East Colfax Corridor Bus Rapid Transit

Project Status

Colfax Avenue, one of the area’s most historic streets, is a key east-west transportation route and the backbone of a thriving and diverse community. With significant population and business growth expected in the coming years, now is the time to reimagine the Colfax experience with a focus on moving more people, more efficiently and more safely along the corridor.

Click to see the full detailed version of each infographic

Current Phase

The East Colfax Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project is currently in the preliminary engineering and design phase. Key tasks include a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process, traffic analysis, parking and pedestrian access analysis, an engineering survey to form the basis of project design, and community outreach to inform the BRT service characteristics and station design.

The Project Team, led by Denver and the Parsons Transportation Group, has established a Technical Working Group including the City & County of Denver, RTD, CDOT, DRCOG, FTA, and City of Aurora to guide the NEPA process, project design and identification of funding. Plans are underway to reconvene the Community Task Force, representing business, neighborhood and community groups from both Denver and Aurora, and to update and re-engage the broader public.

Announcements
Thanks to everyone who attended the virtual station design workshops to share your perspectives and lived experiences. Please look for more opportunities to share feedback in early 2022!   

Project Background

In 2008, the City and County of Denver’s Strategic Transportation Plan identified the need to move people more efficiently within the City to improve traffic flow and rider and pedestrian safety. Because demand for RTD’s 15/15L bus service along Colfax is higher than all other RTD routes, the City selected the East Colfax Corridor to explore new transit approaches.

A Streetcar Feasibility Study was conducted in 2010, followed by a more detailed 2012 analysis of current and future needs along the Colfax corridor. In 2018, following six years of outreach and community input, 75% of the public recommended center-running bus rapid transit (BRT) as the preferred design alternative. The design process and environmental review began in late 2020.

Scope and Purpose

After years of studying East Colfax Avenue and gathering significant community input, the City and County of Denver will evaluate a center-running bus rapid transit (BRT) service from Broadway to Yosemite with a dedicated transit lane in each direction. The project includes new and enhanced transit stations, service amenities, improved pedestrian and bike connections, and placemaking opportunities.  West of Civic Center Station to Denver Union Station, BRT will operate in the side-running transit lanes along 15th and 17th Streets. East of Yosemite to I-225, BRT will be side-running in mixed flow traffic with potential enhanced stations that will be coordinated with the City of Aurora.

Upon implementation, the project will reduce transit travel time by up to 15 minutes, provide more affordable and reliable access to over 250,000 jobs and community services along the corridor, improve pedestrian safety, and create exciting streetscape, placemaking and economic development opportunities.

Timeline

  • 2012–2014: Planning and initial analysis of corridor alternatives
  • 2015–2016: Initial recommendation for side-running BRT on Colfax
  • 2017–2018: Introduction and evaluation of center-running BRT on Colfax
  • 2018–2019:  Determination of center-running BRT as the locally preferred alternative
  • 2020–2022: Preliminary engineering, environmental review and detailed design of the locally preferred alternative

Funding

Elevate Denver Bond Funding

Denver has secured $55M in funds for the East Colfax Corridor BRT through the Elevate Denver Bond Program, which voters passed in 2017. The City intends to leverage Elevate Denver Bond funding, along with funds from other available sources, to secure additional grant funds to achieve the full vision for the East Colfax BRT.

Voters also approved $20M for pedestrian improvements on Colfax Avenue in the Elevate Denver Bond program. These funds will provide permanent improvements including medians, curb extensions, and enhanced crosswalks at key intersections as well as streetscape enhancements such as furniture, trees and lighting in certain business improvement districts (BID). 

Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Funding

Denver also applied CIP dollars to make near-term safety improvements at 12 intersections along East Colfax, including Grant, Logan, Pearl, Washington, Clarkson, Lafayette, High, Adams, Hudson, Krameria, Monaco and Uinta, that will inform the future BRT design. Improvements include the addition of paint, bollards and signage to enhance vehicle visibility and pedestrian safety.

