Will the Front Range Meet the Moment? The State, the City, and the Future of Summers

As I ran around the State Capitol Last Monday night, I got into a meditative state. Jogging past the evening commute made me think how Denver and the Front Range had changed over the past two years. From fairly car free roads to clear skies and no traffic deaths at the beginning of the pandemic, to two of the worst summers for air quality and traffic as it wore on, it has been a rollercoaster. Right now, however, feels like a fork in the road for the region. At the State level, a bill to make RTD free for the month of August due to the high volume of Ozone Action Days caused by both fires and increased car usage is inching through the legislature at the tail end of the session. On the city level, hints of change are in the air, with the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency providing instant rebates to residents that purchase E-bikes from participating locations, and Denver Streets Partnership putting forward a measure to fully build out Denver’s sidewalk network in nine years vs. the estimated 400 years at current funding rates. Coupled with this, city election season has come into full swing, with council candidates declaring nearly weekly at this point, and climate activist Ean Tafoya declaring for Mayor this past week on a bold platform to restore dignity to public transit and expand options for current users

For me, the closest moment that I can think of to this late November of 2019, when I wrote about the several different events, including the retirement of Dave Genova, the loss of B-Cycle, and the creation of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) as launching points for change in the Denver Metro Area’s relationship with alternative transit options. While none of us could predict the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on Genova’s successor Debra Johnson and her tenure at RTD, the results of the Micro Mobility pilot and subsequent contracts awarded to Lyft and Lime, and the mixed record DOTI has had as a citywide department, it feels like the events at this juncture are a lot more optimistic than what things were like 2 1/2 years ago.

My View Outside Yesterday Evening

As I finish this piece, I am looking out the window into another remarkable yet hazy Colorado sunset after a short meeting. Though particle pollution appears to be going up, along with high ozone days seeming to stretch far into the future, I have significantly more optimism than I had in both Spring of 2020 and 2021 about the summer ahead, and believe that brighter days are ahead if we as individuals, a city, region, and state make the right decisions now.

*featured image is a photo of the Capitol taken by the author.

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