COVID-19’s Fiscal Impacts on Transportation

While many in our industry are thrilled to see few vehicles traveling while social distancing is in full force, reduced travel demand means lower revenue being generated through the gas tax, which is the primary way transportation funding is generated. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) estimates a revenue shortfall of nearly $250 million over the next three years due to COVID-19.

This plummet in funding for CDOT is triggering delays and potential elimination of construction projects that were recently identified in a 10-year project pipeline. CDOT Executive Director, Shoshana Lew, presented an overview of CDOT budget gaps and how it impacts transportation at a virtual meeting last week. See the full presentation here.

The downturn in gas tax revenue due to COVID-19 only acerbates the existing long-term, sustainable funding source for transportation that has been a major problem for Colorado for years. Previous projections anticipated a $9 billion funding gap in statewide needs and statewide ballot issues in 2018 and 2019 to fund transportation have failed to meet the approval of voters.

Prior to the suspension of the 2020 legislative session, conversations were underway to consider potential new funding for transportation, including expanding legislation to form Regional Transportation Authorities, charging fees to Transportation Network Companies and other businesses whose business services benefit from transportation, and considering an increase in the state’s gas tax.

Due to the deficit of the state’s budget, these conversations will likely head another direction when the legislature resumes.

While the funding cuts are a significant setback to statewide transportation projects, we’ll continue to focus our efforts on exploring new partnerships to fund transportation and educating and empowering our community members to pursue sustainable modes of commuting.

Living Laboratory: What Can We Learn from COVID-19 to Improve Commuting and Transportation?

The COVID-19 pandemic threw us all into a living laboratory that is greatly affecting our lives and our physical world. As movement continues to be restricted, the environmental impacts of not as many workers commuting to their office are hard to ignore.

We’re keeping an eye on some of the positive implications, including improved air quality, reduced traffic congestion, and an increase in telework, walking and bicycling, and asking ourselves two key questions:

  1. What should we be paying attention to in the short-term to support long-term decisions?
  2. How will the COVID-19 impact the long-term transportation future?

Short-Term Transportation Benefits of COVID-19

Since we were thrown into teleworking as a means to continue many business operations while social distancing, we experienced the rush to equip ourselves with the technology needed to work effectively from home.  We also had to quickly educate ourselves to the tech resources that exist so that we could continue to meet with our teams and external customers, members, etc.  Starting the week of March 11 was a very disruptive time for many of us, and we had to adapt quickly.  The benefits to travel demand and our air quality are staggering. We’ve seen:

It’s been exciting to see how cities like Denver are piloting the use of closed streets to provide more space for walking and bicycling.  Denver is now third in the country for miles of park roads and city streets (16.1 miles) closed to cars and open for bicyclists and pedestrians to spread out as they travel or to get outside for exercise and fresh air. Not only is Denver third in the U.S., but the city is leading the state of Colorado. We hope to see other Colorado communities follow suit soon!

This virus has been very disruptive to the transportation sector in far reaching and global ways; many of which we haven’t even considered yet, nor do we know if there will be lasting effect, specifically to our public transit system and tolled infrastructure such as the US 36 Express Lanes.

We learned in our recent webinar that people are becoming more open to exploring commute options to driving solo.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Commuting?

This time also offers us a unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-imagine the transportation system and move it towards a more resilient, equitable and seamless experience.  Much of our road infrastructure is designed for the two peaks-one in the morning and one in the evening albeit at a great cost. Parking also takes up most of land of most suburban office developments. By not having to travel reduces peak demand and supply of expensive new roadway and transit capacity freeing up space for everyone else that needs steady all-hours access. It also reduces the need for so much parking. This is like flattening the curve for transportation supply and demand capacity.

Now a few weeks in, it seems that the office is not as critical as we thought for managing staff and existing client work. Managers and teams are starting to see how these measures can be better for everyone, including the company. For families with kids at home who are conducting online school or whose childcare has closed, this poses another set of challenges to juggling teleworking and family needs.

Our economy is, and will take a huge hit and it will be tempting to go back to the status quo transportation system. However, we can and should use this time to think about how we got here, what no longer works, and ask how might we re-organize our transportation system so that it is more resilient, seamless and works for everyone, including our planet.