Archive

The archive includes key documents from the public engagement, analysis and design efforts to date.  It will be updated regularly as the project progresses.  If you would like to request an archived document that is not accessible on this website, please contact the project team at ColfaxBRT@denvergov.org.

Public Engagement

Alternatives Analysis

Conceptual Design

  • BRT Conceptual Design Technical Report
  • Conceptual Design Presentation (Community Task Force – August 2018)
  • Corridor Wide Pedestrian Safety Project Materials
  • Colfax BRT:  Conceptual Design Station Areas
  • Colfax BRT:  Conceptual Design Pedestrian Crossings
  • BRT Design Evolution
  • Map of BRT station locations, signalized intersections and new protected ped crossings
  

 

Community Updates

November 2021 Station Design Workshops

The Colfax BRT Project Team has been gathering the community's input on early station design themes. Hundreds of you have already shared your feedback on these themes as part of the Station Design Survey. If you haven't yet contributed your thoughts, we'd love to hear from you! 

As a next step in the Colfax BRT public engagement process, we will be hosting a series of virtual station design workshops in early November aimed at gathering input from transit riders and other key stakeholders with unique perspectives and lived experiences. 

The workshops will focus on issues and perspectives important to the aging, disability and business communities, but we invite anyone to consider attending one of the following workshops, to help the project team design BRT stations that can provide safety, accessibility, comfort and local appeal for ALL riders while meeting the needs of the local business community.

Due to the recent and sustained rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Colorado, the workshops will be in a fully virtual format. Thank you for your patience and flexibility as we work together to prioritize the health of our community. 

  • November 3: Workshop for People with Disabilities, 5:30-7pm
    • Available virtually via Zoom
  • November 9: Workshop for the Aging Population, 1-2:30pm  
    • Virtually via Zoom
  • November 10: Workshop for BIDs & Developers, 5:00-7:00pm

July 2021: Colfax Avenue is Among the Nation's Best Performing Transit Corridors

Strong ridership during the pandemic highlights the importance of equitable access to reliable public transportation

Pandemic-era ridership data for the RTD 15/15L bus service on Colfax Avenue showcases the importance of affordable and accessible public transportation. While nationwide transit ridership dropped sharply to 20% of pre-pandemic levels, Colfax corridor bus ridership remained at over 60% of prior ridership levels, or nearly three times the national average.

As the world faced an unprecedented global health crisis that forced so many to stay home, an average of nearly 13,500 essential frontline workers boarded the 15/15L routes each day to bravely serve our community.

The stoplight at the intersection of Colfax and Race, with a Colfax Ave flag hanging on a lamppost

Far from just a commuter corridor, Colfax Avenue connects the region’s most diverse and densely populated neighborhoods to critical destinations. In fact, 40% of all transit trips along Colfax originate and end locally within the corridor without requiring transfers. Public transportation on Colfax carries students to classrooms; brings home groceries; connects residents with essential health and human services; and guides frontline workers to their jobs.

As the City and County of Denver, in partnership with RTD, the City of Aurora and CDOT, moves forward with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on Colfax, equitable access to high-quality public transit will continue to be prioritized. The people who rely on these routes, as well as the importance of the street itself as a place for community, guide the vision for Colfax BRT: 

  • A SAFE street - based on vision Zero and pedestrian-first design
  • A street for PEOPLE - a street that creates spaces for active neighborhood centers and open sidewalks for retail and pedestrian uses
  • A street with transit at its HEART - which includes efficient, affordable, reliable and comfortable operations and long-lasting redevelopment and mobility benefits
  • A street that WORKS - a street that moves more people, not just vehicles and improves mobility for all modes of transportation

Ultimately, as the City works to meet the transportation needs of one of Denver’s most diverse and densely populated corridors, it remains mission focused: moving more people, more efficiently and more safely along the Colfax Corridor.

Get Involved!
Now is the time to learn more about this phase of the process and provide valuable input. We hope to see you at the next community workshop!

