Rant & Rave: The Circulator is Both Necessary and Shortsighted

May 31 2013, 9:48 AM

Rave: The Circulator Adds a Welcome Option To Getting Around Downtown...

On Thursday, the RTD board approved a new free shuttle that will run between Union Station and the Civic Center. Intended as an alternative to the increasingly crowded 16th Street Mall shuttle, the buses will travel from the renovated train terminal along 19th Street, ending up at 16th and Broadway. The buses will return to the depot along Lincoln and 18th streets. The Circulator will begin in 2014 as a rush-hour service before expanding to day-long availability, and the route will eventually expand to culminate near the Denver Art Museum.

This will be a great addition for downtown commuters that might make it easier for them to leave their cars at home while also making the commuter crush a little less hectic. (Full disclosure: As someone who works in LoDo and is about to move to the Golden Triangle neighborhood, yours truly considers this development to be damn close to ideal.) 

That said...

Rant: ...Would the Money Be Better Spent Elsewhere?

Thursday's board meeting grew a little contentious when Tom Grushka, a legally blind Denverite who runs the public transit advocacy blog, RTD Watch, made his opposition to the Circulator known. Grushka has long contended that the shuttle's $830,000 annual price tag should be devoted to more transit for the blind and other disabled citizens. Other opponents have questioned whether these funds should be spent on providing RTD to underserved parts of Denver, particularly on the west side of town.

As tough as it might be to complain about a free ride, the naysayers have a point. Public transportation mostly benefits those who can't afford other ways to traverse the city, and the new shuttle's proposed route primarily will serve office workers who take suburban trains and the Light Rail to and from work. But it's not like the walk from Civic Center to Union Station is particularly grueling to begin with, and you could also make the case that a real "Circulator" would actually circle downtown, say, along 14th Street rather than 19th.

Although it's heartening to see our city trying to improve our mobility options, particularly with anything that will thin auto traffic in our increasingly dense surroundings, we need to keep making sure that these projects will benefit the maximum number of people—especially those who need them most.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.