RTD Service and Safety Changes in the Northwest Metro Region

Earlier this week, we welcomed RTD Directors Lynn Guissinger and Judy Lubow, and RTD Lead Service Planner Nataly Handlos, to our second COVID-19 webinar to discuss recent safety changes and the upcoming 40% service reduction (effective Sunday, April 19) on RTD public transit.

Five weeks ago, the world was very different for RTD. They were struggling to hire drivers, looking at modest service changes, and having what now seem like minor budget issues. Today, we’re all living through a worldwide experiment in commuting as the pandemic hits transit and local governments.

Ridership by the Numbers

Prior to COVID-19, RTD carried approximately 350,000 people per day (prior to March 12) and now carries approximately 100,000 people per day – primarily essential service workers dependent on public transit to get to and from work.

Most of the ridership today is local routes:

  • Flatiron Flyer: carried 12,000 people on March 11 and 2,000 people on April 8.
  • Light rail: carried 103,000 people on March 11 and 27,000 people on April 8.
  • Commuter rail: carrying 40% of traditional ridership.
  • Local service: carrying about 179,000 on March 11 and 87,000 people on April 8.

The bulk of RTD’s revenue comes for sales and use tax from fares and is taking a huge hit from the decrease in ridership. They are working hard to adjust their operations to support both revenue generation and its ridership.

COVID-19 Service Plan

The reduced service plan goes into effect on Sunday, April 19 – approximately 40% less service than traditionally offered. Most services will be running on a Saturday schedule with some adding additional morning and evening trips.

The reduction in service is in response to a significant decrease in ridership, and reduced service levels will remain in effect until further notice. RTD will continue to evaluate ridership and service as demand warrants.

Northwest Area Impacts

Most of the routes in our local region will operate Monday-Friday on the current Saturday service level and service span schedules. Some routes will have additional trips or operate earlier/later than typical Saturday service levels and spans.

We’ve highlighted routes in the northwest metro region here on our COVID-19 resource page and you can find information all routes here.

FlexRide and Access-a-Ride

The RTD team quickly put a plan into action to make sure their Access-a-Ride customers – mostly elderly and those with disabilities – would be able to get groceries delivered. They’ve served approximately 7% of those customers with deliveries – thank you!

All subscription-reserved trips are suspended as of Sunday, April 19 and reservations will be treated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book a trip, customers may call 303-292-6560. Get all the details here.

Keeping Employees and Customers Safe

In order to protect the health of RTD staff and the public, RTD is pursuing certain health precautions during COVID-19. These precautions are a moving target and change quickly, so please visit the RTD website for the most current information.

  • Providing personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, sanitizing wipes, and hand sanitizers as they become available.
  • Rear-door boarding and suspension of fares implemented.
  • Area behind the operators and wheelchair area roped off.
  • Minimizing number of riders on buses and trains – approx. 15 passengers per bus; 20 on larger buses; 30 on trains.
  • If necessary, buses will bypass stops and call for backup if they do not believe social distancing (6-foot spacing) can be maintained.
  • Adding more buses on most popular routes; staging buses in those areas as available; using additional train cars on popular lines.
  • Transit police enforcing Customer Code of Conduct, which prohibits sleeping on vehicles and requires deboarding at end of line or route.

Partners in Safety

This issue is very important to RTD. It’s not solely RTD’s responsibility to keep the public safe, but it’s every rider’s responsibility to keep themselves safe.

  • Passengers should only take essential trips, wear masks while riding transit.
  • Practice proper hand-washing hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette.
  • Don’t board a vehicle if it appears to be full; another bus isn’t far behind.
  • Social distancing is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Public encouraged to use good judgement.

Ongoing RTD Communications and Outreach

RTD is placing prominent, proactive, and timely info on RTD website and temporary signage on all RTD vehicles and facilities in English and Spanish. Daily email updates are being shared with Board members and all RTD staff including daily recorded employee message, and periodic email updates are distributed to customers, elected officials and key stakeholders.

Federal Stimulus Package – CARES Act

Some good news! $232 million is the Denver metro area’s share of a $25 billion relief package for US public transit systems authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress last month.

Ongoing Challenges

  • Continued shortage of masks and some cleaning supplies
  • Riders not respecting social distancing
  • Some people riding the system without deboarding

Watch or listen to the replay here to hear the Q&A session, including EcoPass reimbursements, 16th Street shuttle use, an update on the Northwest Rail Line, and the search for a General Manager.

Thank you to RTD for joining us to discuss these important changes to our region!

