If you live in Boulder, you’ve almost certainly noticed the construction along US-36 — aka the Boulder-Denver Turnpike. The main thing that’s being built here is one new lane in each direction. However, it’s not your average road-widening project. Usually when additional capacity is added, it’s rapidly consumed by induced demand. Instead, the two new lanes are going to be special managed lanes. What does that mean?
These new lanes are going to be optimized for mass transit, in this case buses. It won’t quite be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), in which the lanes are used exclusively by buses, passengers pay on the platform, and board like you would on a subway or light-rail line. The US 36 system will be somewhere between that and the express service that we’ve got now. Even at peak hours, when buses are departing every 3-5 minutes, there will still be a significant amount of spare capacity in the managed lanes. This capacity will be made available to high occupancy vehicles, and those that are willing to pay a toll. There may also be a number of permits issued for electric vehicles, though how that would work remains to be determined. The toll value, the number of passengers required to be considered “high occupancy” and the number of EV permits that might be issued will all be managed to ensure that the buses go at least 50 miles per hour. The two general purpose travel lanes in each direction will remain free to everyone.
There’s still political wrangling to be done and funding to be found, but with a little luck we’ll see something resembling Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) coming to the US 36 corridor Real Soon Now. I think this is great, and will make very efficient use of the infrastructure, and limited tax dollars that we’ve got to spend from the FasTracks fund, but it does pose an issue for those of us who like to combine the regional express buses with bicycle-based last-mile connections. In the current RTD system, the regional buses have a huge amount of bicycle carrying capacity. There are two racks on the front, as with nearly all RTD buses, but the cargo bays underneath can easily accommodate another dozen bikes. Lots of the features that make BRT significantly better than normal buses also make them difficult to integrate with our current practice of taking our bikes along with us on the bus. See the Transmilenio system in Bogotá as an example:
I’ve been biking along the Goose Creek bike path a lot over the last few months. Boulder Aikikai is out there, and so is Community Cycles, and I’ll go for a short triangular on the Boulder Creek path, 13th St. and Goose Creek when I just need to get out in the sun for a little while. Throughout the summer I was repeatedly reminded that there’s no good way to get from the path up to the east side of 30th St, and crossing 30th kind of sucks, especially when there’s any traffic. A couple of times I went so far as to go under it and the nearby railroad tracks, and then up into the parking lot, and back over the railroad tracks and through another parking lot. I’m sure this involved trespassing. And I wasn’t the only one doing it either, there was a trail worn in the grass and the gravel.
So I was stoked to hear that a ramp connecting Goose Creek to the east side of 30th was in the works, and this fall the heavy equipment came out and started making it a reality. I’ve been taking pictures as it progresses:
First annual Letter from the Gates Foundation – I hate Microsoft, but in the great American tradition of evil corporate fortunes being given back to good causes, the Gates Foundation works on some difficult, important, and interesting problems. I've been curious exactly how and why their focus on population has faded away over the last few years. Not sure this letter (suggested by and modeled after Warren Buffet… who doubled their endowment last year) really answers that question. I get the feeling that the change is partly for PR reasons – that they remain focused on the issue, but don't think it's really productive to make that statement prominently. (tagged: philanthropyhealthmicrosoftbillgatespopulation )
Bill Gates unplugged – Talked about two problems: malaria, and lousy teaching in America. Not so interested in Malaria (we know what we need to do, we just don't really care… and if all it does is increase human population, is that really a success?), but our inability to make teaching work well reliably is really annoying… (tagged: educationtedteachingschoolsbillgates )
Till Children Do Us Part – Yeah, having kids can keep you together… out of obligation, or desperation if you're an unemployable 50s housewife. But jeez, who ever thought they actually help a marriage? (tagged: childrenmarriagelove )
Dumping the Refrigerator for a Greener Planet – Well of course I *could* do without a fridge if I wanted to, but why not just get a super-efficient one, or understand better what *actually* needs refrigerated, or design a fridge that takes advantage of the outside temperature for condensing or evaporating coolant, or build an insulated north-facing root cellar into your earth-sheltered house, or use a zeer evaporative fridge, etc. Story seems a little one dimensional. (tagged: refrigeratorenergysustainabilitygreenenvironmentefficiency )
I had the pleasure yesterday of riding my bike 19 miles from Lakewood to downtown Denver almost exclusively on cycling paths, all the way to Union Station, where I intended to catch a BX up to Boulder. I understand you are in the process of re-developing the old rail station to be a major multi-modal transit hub for the city, with a great deal of high density mixed use transit oriented development in the vicinity. So far, it looks absolutely great, and I applaud you for working with the city and developers to continue central Denver’s urbanization in an intelligent way, and make long term investments in non-automotive transportation infrastructure for the region. I am considering re-locating to the Denver area from Southern California when I finish my PhD, to work at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, and the region’s excellent transit system is one of the reasons. I prefer not to own a car or drive, for economic, fitness, and environmental reasons, and having high density mixed use developments and effective multi-modal transit options makes living without a car much more pleasant and convenient.