To become more walkable and to address a crucial first/last mile connection problem across the city, Denver should assume responsibility for sidewalk construction and maintenance, and should establish a dedicated funding source for this purpose – a position that INC has supported since 2006, and recently reaffirmed in the INC Transportation Platform. WalkDenver is helping Denver Public Works and City Council by providing examples of the various ways other cities fund sidewalks.
I’ve discussed this idea with many of my clients and friends. I think Denver’s future is being a city where our core transportation is light rail. But the city is seeing that many Denver residents are just a little too far from light rail to make it a regular form of transportation. Jill Locantore, with WalkDenver’s leadership, stopped in to the Inter Neighborhood Council (INC) meeting this month to discuss the work, research, and planning going into making the light rail more accessible for pedestrians. Other discussions have also been had about having a system similar to Boulder’s Skip, Jump, Dash, etc. I’ll have more information on that at a later date. But here are the highlights from Jill’s presentation…
The Denver region is spending billions of dollars to expand public transit throughout the metro area, yet the FasTracks program largely does not provide direct funding for “first and last mile connections” that help people get to and from transit stops and stations. First and last mile connections mean more than sidewalks; connections include all facilities and services that allow people to get from their front door to their final destination without needing a personal car. Think safe crossings, bike lanes, Car2Go, B-cycle, wayfinding signage, and a multitude of other pieces that form a transportation network. Through surveys and focus groups, WalkDenver and its partners explored the consequences of this lack of funding, as well as potential solutions in their report, “First and Last Mile: Funding Needs & Priorities For Connecting People to Transit.”
This study outlines the funding process for first and last mile connections in Denver, identifies best practices, and recommends policies, practices and funding mechanisms to address these connectivity challenges. Through regional stakeholder engagement, it is clear that the first/last mile connections are:
- Vital to the success of the region’s transportation system
- Underfunded and victim to the overall shortfall of funding for infrastructure.
The consequence of inadequate funding is that we won’t realize the potential of FasTracks. There will be lower ridership, stunted economic development, geographic disparities, and disproportionate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color. To address this, WalkDenver asked what first/last mile connection was most important for the Denver region.
So what was ranked first? The humble sidewalk. In Denver, property owners are responsible for sidewalk construction and maintenance, though this should be the city’s responsibility.