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The Commuter Chronicles: Denver Transportation Past, Present, and Future

From stalled traffic to bike infrastructure, we look at how Denver moves and how we can improve the complicated transportation network.

Denver’s Union Station. Photo courtesy of Visit Denver

For a minute, let’s pretend it is early February. Each weekday, your slog to work—whether by bus, bike, car, or foot—seems to be getting worse. Errands that once took 15 minutes now take 30. Parking is expensive and scarce. Public transportation is unreliable and frequency is decreasing. I-70 is a quagmire thanks to the Central 70 Project attempting to bury the roadway. You’re probably using more and more rideshares. And, on those abnormally warm days that hinted at spring, the scooters are back and you dust off your two-wheeler to try out newly painted bike lanes even though it has been a deadly series of years for riders.

But it’s actually April, which means that the majority of the Denver metro area is under stay-at-home orders and you might even be a little nostalgic for some traffic. We’re with you. In the midst of this new experience, we couldn’t help but look ahead. At the very least we wanted to take stock of where we’re at. Because while our day-to-day normal has changed, the overarching problems with Denver’s infrastructure have not.

So, what exactly has gone wrong? In some ways, we’re making progress and tough decisions about how to turn our streets into multimodal corridors. But it doesn’t feel like progress when you’re halted in traffic, bumping over potholes, or just trying to find a safe way to bike or walk around town. Often, conversations about transportation—like politics—tend to focus on who you support. You’re a driver. You’re a cyclist. You’re a public transit supporter. But the fact is, many of us are probably all of those things.

We might drive our car to work and the grocery store, but our kids take the bus to school, we take commuter rail to the airport, we cruise Denver’s bike paths, we walk around our neighborhoods. As the city starts to move robustly (and safely) again, we wanted to look at transportation and commuting in Denver’s network with one assumption: We’re in this together. Then, we wanted to know more. How did we get here? What went wrong? What would it take to fix things, and—importantly—what’s the path forward? Here’s what we found.

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