What the Community Needs of Transportation During COVID-19

Commuting Solutions is exploring evolving programs and services to best support our community today, during the transition back to workplaces, and in the future.

To learn about what our members and community are experiencing and observing around commuting and transportation during COVID-19, Commuting Solutions hosted our first webinar last week! You can watch the replay here. A few highlights of our discussion include:

Teleworking

As shelter in place orders continue, telework is becoming more acceptable across industries. Local organizations are both creating and updating policies to allow and encourage telework. Employers are looking for tips and tricks on how to thrive and manage team through telework and even sharing mental health suggestions and resources for their employees. Several attendees expressed concern that a possible long-term increase in telework could affect public transit and tolled roadway facilities in the Denver metro region.

Guidance on How to Return to the Workplace

Organizations are also looking for guidance on how to return to workplaces. A few ideas companies are considering:

  • Encouraging those who can telework to continue part-time during and after the transition
  • Establishing certain days of the week for employees to come into the office for in person meetings
  • Moving to 50% of employees in the office at a time
  • Encouraging telework and virtual meetings to minimize physical commutes

The Future of Commuting

The biggest question on people’s minds is how commuting may be permanently altered after the quarantine is over:

  • How might the demand for public transit be altered?
  • What are the exposure and transmission risks on public transit?
  • How can we work to promote biking or walking to school and work?
  • Will more people look to vanpooling and carpooling when its time to transition back?
  • As cities pilot closing streets for vehicles to open the space for walking, biking, etc. , should can we encourage this long-term?

What’s Next?

Commuting Solutions will continue to talk to our members and community to make sure we’re providing timely and useful services during this time.

Click here to watch replays of our recent COVID-19 webinars. We’ll be scheduling more webinars this spring/summer.

A Note From Us During the COVID-19 Pandemic

At Commuting Solutions we’ve taken several steps to make certain our staff, clients and partners remain healthy as we comply with federalstate, regional, and local recommendations for social distancing and health recommendations. We’re committed to doing our part to minimize the spread of the virus. Here’s how we’re managing right now.

Commuting Solutions operations continue with all staff working from home. To contact our team, email is the most efficient way to reach us.

Audrey DeBarros, Executive Director:
audrey@commutingsolutions.org

Julie Esterline, Administrative Assistant:
julie@commutingsolutions.org 

Emily Buzek, Programs & Outreach Specialist:
emily@commutingsolutions.org

Heather Opland, Membership & Events Coordinator: 
heather@commutingsolutions.org

Until further notice, all Commuting Solutions-hosted meetings will go virtual, or have a significant virtual component. Keep an eye on email invitations and our website for details related to specific meetings.

We’ll still be in communication as regularly scheduled, and you’ll see some resourceful and commuter-friendly communications from us as we know that everyone will be plugged in and eager to connect and engage digitally.

In the meantime, we remain committed to our mission, to connect people to places in the northwest metro region today and for the future. We’ll do this in any way we can while following the continually evolving guidelines from our local, state and national leadership, so please let us know how we can help.

Thank you for staying in touch with us. You can reach me personally by replying to this email, and of course stay connected via Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sincerely,

Audrey DeBarros
Executive Director

Kicking Off the 2020 Legislative Session with a BANG

Bringing the Coalition Together

To start the new year and the new decade, Commuting Solutions was joined by a powerhouse lineup of speakers at our 11th Legislative Breakfast to set the tone for the legislative session ahead of us. On January 6, public and private sector stakeholders, elected officials and transportation advocates and businesses gathered at the Aloft Hotel in Broomfield to talk about what we need to do, as a coalition and a region, to make our multimodal vision become a reality, starting with our 2020 transportation priorities.

The State of Transportation in Colorado

The unfortunate reality in our state is that transportation needs to be funded and we can’t agree on how. With the defeat of Proposition 110 and Proposition CC in the past two statewide elections, it’s becoming clear that what’s being done isn’t working so we need to be creative in finding a sustainable funding mechanism. Colorado is currently looking at a list of nearly $9 billion of unfunded transportation projects statewide. Republicans believe that the funding necessary can be found in the General Fund, while the Democrats want to find a dedicated, sustainable funding source for our current and future needs.

In our region alone, we are working to find funding for State Highway 119, State Highway 7, Peak Service Exploration for Northwest Rail and other projects.

