bicycle facilities, some of which I have participated in in the past, we live in a state where natural beauty is often just an hour or two away on a well maintained path.

The Blight Loop satisfies neither of these conditions.

While not a recognized route by any major entity in Denver, the loop is well known among the cycling community. Basically, it is a loop that uses two trails and bike infrastructure in Aurora and Denver, starting roughly around Confluence Park and ending in the Central Park neighborhood.

The Blight Loop’s northernmost portion.

Various cyclists have differing opinions on where the loop begins. To me, the loop starts once you pass the Globeville Landing Park near I70. Though the trail is still technically in Denver, it feels different, as the scenery quickly shifts and the river looks less like a place for recreation and more like a superfund site. While there are a handful of parks prior to the turn, they overall aesthetic feels “off” for lack of a better term. For instance, Carpio Sanguinette, one of the northernmost parks in Denver, seems more like a parklet than a full fledged facility. The smells start to change once you get to this point, with a larger mix of pollution from the Suncor Oil refinery, a stench from the river, and, if the wind is blowing the right way, the smell of animal chow from the Purina plant.

A User Created Photo from Carpio Sanguinette from Atlas Obscura

By the time you reach the turnoff for the Sand Creek trail, you get the unnerving feeling you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

The Oz is the Suncor Oil refinery from a architecture standpoint. Comparisons stop there, as the industrial noises, smells, and sights reach a fever pitch. The creek itself is the kind of place where a three eyed fish doesn’t seem like it would be an uncommon thing

Keep peddling on.

Small parklets similar to the ones in north Denver start to emerge, feeling more like appendages than actual parks. The trees and general flora fade in and out, as scenes from a city built in industrial warehouses, Commerce City, come into frame. A trailer chapel is a prominent feature that reminds me that god is there for truckers. For me, who knows.

A Mobile Chapel at a truck stop in Commerce City

The final circle of hell is the end of the Sand Creek trail. Due to I70 construction, parts of the trail are dirt and rocks. When I was a regular on nightshift, I would ride the trail at 2:00 AM, and would say a hail Mary before this stretch. A rough patch hit at the wrong angle could make my life a nightmare. While I am not sure if this section of the Sand Creek trail has been fixed since I last rode on it, it served as a reminder that the hardest stretch of the loop was over. Once the Sand Creek Trail was over, the trail shifted back to a multi-use trail, with the old Stapleton Airport tower within a mile of the park the trail drops you off in.

The Old Stapleton Airport

So, what is the Blight Loop? On paper, its a fairly easy route. Elevation gains are minimal, distance is not a big factor, and, outside of the gravel near the end, its need technically difficult. What it is, however, is a morality tale. A ghost of Christmas Past as you pass by the unhoused who have been ignored by the city for generations, of Christmas Present once the Suncor Oil Refinery is reached, and Christmas Future when the I70 construction is hit. Far from being a physically draining route, its a mentally draining one, and a reminder of how far we have to go.

Featured Photo is of the Author in Front of the Suncor Oil Refinery, Dated June of 2020

To be successful, future Denver COVID-19 testing sites must also be accessible to all Denverites

When it was announced earlier this month that the massive Pepsi Center COVID testing site that has been used by Coloradans throughout the Metro Denver region would be shut down on September 30th, the director of Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) Robert McDonald stated that “With that (building out community testing) accomplished, the city can focus its testing resources where they are most effective, at a community level in highly impacted and underserved neighborhoods”

While there are several metrics that DDPHE is considering to build out these more community based testing sites, accessibility by other modes of transportation beyond just motor vehicles. To build on the success that the Pepsi Center testing site has garnished over the past five months, future testing site locations should be modeled on its successes and informed by its shortcomings.

The Pepsi Center site had a couple of built in advantages to accessibility. It has a light rail station that stops only a few yards from the parking lot used to administer tests. This provides the advantage of allowing those that are unable to have access to a car or bike the ability to get tested at the facility. From a bicyclists perspective, the Pepsi Center is between two of the larger trails in Denver, the South Platte River Trail and the Cherry Creek Trail, and can be reached fairly easily from either of them.

The Lightrail station located across from the Pepsi Center

The biggest shortcoming of the Pepsi Center site from an alternative transportation was its messaging. While cyclists and walk-ups were allowed, DDPHE qualifies this in their testing statement, stating that “However, due to the fact that the testing facility is intended for those experiencing symptoms, we hope to limit walk-ins at the site as they may risk exposing other”. This is in contrast to other cities throughout the United States, such as New Orleans, which is testing cyclists for COVID in their drive thru testing literature.

Greenlee Elementary School, a potential testing site, located near transit, bike infrastructure, and a fairly walkable neighborhood.

While DDPHE is correct in making COVID testing sites equitable by placing them in neighborhoods that have been historically underserved on several metrics, making these sites accessible to all, including pedestrians and cyclists, is also an important factor in fighting the spread of COVID-19. 

The Fast Pumping Artery to Golden: Save the 16L

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.

Background

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.

Casa Bonita
An Exterior Shot of Casa Bonita

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

Colfax 16
The 16 Route

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

Colfax 16L.jpg
16L route

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Proposed RTD Cuts: What You Need To Know

I just attended the study session for RTD’s service reductions. After the initial presentation on broad themes related to service cuts for RTD, there was discussion on what would specifically be cut. Here are routes that will be reduced/eliminated that you need to know about.

