Their names may not often make headlines, but their power as catalysts for transformational work is indisputable. Meet six individuals who are crafting innovative solutions to our community’s most pressing social, educational, cultural, and civic needs.
Co-founder, Denver Living Streets Director of Policy and Planning, Denver Department of Public Works
We’ve all been there: creeping along in a line of cars behind a cyclist because there’s not enough room to go around; cursing the buses that disrupt traffic flow; wondering what genius planned this particular roadway. Crissy Fanganello knows those frustrations as well as anyone: The 41-year-old has spent the last 12 years working in transportation planning, from FasTracks consulting to her current gig as Denver’s chief public works strategist. Time and again, she wrestles with how to improve city corridors so they’re functional for all users—bus/rail riders, cyclists, pedestrians, and, yes, drivers. The need becomes more critical by the day. The demand we place on our roads every time we head to the store, visit a friend, or commute to work will exceed our roads’ capabilities by 2015, according to Denver’s official Strategic Transportation Plan.
Thanks to Fanganello’s vision and a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hopefully we’ll never reach that point. In 2007, Fanganello used the grant—roughly $80,000 worth of technical assistance, including consultants and urban planners—to pull together eight city agencies and launch Denver Living Streets, an initiative that re-envisions the existing layout of Denver’s roadways to move people around the city more efficiently. The idea: Create bike lanes, rethink traffic direction, widen sidewalks, and improve street-side property to revitalize our roads and commercial neighborhoods. If commuters considered walking, biking, or mass transit instead of driving, the likelihood of visiting businesses along the way (read: economic growth) increases.
Already, corridors like West Florida Avenue have been renovated with what Fanganello refers to as “road diets,” which can include things like repaving and restriping the lanes to change the way vehicles move on the street. In this case, West Florida went from four lanes (two in each direction), to one lane in each direction, bike lanes, and a center turn lane. Both Federal Boulevard (the second-most-traveled RTD route in the city) and 14th Street downtown are being transformed to improve user friendliness using techniques such as sidewalk improvements, strategically placed crosswalks, and tree-planted medians. And Colfax Avenue is undergoing ongoing streetcar feasibility studies to determine if and how a streetcar might contribute to a more seamless public-transit schedule for an RTD route that sees 22,500 people a day.
Fanganello is bracing for the future. Drivers, she says, are attached to their vehicles and their routines; too many people cling to the idea that public transportation isn’t accessible, or that biking is too much of a hassle. “Everything from here on out will come with a trade-off,” she says, “like stripping away street parking. Those are challenging conversations to have. Our mentality is part of it. Socially, we still have a lot to overcome.”