If a statewide approach doesn’t start working, it may be necessary to look into regional or local funding sources for transportation. Whether that’s through Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) or Regional Transportation Authorities (RTAs), a regional approach may leave some areas of the state in further disrepair while other region choose to pursue their own funding.

To explore these topics and what lies ahead, we were joined by U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse, Governor Jared Polis, Broomfield Mayor, Pat Quinn, Speaker of the House KC Becker, Senator Faith Winter, Representative Matt Gray, Colorado Energy Office Executive Director Will Toor, RTD General Manager, David Genova, Brue Baukol founder Chad Brue, Senator Rachel Zenzinger and CDOT Executive Director, Shoshana Lew.

Here are a few of the key takeaways from the event.

Moving Forward with 2020 Vision

We have to continue to work together.

From organizations such as the Denver Regional Council of Governments to the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition, we have proved to be a force to be reckoned with when we work together. It was collaboration and persistence that brought the US 36 corridor from being a congested, slow-moving highway to one of the most effective multi-modal corridors in the state that is now being used a model across the nation. It was a resounding message touched on by all the speakers: together we are stronger and we can accomplish anything.

Funding NEEDS to be resolved.

Representative Matt Gray said it best when he said he doesn’t want to come to next year’s Legislative Breakfast with nothing to show or no progress made to address the significant transportation funding gap. In 2020, the biggest enemy we have won’t be the opposition, but if we finish the year without getting something across the finish line. Transportation funding cannot continue to be debated without getting any results. The longer it takes to figure out a solution, the larger the list of unfunded projects will become and the further behind we will fall in keeping our infrastructure in pace with our state’s growth.

Climate change and the environment are an integral part of the conversation.

No matter what funding mechanism we decide on or what innovations we integrate into our infrastructure, it’s all for nothing if we don’t start reducing our emissions and lessening our impact on the environment. Colorado Energy Office Director, Will Toor, discussed the electrification of our transportation and infrastructure, starting with Governor Polis’ zero emissions vehicle mandate from 2019. Transportation has become the largest source of emissions nationally, overtaking electricity. It’ll take a collaborative effort between the state, the auto industry and the general public to electrify transportation, but it can and will be done.

 

Transportation funding, sustainability and our future as a state depends on our ability to work together and continue to be creative around solving the problems in front of us. We have done it before as a region, and we will continue to do it again, until our multimodal vision, established in the Northwest Area Mobility Study, is fully realized and keeping us moving.

How to Ride RTD in the Northwest Metro Region

Have you always wanted to give RTD and its many services a try, but you aren’t sure how to navigate the system? If you didn’t grow up using transit or it’s a not a part of your daily life, it can be intimidating but it doesn’t need to be! Once you understand how the RTD system is laid out and what it will look like to ride, you’ll be a regular transit user. Transit is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to travel around the northwest metro region.

How much does it cost to ride RTD?

RTD’s fares are determined by the fare zones and the length of time the pass is good for. The table below provides a breakdown of the fare structure including the discounted rates for Senior Citizens, individuals with disabilities and Medicare recipients.

How do I choose my fare type?

Depending on how long your trip will take and your needs, there are 3 primary types of fares on RTD: 3-hour pass, day pass or a MyRide card.

A 3-hour pass is good for unlimited trips within a 3-hour window at the same service level on another bus or train. This is replacing the one-way pass and transfer system.

A day pass allows you to take unlimited rides via bus or train all day for the price of a round-trip. Tickets from a ticket book must be inserted into the bus fare box when boarding a bus and will be exchanged by your driver for a printed 3-Hour Pass, if you request one.

A MyRide card is a preloaded fare card that can be used on bus or rail. When you use a MyRide card you get a $0.25 discount on a full price fare or a $0.15 discount on an already discounted fare.

You can also purchase a 10-Ride ticket book for $28 from any RTD sales outlet, RTD’s website or at participating grocery stores in the region.

How do I know if I need a Regional, Local or Airport fare?

Before you purchase your ticket, it is good to know what class of fare you need. If you are going to Denver International Airport via the AB, the AA or the A-Line you will need to purchase an airport fare. If you’re not sure how to tell if your trip is local or regional there are a few helpful hints. A general rule of thumb for RTD routes is that if a route is designated by numbers, it’s local and if it’s designated by letters, it’s regional. For example, the 225 is a local route that services Boulder and Lafayette while the LD connects Longmont to Denver. There are several outliers in the northwest metro region, including the Flatiron Flyer which is regional and the routes in the Boulder Transportation Network: DASH, JUMP, HOP, SKIP and BOUND, which are local.

