Tonight, Tuesday April 6th, from 4:30 until whenever, the Downtown Denver Partnership, will make public a plan to to turn 15th Street into a second part of the 16th Street Mall. The meeting (the actual presentation and period for public comment will commence at 5:30) will be held at the Wellington Webb building at 201 W. Colfax in Denver.
The plan would shift the northwest bound free mall shuttle buses from the 16th Street Mall to 15th Street. The southeast bound buses would remain on the 16th Street Mall. Proponents of the plan state that the extra space on the mall would free up room for more public space, open air restaurants, etc., but most importantly make room for a bike lane on the mall.
Predictably, the Denver Post supports the idea, stating that “…the mall is now 28 years old. Its not going to do anymore for downtown than it has already.” Precisely why the Post supposes doubling the size of something that is not doing anything more for downtown is a good idea was not explained.
No doubt the real reason that the Post supports the plan is that it is one more step towards eliminating automobile traffic from downtown. Whether or not 15th Street will be completely closed to traffic at first, it will eliminate parking spaces and increase congestion.
The constituencies that can be counted on to support the plan include bike riders and owners of paid parking lots. It doesn’t take too much imagination to realize that rates at those lots will likely skyrocket.
Of course, long-term, the idea of a large pedestrian only area downtown and moves to discourage automobile commuting are no doubt in the national as well as environmental interests. But for that to work there has to be a viable alternative for automobile commuters. That, of course, would be dependent on RTD. Otherwise the changes will only make automobile commuting increasing costly and miserable.
RTD, however, has not been particularly well run. Parking lots at the light rail lots often fill up, limiting the numbers of people who can take advantage of light rail. Then there is the question of what exactly the RTD is trying to accomplish. For example, which is more important to RTD, getting people out of cars and onto buses and trains, or creating a transit system that both makes sense and is not burdensome to the taxpayer. In fact, RTD policies are not particularly friendly to either goal.
If RTDs main focus was to get people out of cars, fares ought to be either free or very very inexpensive, and not just for sporting events. If, on the other hand the RTD’s mission was to create a transit system that made sense and would not be burdensome to the taxpayer, the very first rail line that ought to have been built would have connected Downtown to the Airport. As any transit professional, from taxis to shuttles could have told them, that is the money making route.
If you want to attend the meeting the Denver Downtown Partnership asks for an email RSVP sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can click on tthis link for further information.