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Are Streetcars Coming to Colfax?


Denver’s Main Street

It is widely accepted that Colfax Avenue is the most notorious street in Denver. It is also said to be the longest continuous street in America. For better or for worse, Colfax is and has always been Denver’s “Main Street.” Formerly a mansion-lined avenue for the Denver elite and today a notably grittier commercial artery, Colfax, also identified as US Highway 40, continues to be a major carrier of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. As Denver continues to enjoy immense popularity and population growth, its main street gets busier and busier. So what can be done to make getting across town on Colfax easier? Colfax Avenue is not slated to receive any light rail investment as part of RTD’s FasTracks program – you know, the massive voter-approved expansion of transit option in the Front Range urban corridor. The answer: streetcars!

Where would we see them?

The City and County of Denver is currently exploring the option of having streetcars on its Main Street through its Colfax Streetcar Feasibility Study. Components of the study include financing the streetcars and their infrastructure, determining where to put stops, analyzing the positive economic impact on the Colfax corridor that would inherently come with such investment and also looking at where the line would begin and end. Because Colfax Avenue is so long, it would be tough to run a streetcar line down its entire length. RTD’s 15 and 15L bus routes (those that serve East Colfax Avenue) are the busiest in its entire transportation network. The 16 route (West Colfax) has less than a third of that ridership, so the new streetcar line would certainly be only along East Colfax Avenue. The City and County of Denver uses Interstate 25 and Syracuse Street as the boundaries in its study area.  Between these two roads is where the most pedestrian-friendly action can be found, particularly closest to downtown Denver, so pedestrians and those ditching their cars will be best served if the line were to make East Colfax more of a ‘complete street.’

Why streetcars?

Because Colfax is such a diverse road, transportation options need to be that way, too. Unlike light rail, which usually requires its own dedicated pathway, streetcars can flow in traffic with everyone else; cars, buses and bicyclists included. That means that they won’t completely change the streetscape but only make it better. And, boy, can it! Time and time again, the presence streetcars has been proven to attract lots of investment to the streets on which they are present, adding to the economic vitality if the neighborhoods served.  Just ask Portland, Little Rock, Seattle, Tampa and many other cities.  Turns out, many American cities are implementing or studying the viability of streetcars. From Tucson to Providence and everywhere in between, streetcars are making a comeback. We think Denver should be included in this wave of transit investment. Don’t you? Let’s be honest: Colfax Avenue could really use the helping hand. And it looks like it very well could! I think the City and County of Denver is leaning more towards yes than no on this one. To learn more check out the government information sire with this here.