June 2021: Bus Rapid Transit on East Colfax Moves Forward

Faster and More Reliable Service Coming to Denver’s Busiest and Most Diverse Transit Corridor

The City and County of Denver is taking important steps to bring center-running Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to East Colfax Avenue. Building on years of study, planning and significant community input, the project team will now complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and preliminary design of the project. These elements will be critical in the pursuit of additional grant funding, final project planning and the ultimate construction.

Center-running BRT on East Colfax Avenue will provide one dedicated transit lane in each direction from Broadway to Yosemite. With transit ridership and traffic congestion along the Colfax corridor projected to increase in the coming years, center-running BRT will deliver faster and more reliable service to Denver’s busiest transit corridor and some of the city’s most diverse and populated neighborhoods.

Center running bus rapid transit roadway diagram with centered bus lanes, stations at intersections

Colfax BRT is the largest transportation project the City and County of Denver has ever embarked upon, leveraging $55M in Elevate Denver Bond funding passed by voters in 2017. The project will transform Denver’s busiest transit corridor – serving 22,000 daily riders – and serve as a modelfor future projects to move more people, more efficiently across our city.

Benefits of BRT on East Colfax include:

  • Faster transit travel time of up to 15 minutes during peak hours
  • Improved safety, connectivity, accessibility and mobility options for all travelers
  • Enhanced streetscaping and economic development opportunities

Why now? Despite drastic changes to traveling patterns and commuting during the pandemic, the bus routes serving East Colfax remain the busiest transit lines in Denver, serving tens of thousands of residents and essential workers every day.

Virtual Engagement Hub

East Colfax Corridor BRT Virtual Engagement Hub

Use the interactive tools to find the latest information on the project, including community presentations and project renderings. We encourage you to explore the virtual engagement hub and share your feedback through the online tools!


   

 

For information about past public meetings, please visit the Public Meetings Archive.

Col-FAQs

What is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)?

BRT is a premium transit service with upgraded buses, enhanced stations and dedicated transit lanes wherever possible designed to transport riders more efficiently and safely. Elements of BRT include recognizably branded buses, as well as low-floor and multi-door boarding features to make it easier and faster for all riders, especially those with disabilities, to get on and off. Station amenities may feature real-time passenger information, off-bus ticketing, as well as shelter, safety and accessibility improvements.

How will dedicated transit lanes on Colfax help regional mobility?

The corridor is one of Denver’s busiest transportation networks for all modes of travel, especially transit. The bus routes serving East Colfax have the highest ridership of all RTD routes – more than 20,000 riders per weekday. Current bus service in the corridor is near capacity and even small service interruptions can result in passengers being left at stops to wait for the next bus.

The City is moving forward with BRT on Colfax because doing nothing is not an option. Over the next 20 years, the corridor is expected to experience 25% growth in the number of travelers, 67% growth in employment and 25% growth in population. Denver cannot continue to grow and create more people-friendly spaces without efficiently moving more people through the East Colfax corridor.

How will center-running lanes operate along Colfax?

By repurposing one general traffic lane in each direction on East Colfax between Broadway and Yosemite, all transit activity will occur within two center-running transit-only lanes. Busy urban streets like East Colfax are good candidates for dedicated transit lanes because the separation of buses and vehicles better organizes traffic flow, improves travel efficiency and reduces crashes. Center transit lanes also reduce conflicts with parking and other curbside activities, while creating enhanced streetscaping opportunities and improving pedestrian safety by moving transit stations to the center.

What are the benefits of center-running vs. side-running transit lanes?

While both center- and side-running BRT can enhance the transit system, studies show that center-running BRT provides faster travel speeds and more travel time savings, higher ridership, fewer vehicle crashes and pedestrian conflicts, and better alignment with neighborhood land use and economic development plans as compared to side-running BRT.

How were station locations identified?

