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Bus Rapid Transit May Be Best Bet For Northwest Commuter Corridor

Nathan Heffel
Community members gather for a meeting to discuss the Northwest Area Mobility Study in Longmont.

In 2004, voters hoped to relieve traffic clogged roadways in Northern Colorado by approving the Northwest Rail Line. Eagerly anticipated by the city of Longmont, it now appears the 41 mile stretch of rail is decades away. In the interim, the Northwest Area Mobility Study is exploring other options for traffic relief.

With the rail's estimated completion date of 2042, the Regional Transportation District has had to turn to other solutions. At a community meeting in Longmont Monday, RTD Project Manager Chris Quinn pointed to arterial bus rapid transit as a salve for the line's delay.

“Completion of the entire northwest corridor may be many years off,” said Quinn. “And the corridors that we focused on were the east west corridors between Boulder, Louisville and Lafayette along the South Boulder Road and Arapahoe Road. We also looked at the corridor between Longmont and Boulder along State Hwy 119 or the Diagonal. Also looked at state highway 42 from Louisville down to US 36.”


State Representative Jonathan Singer, an outspoken opponent of bus rapid transit whose district includes Longmont, Lyons, Allenspark and Niwot, says his constituents aren’t interested.

“You know I’m glad that RTD is thinking outside the box and that we’re looking for other options” Singer said, “but, really, no one in my community asked for buses.”

Credit The Regional Transportation District
The Northwest Area Mobility Study overview map.

"My biggest concern with bus rapid transit is when do we actually get the rail?" Singer asks. "Will we ever actually see it, or will RTD walk away and the voters walk away from the rest of the district saying 'oh you've got your busses.' "

RTD can’t scrap the Northwest Rail Line without voter approval though.

Andy Mountain with the public involvement arm of the Northwest Area Mobility Study says they can develop bus rapid transit routes with minimal infrastructure changes before any commuter rail is constructed.

“The buses would get priority at intersections to go through when other cars may be stopped a red lights,” Mountain said. “Then you get enhanced stations, enhanced ticketing and then enhanced service levels. So interim I think, in terms of we want to make it clear to folks that we aren’t evaluating arterial BRT as a replacement for rail.”

RTD plans to hold additional policy meetings to address the study and to formulate a plan of action for the northwest region. That could include bus rapid transit or linking Denver’s North Metro line to the Northwest Commuter line at a significant cost increase. Still another option is building the commuter line as planned – but in segments one-at-a-time.

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