Pietro lives in Westminster and commutes to Superior, riding the US 36 Bikeway three to four times a week. When the cars on US 36 are backed up and he’s going faster than all of them, you can bet he’s got an ear-to-ear, bugs-on-teeth grin as he pedals ferociously. Adds Pietro, “There’s nothing better than riding to work on a crisp day with the sun over the horizon and the white mountains in the distance. Everyone should join in!”
When you look at moving 200 people by five different modes (here), you see that 133 vehicles with 1.5 riders simply cannot travel with the same efficiency as other modes. Moving as a Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) is increasingly becoming less and less efficient, yet persists as the norm in transportation. Even in cities where transportation budgets allow for massive widening projects, we’re seeing that adding more lanes actually creates more traffic congestion (see Houston’s Katy Project here and more on induced demand here).
Contemporary transportation policies, such as the move from High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) 2 to HOV 3, are curbing the number of vehicles on the road by focusing on the movement of people and maximizing use of existing infrastructure. By implementing these policies, transportation demand is improved in the short-term and so is how a region will accommodate travel demand over the coming decades.
CDOT’s decision to move from HOV 2 to HOV 3 (effective January 1, 2017) is a smart change, but that does not mean it is met with wide public approval. It is a divisive move and one that leaves many who travel the corridor wondering what the fallout will be.
Those who currently travel in the US 36 Express Lanes in a carpool with three or more riders or on transit will most likely not be impacted by these changes, but others will. Carpools with two riders will need to find a third buddy to continue riding in the Express Lanes for free, while those who drive solo and in the general purpose lanes will be the most impacted by these changes (there will likely be influx of vehicles moving away from the Express Lanes, thus causing more congestion in the general purpose lanes).
As your local resource, Commuting Solutions is here to help you make a smooth transition into HOV 3. Through the end of January, we are offering US 36 commuters a $75 incentive to car/vanpool or a free RTD 10-ride ticket book to try the Flatiron Flyer. If you’re still not sure if these options are a good fit, try signing up for mywaytogo.org to see if there is a carpool match waiting for you or find your transit route with this trip planner.
Sharing a ride, taking transit, teleworking and biking to work (or even to a transit stop) are all great ways to make an impact on how our region moves people, not vehicles. We encourage you to just try one new commute for one day to see how it goes.
Colorado’s ability to maintain, let alone expand multi-modal infrastructure to meet the burgeoning population is a major issue for our state, regional and local government officials, as well as for the private sector. Stay tuned for next month’s blog post on Colorado’s current budget constraints and how creative funding mechanisms, such as toll revenue, are needed to help to fill the gap.
You may be wondering, “But wait, I am a non-cycling transit rider, how do Bike-n-Ride shelters affect me?” These secure, covered structures keep the wheels of transportation moving by eliminating (or significantly decreasing) the need to load bikes on buses and thus increase overall operations.
Cycling is one of the best ways to make a first-and-final mile connection – it’s environmentally friendly, cost-effective and provides remarkable health benefits, but what happens as more people opt for this connection? Racks on buses will become overcrowded (meaning cyclists have to wait for the next bus) and the loading/unloading process will delay service for all passengers.
Bike-n-Ride shelters are key to maintaining a consistent schedule and offer a unique opportunity for cyclists. Just imagine being able to park one bike at the US 36 and Sheridan Station, bus to Boulder and pick up a second bike at the US 36 and Table Mesa station. With Bike-n-Ride shelters at each US 36 station, options such as these will soon become a reality.
With all of these pluses, it is no wonder that Bike-n-Ride shelters are the number one recommendation from the US 36 First and Final Mile Study (2013) – a study that assesses what enhancements could be made to improve US 36 transit connectivity. The study has guided our efforts for the past three years and currently has us working alongside RTD to secure funding for seven Bike-n-Ride shelters in Broomfield, Westminster and Boulder.
Bike-n-Ride shelters are key to streamlining and expediting service for the over 14,000 transit riders who travel the corridor each day. Without a consistent level of service that is frequent and reliable, it is likely those numbers will decrease. So, the next time you are on the bus, take a mental note of the time spent loading/unloading bikes and calculate how much faster the service would be with this one simple elimination, I think you will be surprised.
Transportation Management Organizations (TMOs) bring together businesses and local governments to improve a region’s economic growth, sustainability practices and overall health by reducing the number of vehicles on the road, and they tend to do it with an average of two staff members. TMOs, like Commuting Solutions, cover one geographic area and hone in efforts to address the transportation issues affecting that region. (To put this in perspective, there are seven TMOs in the Denver metro region alone!)
Each TMO is highly specialized and focused on how they can most effectively impact their region’s transportation system. Yet, once a year TMOs and other Transportation Demand Management (TDM) organizations convene at the Association for Commuter Transportation’s (ACT) international conference. The conference’s candid discussions of program successes, regional wins and even failures help TDM organizations that are normally segregated in their work come together to help one another achieve regional goals. ACT itself plays an important role in advocating for increased policy and funding support for the TDM trade industry, which maximizes the use of existing infrastructure to focus on the movement of people, not vehicles.