The East Colfax BRT project has developed preferred BRT station locations as part of the Alternatives Analysis. These locations are viewed as crucial to the success of the project. However, through the Alternatives Analysis process, as well as outreach for the East and East Central Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI) efforts, a few locations/areas have been identified for consideration for future station changes/additions. They include: 

  • Replacing Steele. St. Station with two stations at 1/3 mile spacing between York/Josephine and Colorado, specifically at Fillmore and Madison.
  • Adding a station east of Colorado, specifically at Cherry.
  • Adding a station east of Quebec, specifically at Syracuse.
  • Connecting service to Denver Union Station. 

The upcoming preliminary engineering and environmental phase will address these potential changes through the design process. The remainder of stations are final locations.

Special attention has been given to the spacing of stations to ensure equitable access. As designed, the average distance in between stations is 1/3 of a mile, which means walk distance between stations of no more than 1/6 of a mile (or 3-4 blocks). Additionally, improvements to over 5,000 linear feet of missing or deficient sidewalks have been identified between Broadway and Yosemite.  

What is the Community Task Force?

The Community Task Force is made of up individuals representing neighborhood organizations, civic and business interests along the corridor. Since 2012, member organizations have provided an invaluable connection between the project team and the community to inform the broader process.

Each of the following groups has been invited to participate in the Community Task Force. If your organization has not been invited and you would like to participate as its representative, please let the project team know.

Denver Business Groups

  • Colfax Ave Business Improvement District 
  • Colfax Mayfair BID
  • Bluebird BID
  • West Colfax BID
  • Colfax On The Hill
  • Downtown Denver Partnership 
  • The Fax Partnership
  • Points Historical Redevelopment Corporation
  • Santa Fe Drive Redevelopment Corporation

Denver Neighborhood/Community Groups

  • Balustrade HOA
  • Bellvue-Hale Neighborhood Association
  • Bicycle Colorado
  • Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods
  • City Park West Neighborhood Association
  • Civic Center Association
  • Congress Park Neighbors, Inc.
  • Cultural Arts Residential Organization
  • Curtis Park Neighbors
  • Denver Streets Partnership
  • Downtown Denver Residents
  • East Montclair Neighborhood Association
  • Golden Triangle Museum District
  • Greater Park Hill Community, Inc.
  • Historic Montclair Community Association
  • La Alma/Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association
  • La Alma Community Action Group
  • Mayfair Neighbors, Inc.
  • Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee
  • Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Committee
  •  Mile High Connects
  • Mile High Youth Commission
  • Neighbors And Friends For Cheesman Park
  • South City Park Neighborhood Association
  • South Park Hill Neighborhood Organization
  • Sumner Neighborhood Association
  • Swallow Hill Neighborhood Association
  • The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities
  • Triangle Neighborhood Association
  • Unsinkables, Inc.
  • Uptown Alliance
  • Uptown on the Hill
  • Wyman Historic District Neighborhood Association

Institutional Organizations

  • Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Auraria Higher Education Center
  • Denver Public Schools
  • National Jewish Health

Aurora Business Groups

  • Aurora Chamber of Commerce
  • Aurora Economic Development Council

Aurora Neighborhood/Community Groups

  • Colfax Community Network
  • Friendly Village Aurora N.O.
  • Hillcrest Village HOA
  • Neighborhood Action Team
  • Northwest Aurora Neighborhood Association
  • Norfolk Glen Neighborhood Association

What has been happening with the project for the past several years and why is it taking so long?

Certainly, there was a longer than anticipated gap between the prior planning work for center-running BRT on Colfax and the current process. With a project of this size and scope there is always a significant amount of inter-agency coordination and planning involved…and the global pandemic did not do our schedule any favors.

The good news is that a process and schedule is now in place to take us through:

  • Preliminary engineering and environmental clearance by the end of 2022
  • Final design by 2024 with construction starting as early as 2026
  • BRT service operating by 2028

Has the pandemic changed plans for Colfax BRT?

Simply put, no. Over 75% of Denver voters overwhelmingly approved $55 million in funding for Colfax BRT in the 2017 Denver Transportation and Mobility System Bonds. Likewise, 75% of stakeholders and the public have expressed support for center-running BRT.

