Sunday, January 1, 2012

Personal Thoughts: A Return to Colorado, the Importance of Transit Investment

I began this blog more than four years ago in 2007 as a way to stay connected with economic development issues in my hometown region of the Denver Metro Area.   About six months ago I moved back to the Front Range.  Now after 25 years I am a resident again in my hometown of Boulder Colorado.   I am very thankful to be able to help out and keep an eye on an aging parent who only lives a mile away from me.

Since I left Colorado I have been fortunate to  have lived in regions with strong public transportation systems: Boston, London, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC.   Despite many many return visits to Colorado and the careful watch I have kept over the FasTracks developments, I was really not sure what the day to day experience would be in using Mass Transit in the Boulder/Denver Area.

My first thought is I have been pleasantly surprised.   I am very appreciative of how well connected Boulder is to Denver via the BF/BX/BV routes and how well served Denver itself is by local bus routes.   Both my wife and I are frequent users of these routes for commuting and personal trips.   However, as good as this system is, there are big gaps that need to be filled.

As the national economy struggles, concerns about environmental sustainability continue and the likelihood of energy price increases remain, my thoughts keep returning to the great wisdom of the Denver Metro Area's plan to build FasTracks.  

The timing of this investment could not be more critical: it is creating job in a weak economy, providing more sustainable transit alternatives to a congested region, promoting economic vitality and regional competitiveness along the Front Range, and helping facilitate an increase in population while protecting the quality of life. 

Over the next few years the Denver region will come to another transit cross roads.   We will have to decide if we are willing to pay higher taxes to fund transit infrastructure investments to complete the FasTracks build out and take our transportation investments to the next level of vision---or retrench while the historic opportunity to make the Denver region a world class metropolitan area recedes backwards.   In my mind this is one of the two or three most important regional economic development questions the Denver Region will face and we will have to live with the consequences of our choice for decades to come.