Friday, December 29, 2006

Transit Space Race Profile: Denver

I've always liked Denver. The idea of the Rocky Mountains was cool and when i spent a summer in Boulder just northwest of Denver i was sold on the region. So it came as no surprise that after issues with drinking water and many other environmental issues had forced the region to be conscious about their surroundings that they would buck up and give money to the cause of sustainable mobility. This program was called Fastracks and is really what started me thinking about the TSR (Transit Space Race).

While Portland was doing some good things, Washington has been creeping in and the Big 6 (New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay and the LA-San Diego Metro Regions) creating mobility options for their cities there was a small groundswell of progressive thinking in smaller regions that led to the beginning of a reverse to what we now call the transit holocaust. While the GM Conspiracy or Idea of Conspiracy was part of this, the reality is that American's really believed that the automobile and buses were far superior to the rail lines of yesteryear. We know now that it's not quite true and that multimodalism is the way to go, especially since traffic is tying up our freeways and we are running out of room, at the same time automobiles are not as friendly to the family pocketbook as mass transit.

This groundswell led to an explosion led by Denver's efforts to massively fund transit for the region and build it fast. Now 119 new miles of rail will be built and the TOD department is going crazy trying to build out the station areas to reign in the population growth that the state will experience. The plan is to raise $4.7 Billion dollars(Local and Federal) for transit lines and have them built by 2012. It's only less than half a cent raise in the sales tax! This boost specific to infrastructure alone is unheard of anywhere else in the country and gets us to start thinking about how all of these lines might be funded in other places. It also lays the ground work for a possible program that the Federal government could promote to boost transit around the country. If conducted properly. This could be the best way to invest ever. With transit oriented development being the number one real estate product and people wanting to locate in 24 hour neighborhoods, its no doubt that this public and private investment will explode in the next few years and some progressive thinking congressman should jump on.

That gets me thinking, what if we spent the money from the Iraq War on transit...well that's another post entirely. Congrats to Denver on this monumental investment in their future and hopefully other cities in or out of the TSR will jump in whole hog.

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