Mostly, hearing about the accomplishments of others and their unique programs help us develop plans and generate ideas for the coming year. Other times, programs are far off the mark for what will work for our region, yet seeing how these organizations utilize the tools available to shape their transportation system is inspiring. One example of this is a TMO from Florida that uses vanpooling as first-and-final mile solution for rail commuters. This deviates from how we use vanpooling in the Denver metro region, yet it is an example of utilizing the resources available to make improvements for commuters, businesses and the region.
I leave each ACT conference full of ideas, inspiration and goals for how to improve the US 36 corridor, and I hope that this year’s conference leads to more enhancements for all who live, work and have an investment in our corridor.
July 21, 2016
When you think of the newly transformed US 36 corridor, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the new Flatiron Flyer vehicle that provides a more comfortable trip or how to find and connect to the US 36 Bikeway? Connecting between modes of transportation in a suburban setting, which is typically lower in density, is an important factor in how commuters utilize a multi-modal system. Maximizing the system’s capacity and use typically involves engineering smaller scale projects and services to seamlessly tie the system together.
These “small” projects are what we like to refer to as micro-infrastructure improvements. These are smaller-scale capital construction projects, programs and services that are needed to improve connectivity and accessibility to transit, and thus increase transit ridership within our suburban corridor context. Micro-infrastructure improvement is a term coined in the US 36 First and Final Mile Study, where we provide a blueprint for how to improve transit access through smaller-scale improvements.
We are currently working on implementing two improvements from the First and Final Mile Study: expanding wayfinding and bike shelters along the US 36 corridor, which are integral components of a bike-then-bus or bike-on-bus commute. Another micro-infrastructure improvement from the study is expanding bike sharing programs in the corridor, a recommendation that Westminster recently implemented and one that we are addressing on a corridor-wide level.
The corridor continues to become more connected each day, but there is still work needed to streamline the transit-connection process. Micro-infrastructure improvements are one (small) way that we will meet the ever-evolving needs of those who use the US 36 corridor’s transit system.
June 16, 2016
With RTD opening four rail lines (A, B, G and R) and launching the new Flatiron Flyer Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, 2016 is a historic year for transportation in the Denver metro region. These lines are complemented by the prior completion of other FasTracks commitments, such as the West (W) Line and Denver Union Station. In the US 36 corridor, we have seen an exponential increase in ridership on the new Flatiron Flyer, and with certainty the B Line (formerly Northwest Rail) will impact movement between Denver and the US 36 corridor. But, even with this progress, many are curious as to when the entire FasTracks program will come to completion.
The FasTracks program still has a number of components that need to be built, but due to the perfect storm of economic decline and increased construction costs, RTD does not have the financial capacity to proceed at this time. For some time, RTD has said that the B Line would not have full funding until at least 2042, but if 2015 projections hold true, some funding for remaining FasTracks commitments may be available beginning as early as 2028.
While the funding for the remaining projects is further down the road, knowing that there is a possibility of partial funding coming 12 years earlier does provide a glimmer of hope. Once completed, FasTracks will deliver a robust, technologically-advanced transit system.
Currently, the Central Business Corridor Extension, Southwest Line Extension, Northwest Rail from Westminster to Longmont and North Metro from 124th to SH 7 remain outstanding.
May 19, 2016
As we take a look back on the 2016 legislative session, it is evident that transportation issues are being addressed, yet the transportation funding gap is not. During this legislative session, Commuting Solutions took a stance on three notable transportation-specific bills.
HB16-1008, allowing CDOT to designate an area on a roadway not otherwise assigned for traffic for use by commercial vehicles designed to transport 16 passengers or more, plays a significant part in the overall operations of US 36 bus rapid transit. This small, yet effective step allows RTD buses to use the shoulders on US 36 during times of congestion and provides additional reasons to choose transit over driving.
SB16-123 was a bill that left groups and parties divided. This bill would prohibit use of Switchable High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) passes in the Express Lanes, which would ultimately impact contract commitments and mobility. Commuting Solutions, along with other transportation groups, agencies and governments, strongly opposed this bill’s long-term impacts. While this bill died in a House committee, CDOT is addressing legislators’ concern over the $15 transponder fee and is working on a timeline to implement changes in preparation for HOV +3, beginning January 2017.
HB16-1450 i.e. the Hospital Provider Fee, was not approved in the Senate. This bill would have provided funding for transportation and education, and was in compliance with the Tax Payers Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Each session brings forth opportunities to improve the lives of Coloradoans, and this session was one that brought forth improvements for both the state and the Northwest region. We are already looking forward to November and a potential ballot issue that could provide transportation funding and narrow the existing funding gap.
