In May, the city's Mountain Metropolitan Transit system took a step forward, eliminating two 30-minute bus routes on Wahsatch and Cascade avenues and instead introducing 15-minute service on Nevada Avenue. But it didn't take long for the city to start back-stepping.
While the change was positive for those who depend on bus routes generally running every 30 minutes or every hour, residents of the Old North End neighborhood, located along Nevada Avenue north of Colorado College, were less supportive. In fact, they were furious.
In an unusual move, the city responded to the outcry by hosting meetings to hear concerns, then proposing changes in an effort to appease residents. Thus, in September, the portion of the Nevada route that runs through the Old North End likely will be split. Instead of one 15-minute route, two staggered 30-minute routes will run on either Nevada Avenue and Weber Street, or on Wahsatch and Cascade avenues.
To Courtney Stone, community organizing manager at the Independence Center, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities, this seems ridiculous. Stone felt it was inappropriate that "a crap ton of city resources were pulled to respond to this specific neighborhood complaint." Nevertheless, she attended a lively meeting hosted by the city where, she says, she heard "demeaning" comments from residents claiming bus riders were ruining their neighborhood. Stone says she didn't buy Old North End reasons for not wanting the faster service on Nevada, explaining that it seemed like the crowd had a negative view of transit in general.
"It makes me mad to hear [someone] complain about noise when riders are waiting an hour and a half to get to the jobs they need to survive," she says.
For the record, the Old North End has put forth a variety of reasons for not wanting the new route. The complaints, starting with a letter to the city in January, have continued as the neighborhood organized a "transit committee" in June, accepted complaints from residents and attended several meetings with city officials.
According to the neighborhood's website, concerns include: Bus benches aren't historic-looking, there aren't enough wheelchair ramps on Nevada Avenue, buses are noisy, moving historic routes to Nevada Avenue could disrupt access for some residents with disabilities, some bus users may not be able to easily reach the grocery store due to changed routes, the new route violates the neighborhood's master plan because it does not evenly distribute traffic, and buses make wide turns and stop in places where vehicles may try to pass them unsafely.
The Old North End is throwing its support behind the plan to move the route onto Cascade and Wahsatch avenues. But Stone says the Independence Center prefers the route to be on Weber and Nevada, since a person could reasonably walk a block to another bus, effectively keeping the 15-minute service intact. Of course, some wonder why a change is necessary at all.
City Transportation Planning Manager Craig Blewitt explains that the 15-minute Nevada route was created as a part of the city's long-term transportation and infill plans. It was intended to improve overall service, improve on-time service and eliminate duplication within the system.
The Nevada route was the second "high-frequency transit corridor" with 15-minute service. A year before, the Boulder/Platte corridor was upgraded to 15-minute service.
Blewitt explains that the city bus service has several "hubs" scattered throughout its service area. Routes act like spokes on a wheel, all returning to the hub. But strategic high-frequency corridors give riders a better option of not returning to a "hub" to reach their destination.
"We originally picked Nevada because it was the most direct route between downtown and UCCS [the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs]," Blewitt says, "and it's the street that does continue on."
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