Bus Eliminations/Reductions

1. 16L On West Colfax- Runs from Civic Center Park to Downtown Golden

This line holds a particular significance to me because it is the line I would use in the past to get to work. If it wasn’t running, my work commute would increase from roughly 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes. The detour the 16 takes when the 16L is not running is something that inconveniences a lot of people, including myself.

2. 55 in Arvada- Runs From Arvada Ridge to Olde Town Arvada

3. 99L in Lakewood – Runs from Southwest Plaza to Federal Center Station

4.  157 in Aurora- Runs from Aurora Metro Center to Buckley Air Force Base

5. 236 in Boulder- Runs from Table Mesa to Boulder Junction Stations

6. 403 in Highlands Ranch- Runs from Littleton Station to Lincoln Station

7. Special Services such BroncosRide, RockiesRide, and rides to CU Denver Games would be eliminated

Access-a-Ride Services and para-transit will not be affected.

Bus Reductions

0L (South Broadway)

Selected Peak period trips would be discontinued

1 (1st Avenue)

Service discontinued east of Alameda Station

16 (West Colfax)

Service added to offset elimination of 16L

27 (East Yale Avenue)

Service will be combined with Route 46 north of Yale Avenue and discontinued service south of Hampden. New south terminal at
Southmoor pnR.

32 (32nd Ave/City Park)

Discontinue service east of Downtown and west of Wadsworth Boulevard.

46 (South Dahlia Street)

Combine with 27 south of Yale Avenue, replacing former routing.

65 (Monaco Parkway)

Sunday from 30 minute to 60 minute frequency

67 (Ridge Road)

Reduce service frequency weekday and Saturday

99 (South Kipling)

Weekend Service Discontinued

125 (Youngfield/Ward)

Service north of Ward Road Station discontinued

130 (Yale/Buckley)

Reduce frequency from 15 to 30 minutes.

139 (Quincy)

Discontinue 5:13am, 5:41am 5:56am eastbound and 4:40am westbound trips

153 (Chambers) 

Reduce peak frequency from 15 to 30 minutes between Arapahoe Crossing and Peoria&Smith Road Stn. 437

206 (Pearl/Manhattan/Fairview High School)

Discontinue weekday mid-day service (930am to 230pm); remove route between BJDS and Arapahoe/55th

483 (Parker Road/Lincoln Ave)

Reduce peak frequency from 30 to 60 minutes.

JUMP (Boulder Lafayette Via Arapahoe

Reduce frequency to hourly wk mid-day, east of 63rd/Arap-Lafayette

Free Mallride

Service reduced from 90 seconds to 3 minute intervals.

Rail Changes/Eliminations

1. D Line- Runs from Mineral to 18th and California, would be eliminated on Weekends. C Line would have added weekend base period service frequency

2. H-Line-Runs from Florida to 18th and California, would have reduced Saturday Frequency

3. R-Line-Runs from Ridgegate to Peoria, would be reduced to 2 trains per hour

Commuter trains would not be affected.

Concerns From the Board

The board of directors had some concerns when they were presented with this plan publicly for the first time. Director Judy Lubow asked in regards to whether staff had put together a plan or hired a consultant in regards to retention for drivers. Director Jeff Walker was curious about if they could retain more employees by finalizing cuts before the next round of service changes in May. Shontel Lewis spoke from the logistical aspects of hiring drivers, speaking about issues regarding class sizes, number of supervisors per garage, and the issue of whether service reductions would actually cut down on mandated overtime, a common theme that emerged among the directors. The response in regards to the mandated overtime question was the same in every instance, with staff stressing that, while it should still be available, it should not be required.

Another common theme was in regards to the Broncos, Rockies, and CU Denver ride services that would be cut. While Director Kate Williams stated that Broncos season ticket holders wouldn’t necessarily need the service, others pointed out how the services are often and entry level introduction to RTD that creates more riders.

Director Lynn Guissinger and others ask if certain cuts would be temporary, while others were not, another common theme among the directors. Guissinger also inquired about the possibility of Denver and Boulder buying out certain RTD routes to keep them funded, an allusion partially to Denver’s new Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and the role it could play with the agency during these times. Director Vince Buzek was the only board member to explicitly come out against the service cuts, saying that a “transit agency should provide transit” and noting that the amount of cuts for bus were greater than the amount of cuts for rail despite over 100 rail trips often being cut a day.

Perhaps the most poignant statement for me came from Director Bob Broom, who noted that, while R-Line ridership was up 4% compared to the rest of rail in Denver, the R-Line was still getting cut back to 2 trains per hour. Additionally, the suggestion by Director Angie Rivera-Malpiede that RTD hold pop-up events at stations in regards to the cut was a marketing idea that I wholeheartedly agree with. The section of the meeting adjourned with the promise of a full spreadsheet detailing the extent of the cuts, which will be added here in the morning.

What’s Next?

There will be 15 public meetings held by RTD in each district in regards to the service cuts throughout the months of January and February. This space will keep you updated in a later post on when those public meetings will be, and will keep you more in depth updated on the meeting located in Denver County. Stay tuned.