Proposed Lincoln Street bus lane changes bring concern

Residents concerned that a full-time bus lane would take away from parking

Kailyn Lamb
klamb@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/6/19

A new proposal to switch to a designated bus lane on Lincoln Street from Interstate 25 north to Seventh Avenue has residents concerned that they will lose out on parking in front of their homes, …

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Proposed Lincoln Street bus lane changes bring concern

Residents concerned that a full-time bus lane would take away from parking

Posted

A new proposal to switch to a designated bus lane on Lincoln Street from Interstate 25 north to Seventh Avenue has residents concerned that they will lose out on parking in front of their homes, while Denver staff argues the lane will improve bus efficiency and traffic flow in the area.

As Broadway runs through the Baker neighborhood in south Denver, the three lanes of one-way traffic whiz by a selection of local businesses and restaurants, even a few new apartment buildings. A fourth lane on the far right side of traffic on the roadway is a dedicated bus lane, stretching from 17th Avenue in Uptown all the way to Exposition Avenue in south Baker.

Broadway’s counterpart, Lincoln Street, features the same bustling traffic on three lanes, with a fourth lane on the right that alternates between a bus and parking lane from Seventh Avenue south to I-25. But instead of businesses, that portion of Lincoln is mostly lined with residences — houses and the occasional apartment building with even fewer businesses scattered amongst them.

Both the Regional Transportation District and the city of Denver have considered the designated bus lanes on Broadway and Lincoln as two phases of one project. The transit organization supports the project, said Laurie Huff, a senior specialist of public affairs with RTD, in the hopes that it will draw more riders and get cars off the road.

“We’re supportive of any change that can improve the speed of the service,” Huff said. “Anything we can do to attract more ridership is a good thing.”

She added that buses along the Lincoln corridor currently spend about 20% of the time stuck in congestion without a designated lane.

Compressed parking

Jim O’Connell, a resident of the area, said he feels the city has not done enough public outreach on the switch. Many of the homeowners in the area park in the lane because it lies in front of their homes, making it easier to get in and out.

Although there is an alley behind the homes with garages, O’Connell said that not every home has one. Some garages only fit one car, which can become a problem for households with multiple vehicles. It will make parking “hyper compressed” for him and his neighbors, O’Connell said.

He feels that the city is taking “eminent domain,” without consideration to homeowners, or offering anything to them return for their losing parking.

“(They’re) taking what people consider as part of their property rights to be able to park in front of their house,” O’Connell said.

Nancy Kuhn, the director of the public information office with Denver Public Works, said in an email that a study of the area in 2016 looked into both transit and pedestrian improvements that could be made to the Broadway and Lincoln corridors. Broadway’s far right lane was later designated as a 24-hour bus lane in 2017. At the same time, the far right lane on Lincoln from Seventh to 14th avenues also became a designated bus lane.

The city is now looking to extend the bus lane on Lincoln down to I-25, Kuhn said. There are several options on the table, and the 24-hour lane is only one of them, she added. Other options include extending the bus hours during the day and keeping parking at night, adding parking to the west side of Lincoln or a combination of options.

In any case, the city is hoping to improve transit along the corridor.

“These changes will help to alleviate afternoon/evening bus delays from the I-25 and Broadway Station to Seventh Avenue, and help to meet multimodal goals,” Kuhn said.

The city is planning for another outreach meeting to address the comments residents have left so far, Kuhn said. People can also leave comments on the city website.

Other residents took to Nextdoor to voice their concerns about the project. One resident pointed out that a designated bus lane during the day would make it difficult for delivery drivers or maintenance workers to find parking in front of the house they are going to. Others wondered at the need for three lanes of traffic going each way on Broadway and Lincoln.

Bus improvements

Through Blueprint Denver planning and Vision Zero goals, the city has been trying to make multimodal transit options more appealing to residents. Improving bus efficiency is just one way of doing that, Kuhn said.

“As a city we are focused on transitioning from a car-centric culture to providing people with other options to move around town more easily without a car, if they wish,” she said. “We are providing more transit-only lanes so buses have dedicated space along our corridors to travel safely and with greater predictability, making transit a more appealing and convenient option.”

Huff said RTD keeps track of ridership data to see which routes are used more frequently. Along Lincoln and Broadway, the P and 0 bus, as well as a limited version of the 0 route, travel down the corridor. Huff said that from Seventh Avenue to I-25 along Lincoln, around 651 people board at those stops daily. She added that the routes saw a 2.5% increase in ridership in the last year.

The transit organization also keeps track of traffic speeds. When Broadway added a designated bus lane, the corridor saw an increase of traffic speeds by 7%, or 2.5 minutes faster travel time overall. During the morning rush, travel time was improved by 1.4 minutes. Although it doesn’t seem like much, Huff said it accounts for about 10% of the time people are spending on that corridor.

“That’s significant,” she said, “every little bit adds up.”

But for residents like O’Connell, the numbers don’t mean much. He sited the transit organization’s recently reported decreasing ridership and driver shortage as reasons to be cautious.

As a 70-year-old man who is self-employed, O’Connell is set on a fixed income. Outside of the parking, he said he worries about not being able to host garage sales which help him raise the funds he uses to pay property taxes. According to city ordinance in Denver, residents are allowed to have yard sales once every six months.

“I’m going to lose that,” O’Connell said.

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