To read the entire study, click here.
Daily boardings at Park-n-Rides along U.S. 36
Table Mesa -- 755
McCaslin -- 625
East Flatiron Circle -- 272
Broomfield -- 702
Church Ranch -- 312
Westminster -- 1,271
Source: U.S. 36 First and Final Mile Study
Secure overnight bike parking, clear signage, EcoPasses for those living near Park-n-Ride stations and readily available bicycle- and car-sharing programs.
All are strategies identified in a recently released study designed to look at ways of overcoming the nagging "first and final mile" obstacle -- the short but critical distance between someone's home or workplace and the bus stop or transit station.
That seemingly insignificant leg in people's commuting day can dictate how they choose to travel, be it by bike, by foot, by carpool or alone in their car. For transportation planners eager to reduce congestion on U.S. 36 and cut down on single-occupancy vehicle trips in the corridor, the study provides a roadmap for getting people out of their cars and using alternate forms of transportation.
"It's a short distance, but it can take a long time," Boulder County Transportation Director George Gerstle said of the gap between work, home and a transit stop. "We need to make it a short distance and a short time."
Gerstle said the report, commissioned by 36 Commuting Solutions and conducted over the last several months by Denver-based Fehr & Peers, is a "great first step" in examining some of the obstacles that prompt commuters to leave the bike in the garage or skip the walk to the bus stop.
Public officials from throughout the corridor -- including Boulder, Louisville, Superior, Broomfield and Boulder County -- participated in the study and provided valuable insight, 36 Commuting Solutions Executive Director Audrey DeBarros said.
"The U.S. 36 First and Final Mile Study was an opportunity to work with corridor stakeholders to address a problem we have heard about from people interested in using transit and current Regional Transportation District riders," she said. "Now that the study is complete, we will work with study partners and local businesses to make the study recommendations a reality."
At the top of the list of recommendations for making non-vehicular travel more alluring is providing overnight bike shelters at transit stations along U.S. 36, akin to the ones that were recently installed in Longmont and north of Boulder, at Iris Avenue.
"They know once they get off the bus, their bike will be there, it will be out of the weather and they can keep it there safely overnight," Gerstle said.
Hand in hand with bike shelters is making EcoPasses available to residents who live within about a mile radius of a bus station.
"We've found that once people have an EcoPass in the pocket, they're very much more likely to use the bus," Gerstle said.
It's not completely clear, he said, how a transit stop EcoPass program would be administered, whether it would be modeled on the neighborhood programs that exist in Boulder or the more common employer-based systems in Denver and Boulder.
Boulder Senior Transportation Planner Marni Ratzel, who was on the report's study advisory committee, said data have shown that there are a "fair number" of Boulder residents who live close to the Table Mesa Park-n-Ride who drive to the station before stepping on the bus. She said the study is trying to identify ways to make the trip to the bus depot as easily accomplished by bike and foot as by car.
"It's an attempt to create a seamless connection between the regional trip and the local trip," she said.
'Suburban land use patterns'
But the U.S. 36 corridor is not without entrenched challenges to overcoming the first and final mile problem. The study notes that the corridor "exhibits suburban land use patterns such as single land uses connected by larger arterial roadways designed and built primarily for people traveling in cars."
And that dynamic can be tough to surmount, said RTD Planning Project Manager Chris Quinn. He said Arlington, Va., managed to morph from low-density sprawl to a more compact transit-oriented community after Washington, D.C.'s metro system was built, but whether cities and towns between Denver and Boulder can do the same remains to be seen.
"There are examples where it can work and it has been done, but it's not going to happen overnight," he said.
The reconstruction the highway will undergo over the next few years, adding a bus rapid transit and high-occupancy vehicle lane in both directions and making bus service more like train service, will help make the transit stations along U.S. 36 more attractive and easier to use, Quinn said.
But the solution to first and final mile challenges won't be the same for all six Park-n-Rides up and down the corridor, Gerstle said. The study gives detailed analysis of each station and what might work best, and he said those nuances need to be recognized.
"What would work at Table Mesa might be different than what would work in Westminster," he said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389 or email@example.com.