Ridership on the 15/15L remained extraordinarily high throughout the pandemic, dropping by only 39% (over 12,000 people per day compared to over 20,000 prepandemic). This made Colfax one of the strongest performing transit corridors in the country during COVID. Nationally, transit ridership in 2020 dropped by 79% on average compared to 2019 levels.

This demonstration of Colfax’s ability to equitably serve our essential frontline workforce and transit dependent population has only further proven why Colfax is a perfect candidate for BRT.

When will construction begin?

As the project moves forward, both local and federal funding opportunities for BRT on Colfax are being pursued. Based on available funding, a more detailed project implementation schedule will be developed in 2022.

What is the 15/15L Bus Route Improvement Project?

RTD will upgrade 15L stops between Broadway and I-225 to include enhanced shelters with lighting and security cameras.  Other improvements such as queue bypass lanes, transit signal priority and bus bulbs will be added in key locations along the corridor.  Together with the Colfax Corridor BRT Project, these improvements will transform the future of East Colfax transit services.  

Learn more about East Colfax transit enhancements

What happens to the 15 and 15L within Denver upon project implementation?

Coming Soon 

How will the Colfax BRT buses be powered?

Prior to BRT implementation, the current 15/15L service will continue to use existing diesel-powered vehicles. DOTI and RTD are committed to incorporating sustainable technologies and practices in all aspects of the Colfax BRT project. However, based on cost and the current status of zero emission bus technologies (battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell-electric) and the operational requirements of the Colfax BRT corridor, the agency is not currently considering the use of zero emission vehicles. RTD continues to evaluate and stay up-to-date as technologies evolve.

Will businesses along Colfax benefit from the BRT?

Thoughtful investment in public transit can drive economic growth, particularly where transit-oriented development (TOD), placemaking and multi-modal connections are prioritized. Increased foot traffic around transit stations means more people accessing local businesses more frequently and more directly. 

Many cities across the country have implemented BRT systems and benefitted from economic growth.

  • Eugene, OR (EmX BRT):  $100M+ in corridor investment; 10% job growth within .25 miles vs. -5% citywide
  • Cleveland, OH (HealthLine BRT):  $5.8B in new investment from BRT & Euclid Ave Streetscape
  • New York, NY (Fordham Road Select Bus Service): 24% increase in retail sales in 1st year; 71% after 3 years

While construction is never easy, the Neighborhood Planning Initiative addressed ways to help businesses before and during BRT construction. In response, DOTI and DEDO (Denver Economic Development & Opportunity) are developing a toolkit to help businesses manage construction impact.

How will dedicated transit lanes on Colfax affect traffic on adjacent streets?

Traffic data shows that congestion and diversion to adjacent streets occurs today and, unfortunately, will only increase with or without the project. Investing in Colfax BRT allows us to better manage those existing challenges and meet future demands by:

  • Creating the capacity to move more people more efficiently through the same amount of space
  • Facilitating a shift from vehicles to transit due to improved travel times, reliability and convenience
  • Addressing diversion to adjacent streets with operational and safety improvements, many of which are underway today and will be in place before the BRT.

A detailed traffic analysis, including traffic diversion, parking and curb management, is in progress and will be shared with the community in early 2022.

How do BRT plans align with the Neighborhood Planning Initiative (NPI) & related efforts?

The NPI process involved considerable community input to identify incentive zoning areas for Colfax BRT Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The NPI process anticipated changes to the proposed BRT system. Where there have been changes to BRT station locations, the East and East Central Area Plans will accommodate these changes, thus creating additional incentive zoning areas and TOD opportunities.  

Additionally, the voter-approved 2017 Elevate Denver Bond funding, which included $55M for BRT and $20M for pedestrian improvements, will be combined to leverage a greater local match and bring in more outside federal funds for the overall project, including future streetscape improvements. At the same time, the city is actively exploring opportunities to allocate smaller portions of bond and/or other funding sources to fund near-term streetscape improvements that would complement the long-term BRT plans.