April 20, 2016
This month Commuting Solutions proudly donned our advocacy hat and joined the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition (US 36 MCC) for an annual trip to Washington, DC (RTD, CDOT and HPTE also joined the coalition on their trip). Each year the coalition meets with a congressional delegation, the House and Senate transportation committees, and even federal transportation agencies! Each trip is focused on building relationships and setting the stage for future funding requests, and this year’s trip was no different.
During these meetings, the coalition thanked congressional members for their support of US 36 infrastructure improvements, found out more about new grant programs and discussed continued investments in the Northwest corridor. When thanking the delegation, we were able to share news of what these infrastructure improvements mean for the US 36 corridor – RTD reports that there is a 45% increase in US 36 ridership compared to August 2015, and CDOT reports that the US 36 Express Lanes have increased travel speeds by up to 29%.
The meetings are not just a time to provide updates, but to advocate for transportation and infrastructure improvements. These annual trips set the stage for acquiring transportation funding in upcoming years, and this trip helped identify 2016 and 2017 funding opportunities for both the US 36 corridor and arterial Bus Rapid Transit corridors. Specifically, we were able to identify both Federal Transit Administration Small Starts funding and a TIGER grant that the US 36 coalition will pursue in partnership with CDOT, RTD and the NATA.
And, while not directly related to the traffic congestion in our corridor, the coalition made a point of focusing on train horn noise and sharing feedback with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on train horn noise and quiet zone requirements (this is an issue specific to the Northwest region, where many residents and businesses are located near the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line).
The trip takes our coalition to the heart of transportation advocacy and legislation, and is a place where opportunities to improve the corridor’s transportation infrastructure are abundant. We left the trip with a number of action items that will help us improve the US 36 multi-modal transportation infrastructure and related technology.
February 18, 2016
Getting to Work Happy: So much to be happy about in 2016 and our new campaign reflects all of that and more with its “Get to work happy” theme. The campaign continues to offer incentives for those who want to try transit, carpooling and vanpooling. Filling out a short application is all it takes to get commuters thinking about the new commute options available with the completion of the US 36 Express Lanes Project.
Legislative Bills of Interest:
House Bill (HB) 16-1008
Commuting Solutions took a position to support House Bill 16-1008, which will allow buses to use the shoulder of state highways. The bill passed the House of Representatives and has been referred to the Senate. Thanks go to Rep. Max Tyler, chairman of the House Transportation & Energy Committee, Rep. Faith Winter who brought forth this bill and Rep. Jon Becker who co-sponsored the bill. Thanks as well to Sen. Rollie Heath and Sen. John Cooke who will co-sponsor the bill in the Senate. The passage of this bill is a key step forward to ensuring the reliability and speed necessary for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service.
Colorado Senate Bill (SB)16-123
36 Commuting Solution is monitoring Colorado Senate Bill 16-123, which will go to the Senate Transportation Committee on Thurs., Feb. 18, 2016. The bill, if approved, would prohibit Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) or the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise from requiring a vehicle owner to use a switchable transponder or other device to travel in a high occupancy vehicle on either a high occupancy vehicle lane or a high occupancy toll lane on a toll-free basis.
US First and Final Mile Elements Moving Forward: While not easily “Googled,” addressing the “First and Final” mile of a commute is pivotal in creating a successful multi-modal transportation system. Commuting Solutions has been awarded two grants by the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). The grants provide funding to support many of the recommendations sited in the US 36 First and Final Mile Study as being essential to maximize use of the multi-modal system. Funding will be used to develop way finding plans for each RTD transit station and to design and build Bike-n-Ride shelters at the Broomfield and Sheridan transit stations.
January 26, 2016
The Commuting Solutions board of directors recently approved its 2016 Action Plan to define the primary focus areas to achieve our mission for the next year.
Highlights of our priorities include:
Advancing the US 36 Multi-Modal System: While we’ve accomplished a great deal through the soon-to-be completed US 36 Express Lanes Project and launching the Flatiron Flyer service, further improvements to our transportation systems are needed. This is just the beginning. Implementing recommendations from the US 36 First and Final Mile Study, providing constant vigilance to monitor and improve the Flatiron Flyer service, furthering progress for the North I-25 Bus on Shoulder Feasibility Study, and implementing recommendations from the Northwest Area Mobility Study are a few of our most pressing concerns.
Funding: To provide a consistent level of service for the corridor and to maximize the use of the new infrastructure, we are exploring the formation of metro districts surrounding each of the six RTD stations. Funding would be used to construct and operate recommendations from the US 36 First and Final Mile Study and support ongoing funding for Commuting Solutions.
Programs and Services: We are excited to offer incentives to try commuting via carpool, transit and vanpool through the final year of our congestion mitigation programs for the US 36 Express Lanes Project. As we look ahead, we are planning how to manage demand in the corridor once the construction project is complete.
Organizational Leadership: This year, we are strengthening our board leadership by activating the Executive Committee, enhancing the four board committees through increased board engagement and adding a new US 36 Multi-Modal Systems Committee.
We look forward to partnering with you as we embark on this exciting year ahead.