There once was a time when looking for a parking spot in neighborhoods like Globeville, Five Points, Cole and Elyria/Swansea didn't bring on tears and hand-wringing. But as millennials and their apartment buildings, restaurants and bars came in, pushing out families and repurposing the area's many warehouses, so did the traffic woes.
According to a new study commissioned by the RiNo Art District, more paid and time-restricted parking spots and more bus stops could help ease congestion in the area, and building out the area's patchy sidewalk network would make life easier for pedestrians.
Released on October 2, the Mobility Study Action Plan is designed to "guide RiNo's objectives and advocacy with regard to transportation infrastructure and transit." And the plans's first step, says RiNo Art District Project Director John Deffenbaugh, is gathering data on commuters and sharing the information with "partners," including the city and Regional Transportation District, to find ways to implement — and finance — changes.
"The purpose of this document is to give us in the district a consolidated view of what we’d like to direct that collaboration toward the benefit of," Deffenbaugh says.
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The study lays out eyebrow-raising statistics about an area whose population has definitely outgrown its transit infrastructure. About 20,050 people are now employed in RiNo but don't live in the area; only 476 people employed there actually live in the district. An Uber or Lyft stops near the intersection of Larimer and 27th streets an average of every 88 seconds on Fridays. And while there are 18,078 parking spaces, 71 percent are restricted from the public.
Parking aside, one of the more glaring problems for commuters in RiNo, and a priority identified in the study, is its incongruous public transit network. The study calls the area "transit-adjacent," in that it's near public transportation, like RTD's A-Line and the future N-Line, but not transit-oriented, because it lacks continual and high-frequency service.
The study recommends the RiNo enhancements laid out in Denver Moves, the plan the city will use to guide overall transportation improvements and additions, such as designating certain "transit priority streets." Major thoroughfares that cut through RiNo, such as Brighton Boulevard, Martin Luther King Boulevard and Broadway, will be designated as "medium capacity transit corridors," meaning they'll see buses more often. But the study also suggests implementing a "RiNo Circulator," which would operate like the 16th Street MallRide. The free buses would loop between RiNo, Union Station and downtown.
The study recommends implementing certain "parking management measures," as well, such as paid parking in the area bounded by Larimer Street, Broadway, the railroad tracks and Downing Street, two-hour restrictions and opening more parking garages to the public. Pricing for spots would depend on demand.
"It's about putting together a package of proposals that maximizes availability through parking restrictions," Deffenbaugh says. "It's all grounded in the fact that this is for the benefit of all in RiNo. For residents, businesses; it's not about taking from one or giving to the other."
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According to Deffenbaugh, none of the proposals will include price tags until at least partnerships have been established, and he's mum on how much the study cost. "We're working with the city to find out how and when we start to move this forward," he adds.
The district has yet to work with its city council representative, Candi CdeBaca, on the plan. "We're absolutely keen to engage her," he says. (CdeBaca has not yet responded to our request for comment.)
The study would likely be considered by Mayor Michael Hancock's proposed Department of Transportation and Infrastructure; Denver residents will vote on whether to establish that department next month. In the meantime, Deffenbaugh says that the district is being proactive about responding to the transit complaints it frequently hears from residents and visitors alike.
"We get comments and complaints from residents and people who work in the district about new people, about why do sidewalks stop or why are there so few stop signs," he says. "This document is a response to a real need which we hear about every day. We're looking forward to taking it forward."