Another way to determine if your fare should be local or regional is to look at the RTD Zone map and see how many zones you’ll travel through on your trip. As you can see on the map below, there are grey and white rings: each ring is a zone. If you are traveling from a white ring to a grey ring, the trip is local. If you are traveling from a white ring through a grey ring to a second white ring, the trip is regional.

Here is quick breakdown of the fare zones.

Local RTD Fares

  • Rail travel in one or two fare zones
  • Local/limited bus routes
  • Local service on Regional or SkyRide bus routes
  • FlexRide service

Regional

  • Rail travel in three fare zones
  • Regional bus routes
  • SkyRide bus routes

Airport

  • Rail travel to/from in the Airport fare zone (Denver International Airport)
  • SkyRide bus service to DEN

How can I pay for my RTD fare?

You can pay your fare in several different ways. The first is through RTD’s Mobile Ticketing app, which can be downloaded in both the App Store or Google Play. You’ll have to set up an account and payment method in the app. With the RTD Mobile Ticketing app, you can purchase tickets when you need them or buy them in advance and activate the ticket when you’re ready to use it. You can purchase day passes, 3-hour passes and monthly passes using the app.

Follow these 6 easy steps to purchase tickets through the app.

  • Pre-purchase tickets for future use or buy a ticket on the day of travel. (Pre-purchased tickets expire 45 days after purchase even if not activated. Activated tickets expire at 2:59 a.m. the following morning after activation).
  • Select “Buy Ticket”
  • Select ticket type
  • Enter payment info and the pass is delivered instantly
  • Activate your ticket before boarding a bus or train
  • Show to operator and fare inspector

 

You can also purchase tickets at Ticket Vending machines located at every Flatiron Flyer and rail station using cash, debit card or credit card.

You can also pay for your ticket with cash when boarding the bus. You must pay with exact change by inserting the money into the fare box as you board the bus.

How do I use my RTD pass?

Once you’ve purchased your pass, whether it’s a paper ticket, a MyRide card, an EcoPass or a ticket through the RTD Mobile Ticketing app, you’ll need to prove to the driver that you’ve paid your fare.

10-Ride Ticket book

Tickets from a ticket book must be inserted into the bus fare box when boarding a bus and will be exchanged by your driver for a printed 3-Hour Pass, if you request one. If you are riding the train, use a ticket validator to validate your fare before you board, otherwise it will not be considered a valid fare payment.

Pass

Clearly show your pass to the driver as you board, whether it is in your mobile ticket wallet or a paper ticket.

Smart Card

Tap your Smart Card on the Smart Card reader next to the driver. If you need to downgrade your fare from the route’s default fare level, let the driver know before you tap. Smart Cards include the MyRide card, EcoPasses, FlexPasses, CollegePasses, the LiVE Pass and Neighborhood EcoPasses.

How do I plan a trip using RTD?

There are multiple ways you can plan your trip using RTD. There is the RTD Trip Planner as well as schedules available on RTD-Denver.com. Using the RTD Trip Planner, you can input your starting location, your end destination as well as travel preferences.

If you need more individualized help with planning your trip, call one of RTD’s skilled Customer Service Representative who can help you plan your trip start to finish. You can reach Customer Care at 303.299.6000.

Thanks to innovative partnerships with Lyft and Uber, you can now plan a multimodal transit trip including rideshare services within the Lyft and Uber apps.

There are also other smartphone apps to help you plan your trip, such as Transit, TripGo and Google Maps.

Make RTD Part of Your Daily Commute

Navigating the Denver Metro region with RTD is easy and will give you time back in your day. Instead of driving on your own, you can let RTD do the driving while you read, listen to a new podcast or pick up a new hobby like knitting or crosswords. RTD has services to connect everybody where they need to go, whether it’s local bus routes, the Flatiron Flyer, the University of Colorado A-Line to Denver International Airport or FlexRide.

If you have any questions or need help planning your next trip on RTD, reach out to our team at Commuting Solutions at info@commutingsolutions.org. We’re more than happy to help get you going with RTD and taking advantage of all it has to offer.

