Boulder Junction is supposed to be one of the most bike, pedestrian, and transit accessible places in our city: a place where owning a car is optional, and costly structured parking can be purchased a la carte, instead of bundled with every rental unit. It’s also supposed to be a major transit hub for the eastern core of Boulder, which is now building out. Transportation planners are often stymied by “the last mile” — it’s much cheaper and easier to do a few trunk lines than it is to put high frequency transit within a 5 minute walk of most of a city’s population. Planning for people to drive to get to transit means you still require people to own cars, and they still contribute to traffic congestion within the city. They also require exorbitantly expensive or land intensive park-and-ride facilities. For all these reasons, it’s in our best interests to make it as easy as possible for people to combine bikes with transit to solve the last mile problem. One of the best ways to do this is to provide plenty of convenient, secure, sheltered bike parking at major transit hubs — essentially creating a high quality bicycle park-and-ride, at a tiny fraction of the cost and space required for an automobile park-and-ride of the same capacity. This is the idea behind the “Bus-then-Bike” shelters that the City and County of Boulder have been collaborating to install — in Longmont, at the Table Mesa Park-and-Ride, and most recently, at the downtown Boulder transit center, as well as elsewhere. Three more of them are going in elsewhere along the US-36 corridor in the near future. Incredibly, it looks like we’re at risk of failing to do the same thing in Boulder Junction!
A facility similar to the keycard accessible bike facility downtown has been planned for the RTD station in Boulder Junction, but it hasn’t been integrated well into the site’s overall design from the get-go. Yet another example of bike infrastructure coming as something of an afterthought — to be squeezed in somewhere, if possible, after most of the major decisions have been made. In order for the facility to live up to its potential, it needs to be as visible and conveniently accessible as possible. Last Monday, representatives from Boulder County, GO Boulder, as well as the Transportation & Planning departments, the Landmarks board, Community Cycles, the city’s Parking districts, and the Boulder Junction project manager reviewed the options on site, and everybody agreed that the best location by far is in the Boulder Junction plaza, right next to where the buses come and go.
Unfortunately, since then, issues have started to come up, and we’re running out of time to secure this best site. The alternative locations would place the secure bike parking either too far away to be convenient, discouraging use, or inside the automotive parking structure, also making it less convenient, hiding it from view, and inviting conflicts between people riding bikes and people driving cars inside the garage.
First, adding the bike shelter to the RTD building will increase its Floor Area Ratio (or FAR — a measure of development intensity) beyond what is allowed in that land use zone… by a miniscule amount, for a substantial public benefit. This is a failure of planning — the shelter should have been part of the calculation from day one.
Second, RTD is complaining that the (glass) structure will block some light that would otherwise stream into their building. The trees which have been planted will also block this light as they grow.
Third, Scott Pederson, the developer of the RTD site, is opposed to the location — but it won’t be his property for long. As soon as construction is complete, it will be turned over to the Boulder Junction HOA, governed by the residents, the city, and RTD.
Fourth, the currently excavated site is scheduled to be filled in with dirt in three weeks, and given his opposition to the location, Pederson is taking a hard line on that schedule. Filling the already excavated site in will make it much more difficult and expensive to build the shelter later.
The city needs to take a strong stand in support of this simple, sustainable, cost-effective solution in Boulder Junction, including being willing to adjust the allowable FAR for the site, giving the secure bike shelter just a few hundred square feet to work with. We also need to do a much better job of integrating these kinds of facilities into our plans from day one! Even in the endlessly rainy days of this May, usage of the bike shelter at 14th and Walnut downtown has gone up by 300%, and requests for new keycards continue to increase — 42% just in the last month. This solution works, and it lets people have easy access to regional transit without ever getting in their car. We need to act quickly to ensure secure, convenient parking becomes an integral part of the transportation system in Boulder Junction, and not just another sad bike infrastructure afterthought. Please email City Council, the Transportation Advisory Board, and the Boulder Junction Access District Commission, demanding they work this out before the best site is filled in. Their emails: