From the week of February 26, 2009
Alan Prendergast's excellent piece on Denver traffic both disturbed and excited me. I wish there was a central hub to control all the intersections in the metro area instead of the hodgepodge of jurisdictions now in place. Imagine how much more smoothly traffic could flow if all major intersections in the metro area were controlled by a central authority instead of the perceived local autonomy (and turf wars) of the various local governments.
Next, I would like to know who in hell is Randal O'Toole and why does he hate Denver? I googled Mr. O'Toole, and I don't like what I found. This guy is a policy wonk of the worst stripe. He apparently is against "smart growth" policies. So he must be in favor of "stupid growth" policies, where developers and builders are allowed to set policy in collusion with urban planners, running amok and destroying neighborhoods. He professes to be the Anti-Planner. For Christ's sweet sake, don't we have enough anti-planners on the town boards and planning commissions in the area as it is?
On one point I might agree with the Independence Institute. Why did RTD build three light-rail lines to the south and east? RTD should have built one line to the Tech Center, and the other two lines should have been built to Golden and to DIA. Maybe then Denver light rail would have a few more riders per car. And FasTracks would be on track.
I do have a solution. Let's take a few of those beetle-infested tree trunks and put them to good use. Why don't we use the tree trunks as rails and show Mr. O'Toole, Jon Caldara, Dick Wadhams, Josh Penry, Dave Schultheis and the rest of Colorado's disaffected right another meaning for "light rail"?
James G. Ayling
I just finished reading Alan Prendergast's "Crush Hour," probably the best article in the paper in several years. Very balanced.
I have a BS and MS in civil engineering from MIT longer ago than I care to remember, and worked for the Colorado Department of Highways back in 1960 as one of their first computer programmers. So I know from whence I speak.
There was one big gap in your article: any mention of skyrocketing parking fees downtown. If you go downtown for less than two hours, it is relatively cheap — just $2 for two hours — and fairly easy to find a spot within several blocks of where you want to go. The 121st minute costs $8 at most lots, and it can go up quickly from there. That is an encouragement to use RTD. And parking will probably get a lot tighter in coming years as surface lots disappear and are replaced by building cranes.
It was interesting reading about Henry Barnes and his work on implementing synchronized traffic signals. I don't know when he left Denver, but it seems like no one has done any follow-up work in this area in decades, considering the computer technology available today for simulating traffic and optimizing traffic signals. The traffic management center is a frequently used technology around the world, but others are doing a much better job optimizing traffic flow than we are. Let's cut down the time vehicles spend waiting for lights to change, especially in light traffic situations.
This was an interesting article, but I would have liked more practical analysis of the plan rather than Randall O'Toole's totally ideological objections. I mean, we get it: He doesn't like public transportation, socialism, blah blah blah. What do drivers think? Other politicians? Is it realistic to expect people who live in the exurbs to take public transportation, or does it just make sense to focus on people who live in denser areas?
As a former Washington, D.C., resident, Denver seems like a bike paradise to me — a lot more bike lanes and enough bikers that cars seem decently considerate.
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