State Highway 119: Our Next Regional Priority

RTD Bolt service on SH 119State Highway 119 is going to be seeing a lot of change in the coming years. The goal is to transform it into a multimodal corridor, similar to US 36, with a managed lane, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and a corridor-wide bikeway in order to help ease congestion and make traveling along the corridor more efficient and enjoyable for all who use it.

Who is part of the State Highway 119 Coalition?

The State Highway 119 Coalition is comprised of the City of Boulder, the City of Longmont, Boulder County and Commuting Solutions. Also involved in the planning and process is the Regional Transit District (RTD), the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) and the local area chambers.

The SH 119 Coalition provides a political forum to coordinate and to advocate for the local and regional planning and implementation of multi-modal transportation improvements connecting Boulder and Longmont and serving regional and inter-regional travel needs for today and into the future.

Photo of traffic along SH 119What is State Highway 119?

State Highway 119, better known as the Diagonal, is the primary corridor that connects Boulder to Longmont. The highway in its entirety stretches from Clear Creek Canyon between Golden and Idaho Springs to I-25 in Longmont: 63.7 miles. The portion between Boulder and Longmont is roughly 20-miles long and is the focus of the coming changes. Currently the primary ways to travel along State Highway 119 between Longmont and Boulder are driving, riding the BOLT or J bus services operated by RTD and cycling along the LoBo trail.

Why does State Highway 119 needs these changes?

Traffic along a corridorCurrently over 45,000 vehicles travel daily along SH 119 and that is only going to increase with the region’s increasing population. By 2040, it is predicted that traffic along the corridor will increase by 25 percent. That would increase the number of vehicles traveling the corridor daily to almost 57,000. And that’s just an estimate.

Currently, State Highway 119 has four-foot shoulder for cyclists to use to travel the corridor, but they are next to high speed lanes of traffic and the majority of cyclists do not feel safe traveling the corridor. Plans have been developed for a commuter bikeway, similar to the US 36 Bikeway, with the aim of providing a safe and efficient multiuse facility along SH 119 that interfaces with the proposed BRT improvements and enhances bicycle and pedestrian usage in the corridor.

Northwest Area Mobility Study Map 2019In 2016, the Northwest Area Mobility Study was completed to address the significant cost increases and delays associated with building and operating the 41-mile Northwest Rail commuter rail line from Longmont to Denver, which is now projected to be completed by 2045. The study concluded with elected officials, RTD, CDOT and 13 area jurisdictions and agencies reaching consensus on transit priorities in the region in interim of rail coming to our region: the highest of which is implementing BRT on State Highway 119.

In addition, RTD recently conducted a Bus Rapid Transit Feasibility Study. State Highway 119 was identified as one of their top priority projects and an ideal corridor for Bus Rapid Transit.

What is the vision for State Highway 119?

Future SH 119 improved corridor section diagram/graphic depictionThe vision for State Highway 119 borrows from the success of US 36 and aims to replicate a similar model for the corridor. The highway would be expanded to add a Managed/Express Lane in each direction for BRT, High Occupancy Vehicles and vehicles paying a toll, in addition to the already existing general purpose lanes. The multimodal improvements would also include the construction of a paved bikeway along the entire corridor to make it accessible and safe for cyclists.

More specifically, the plan is to implement BRT using managed lanes. BRT and managed lanes will provide:

  • Highest travel time savings: 37-minute travel time (29 minutes saved in comparison to the BOLT)
  • Best transit service reliability
  • Higher transit ridership
  • Greatest number of travel options and benefits for all users: vehicles, transit, carpool, express tolls, and bicyclists while reducing congestion. 7,620 – 7,640 people traveling through the corridor per day – a 33% increase compared to the existing corridor
  • Improvements can be phased over time as funding becomes available

Why does State Highway 119 need Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

Bringing BRT to State Highway 119 is going to reduce traffic congestion and make the corridor faster for everybody to travel. It is projected that travel times will be cut in half by those who use BRT and the Express lanes along the corridor when the project is completed, compared to those driving solo.

In a recent interview with Colorado Public Radio, CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew, praised the US 36 project and the success of BRT along the corridor.

US 36 Multimodal Corridor graphic depiction“The U.S. 36 corridor between Denver and Boulder was a CDOT expansion project in a public-private partnership. One of the great innovations of that project is that the managed lane both helps with demand management, which helps from a congestion perspective, and it also provides a really efficient bus route. The Flatiron Flyer is, by the accounts of all who take it, one of the most efficient bus experiences in Colorado. And part of that is because we used our capacity expansion project to create a more efficient bus route. That’s an opportunity that exists in many highway projects.”

