Ah, traffic. There’s almost nothing people love to hate as much. It seems like such a simple problem, but there are rarely any easy solutions. While cities across the U.S. regularly struggle with how to most effectively move people around, Colorado (and Denver in particular) has found itself far behind these days due to rapid population growth. Our transportation planners do their best to make improvements to our roads and highways on a regular basis, but the fact of the matter is that infrastructure improvements take lots of time and lots of money, and we seem to be starved for both these days.
That said, all hope is not lost. There are a wide variety of innovative options coming out in recent years that can help. But at the same time, managing these options can be an enormous challenge for local communities. We discuss a few of these ideas and offer a few thoughts on ways that local planners can plan for the future effectively.
- With traffic congestion becoming more and more of a problem in cities, bicycling can be an effective option to get people out of cars. Corona regularly works with PeopleForBikes to understand the barriers that prevent people from bicycling more often. Our work regularly suggests that, in order for people to feel comfortable riding a bike around a city, it’s important for it to be convenient and for them to feel safe riding. That means that cities who want to increase bicycling need to consider adding bicycle-friendly trails, dedicated bicycling lanes on convenient roads, options for storing bicycles near work and retail locations, and more.
- Ride sharing is another major trend that cities are experimenting with in recent years. While people typically think of ride sharing in terms of taxi alternatives like Uber and Lyft, similar offerings are available for bicycles and even scooters as well. Denver’s B-Cycle program allows people to “rent” a bicycle and return it at convenient locations around town, while new offerings from companies like Lime allow people to do the same with even fewer restrictions on where bicycles can be picked up and returned. Lime, along with companies like Bird, also allows people to rent electric-powered scooters to travel between locations that are relatively close together.
- The above options are relatively simple ways to reduce congestion, but those options alone often won’t make a dramatic impact on traffic. Sometimes you have to get even more people out of cars, and that often involves increasing the use of public transit. But, like most problems facing communities, that’s easier said than done. Mile High Connects is working to improve the quality of life for residents of Metro Denver through access to public transit (among other services), and our work with them helped us to understand that, similar to increasing the use of bicycling, increasing the use of transit requires that it’s easy for people to access transit at their points of origination and destination, that the costs aren’t so high as to be prohibitive, and that it’s easy for people to understand how to get to their destination.
- If all else fails, sometimes the only option is to improve streets and highways to accommodate a higher volume of traffic. However, these projects can sometimes be very disruptive to those who use the areas being improved, so it’s often important to understand the needs of users before, during, and after the project. Corona has recently worked with Communication Infrastructure Group and CDOT, for example, to understand perceptions of the Central 70 project in Denver, which will drastically change how the stretch of I-70 in central Denver operates.
The challenge with all of these options is balancing the sometimes-conflicting needs of these various options for getting around, and that often requires understanding the needs of your community and preferences of residents for prioritizing these options. For example, adding bike lanes may prevent the expansion of roads for cars, adding more scooters may add congestion to bike lanes, and making an improvement to the roads in one areas may mean there isn’t enough budget to make improvements in other areas. Corona regularly works with communities to evaluate residents’ needs and to determine the best course of action to meet those needs. If you’re struggling with understanding how to best help a rapidly-growing population move around your community, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d be glad to help you plot an optimal course forward.