The State Highway 119 project hopes to replicate the success of the US 36 corridor and move people more efficiently between Boulder and Longmont.

And what is Bus Rapid Transit exactly?Bus Rapid Transit station diagram

Bus rapid transit (BRT) service is high-frequency bus service that emulates rail transit, and provides fast and reliable service on a dedicated route.  In addition to high-frequency, fast and reliable service, the BRT system along SH 119 will include:

  • Managed lanes for BRT to use for expedited travel times
  • High-quality stations: Stations that accessible for persons with disabilities, offer shelter from inclement weather and provide up-to-date information on schedules and routes.
  • Branding: Consistent branding that identifies the stations and transit vehicles.
  • Technology: Streamlining fare collection, transit priority, etc.
  • Vehicles that offer rapid boarding and alighting

What will the bikeway look like?

A large component of turning State Highway 119 into a multi-modal corridor is to add a bikeway, similar to the US 36 Bikeway. It will be a continuous, paved path that connects Boulder and Longmont. The plans for the bikeway are in the initial phase of design, but as more funding is identified, they will be able to further the plans. During 2020, Boulder County and CDOT are proceeding to take the corridor bikeway to a higher level of engineering and design to further define the alignment.

Now for the big question, who’s paying for the project?

Graphic with the funding breakdown for the SH 119 project

The total cost of this project is an estimated $250 million including construction of managed lanes, Bus Rapid Transit and the corridor bikeway.

Currently $93 million in funding has been secured for project: $30 million from RTD, $13 million through the Denver Regional Council of Governments, $9 million from CDOT and $1.15 million in local matching. At the end of 2019, CDOT awarded the State Highway 119 an additional $40 million from the funding made available through SB-267.

The State Highway 119 Coalition is continuing looking into funding mechanisms for the project including federal grants, CDOT grants and other innovative funding solutions.

What’s Coming in 2020?

In 2020, the SH 119 Coalition is going to continue with identifying additional funding for the project. There is roughly $160 million in funding that has yet to be secured. Early in the year, they will be applying for a federal BUILD grant to secure funding for improvements to the intersection at SH 119 and Hover in Longmont. BUILD is an acronym for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development and planning and capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure and are to be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact. BUILD funding can support roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation.

As more funding for the project is identified, CDOT and partners will be able to further develop plans and designs for the corridor. In March, the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition will go on their annual advocacy trip to Washington D.C. to learn about possible funding opportunities for the project. They will be able to leverage the $40 million they received from CDOT at the end of 2019.

A Note from the Speaker of the House: Vote Yes on Proposition CC

KC Becker is the 39th and current Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives since 2019. She has represented the state’s 13th district since 2013. Prior to her legislative service, she served on the Boulder City Council, where she was the council’s representative on the Boulder Urban Renewal Authority and was the city’s representative to the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). Becker was elected to the Boulder City Council in 2009. 

 

View of Colorado US 36As a Boulder resident who works in Denver, I’ve driven, carpooled, vanpooled, bussed and biked U.S. 36 more times than I can remember. I’ll never lose that sense of wonder when I head home over Davidson Mesa and catch a glimpse of the Indian Peaks looming over the Flatirons.

But looming even larger over the Front Range is a local crisis that’s unfolding as a national embarrassment: the best economy in the country–the envy of other states–saddled with $9 billion in transportation needs, all without a dedicated funding source (see: no plan for the future). We’re one of the worst states in road conditions and urban congestion, adding up to over $2300 per year per person in car repairs and lost time.

It started almost 30 years ago with a narrow vote on a ballot measure called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which is the most restrictive state spending limits in the country. Almost every business, academic and public sector leader will tell you: forcing the state to uphold this antiquated law and refund taxes to individuals over an arbitrary limit may be good politics, but it’s awful policy. No matter how much money the state collects from things like corporate tax and tourism revenue, it can’t invest much of it in basic services.

We make our communities feel the brunt of the bad times without the benefit of the good times.

Because of this irrational cap on spending, these forced rebates will average $37 per person next year. Don’t get me wrong, for a lot of Coloradans that’s a lot of money—a tank of gas, a few days of groceries, two weeks of diapers, a date night.

But proposition CC is asking voters to pool this money to the tune of $309 million for the state next year, and likely more in years to follow. With one vote we can use our temporary refunds to untangle our broken tax code and invest the money the state already collects in three specific areas: transportation, K-12 Education and Higher Education. That’s $103 million for transportation and transit needs,$103 million for schools and $103 million for higher ed.

These refunds may be $37 for the average Coloradan, but they’re a windfall for the wealthiest — closer to $1000, reimbursing them more for just having more money.

If we can allow the state to invest this money it already collects, without raising taxes, we can invest these one-off refunds into the long-term health of the state.

Under Proposition CC, 40% of the new money for transportation will go straight to local and county governments. Places like Louisville, Broomfield, Boulder and the whole Front Range corridor will be able to identify and invest in their specific transportation priorities. The other 60% will go to the embarrassingly underfunded state transit fund.

We can, as Commuting Solutions says, create “transportation options that connect commuters to their workplaces, businesses to their employees, and residents to their communities.”

Proposition CC won’t eliminate Colorado’s budget woes, but it’s a great step forward–without raising taxes. And it’s exactly what conservatives have been asking us to do for decades: act within the limits of TABOR and invest in our needs with the money we already have.

Proposition CC is a defining moment for Colorado’s future. We can reduce congestion, improve our schools and keep our economy firing on all cylinders, simply by allowing state and local governments to keep and invest the money it already collects.

I’d be grateful for your support. Together, we can do better–for our kids, our schools and our transit. Together, we can invest in Colorado’s future!

Visit yesonpropcc.com to learn more.

Out and About: Summer 2019

With this beautiful, warm Colorado summer, the Commuting Solutions team is always eager to get out from behind our desks and spend time at events around the region. From farmers markets to office trail clean-ups to RTD Rider Appreciation – our summer is filled with opportunities to connect with communities throughout the northwest metro region.

With fall right around the corner, we wanted to say farewell to summer by sharing some of our favorite memories from the past few months and give a sneak peek at what is on the horizon for Commuting Solutions!

RTD Rider Appreciation Events

From early mornings to evenings after work, we celebrated all our transit riders that have chosen a stress-free commute through our RTD Rider Appreciation events!

RTD Rider Appreciation events not only help us show our transit riders how much we care, but also provide an opportunity for our bus riders to meet their local RTD representatives and share feedback on their transit trips. So far, we have hosted one RTD Rider Appreciation events, passed out over 350 snacks, connected with over 400 commuters and have had countless positive conversations.

We aren’t done with RTD Rider Appreciation events! Don’t miss one of our two remaining events at an RTD station near you! We’ll be at Westminster Station on Tuesday, August 27 from 7:00-8:30 and US 36 & Broomfield Station on Tuesday, September 10 from 4-5:30 p.m.

Community Events

Summer is always our outreach season and 2019 has been no different! We’ve been everywhere across the northwest metro region from the Erie Farmers Market to Rhythm on the River in Longmont and National Night Out in Broomfield. And we still have more places to go!

 

 

 

Coming up, you can find the Commuting Solutions team at Broomfield Days, Superior Chili Fest, Longmont’s Unity in the Community and more. We always love spending time out in the community, providing maps, resources and guidance on how to commute around the region.

Sponsorship

Commuting Solutions is excited to share that we currently have sponsorship opportunities available for 2020! Why should your organization consider a Commuting Solutions Sponsorship?

  • You’ll be recognized as a leader in the transportation conversation and a champion for providing commuter options to the northwest metro region
  • Our sponsors receive premium brand exposure at all of our 2020 Signature events – allowing them to reach a larger audience
  • Gain exclusive access to industry experts, elected officials and local thought leaders

To learn more about our Sponsorship opportunities click here..

Quarterly Membership Meeting

Join us on September 17 from 7:15 – 9:00 AM at the 1st BANK Center for our upcoming Membership Meeting. Transportation experts and business leaders will share an inside look at what the future holds for transportation in the northwest metro region.

Our quarterly Membership Meetings provide a unique opportunity for stakeholders from across the northwest metro region to connect and learn more about initiatives that will continue to increase the economic vitality and commute options of our region.

Register today!

Thank you to our community members, partners, and commuters that made this summer one for the books! Keep an eye out for us this fall at community events and stay tuned for information on about exciting new programs that are underway.