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The City held a W. Elizabeth Enhanced Travel Corridor open house last night that was very well attended. In addition to residents of all ages and interests, the Coloradoan, the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and several local businesses and other organizations all had representatives there. Colorado State University was in attendance, though they were hosting a table, so they were presenters rather than attendees.

Plum street moves a lot of people -- and most of them aren't in cars. Elizabeth also moves a high volume of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders, but the high level of car traffic creates a dangerous environment with a high collision rate.

Plum street moves a lot of people — and most of them aren’t in cars. Elizabeth also moves a high
volume of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders, but the high level of car traffic creates a dangerous environment with a high collision rate.

The first stage in the progression around the room was a series of boards explaining why this project was being looked at in the first place. The statistics were pretty stunning. Not only is this the most heavily used corridor for bicyclists and transit riders in the city, but it’s also the most collision prone.

Holy Moly, Batman! That's a lot of crashes!

Holy Moly, Batman! That’s a lot of crashes!

The goal is to create a pedestrian, bicyclist, and transit rider friendly street design that prioritizes safety and the movement of people rather than cars. Missing, inadequate, and non-ADA-compliant sidewalks have been tallied. And little details like how long a pedestrian will (on average) wait at a crossing signal before giving up and crossing on the red have been noted. (It’s actually different lengths of time depending on the intersection in question apparently.) The W. Elizabeth corridor planning team came up with immediate, interim, recommended, and “if we could have a complete overhaul” options for improvements to each segment of the street, and that’s what they were seeking feedback on last night.

Bikes will have paths to the right of bus stops at many, though not all, of the stops along W. Elizabeth.

Bikes will have paths to the right of bus stops at many, though not all, of the stops along W. Elizabeth.

The segment of W. Elizabeth between Overland Trail and Taft Hill Road sees the least amount of use and the segment between City Park Avenue and S. Shields sees the most. So while similar strategies are used along the entire length of the road, they’re tweaked to best fit specific segments.

A City staffer explained how the new bus stops would work.

A City staffer explained how the new bus stops would work.

One notable change that’s being proposed is that rather than having buses pull to the right, blocking the bike lane in order to pick up and drop off passengers, a small island will be created where transit users wait. Bicyclists will be able to skirt the island simply by staying in the bike lane, which will pass by on the right side of the island. The bus will pull up to the island, blocking motorized traffic until its passengers have loaded. This didn’t go over so well with one motorist that I overheard. (I suppose now motorists will have a better sense of what bicyclists have been facing for years?)

This is a strong example of how both transit and bicyclists are being prioritized over automobile traffic. It’s a bold move on the part of the City staff, but one that will do well to improve safety along this stretch of road and that will pave the way for future changes throughout the city.

A loop is being called for near the intersection of Overland Trail Road and Elizabeth, and a roundabout would be put in to slow traffic and make for safer crossings.

A loop is being called for near the intersection of Overland Trail Road and Elizabeth, and a roundabout would be put in to slow traffic and make for safer crossings.

The plan for updating Transfort lines comes in several stages as well, ranging from “this year” to “if we could have a complete overhaul.” Creating a transit station and park & ride at the end of Elizabeth would provide a helpful connection point between a bus route that connects to the CSU Main Campus and another bus route that links to the Foothills Campus. A roundabout is also being proposed at the intersection of Overland Trail and Elizabeth in order to slow traffic and provide safer crossings. Neither of these would be seen any time soon, however.

Phase 1 transit changes.

Phase 1 transit changes.

Phase 3 transit changes.

Phase 3 transit changes.

A really wonderful transit change that is being proposed is the extension of bus route 3 from the western end of Elizabeth all the way through the CSU campus and on up to Old Town. Unfortunately, that change doesn’t appear until phase 2 in the plan, which means we might not see it for a few more years (unless funding suddenly materializes for the project).

Additional bike share stations would enable students and staff to run errands between classes.

Additional bike share stations would enable students and staff to run errands between classes.

Recommended changes include adding additional bike share stations, car share stations, and implementing a parking permit plan in neighborhoods along Elizabeth.

The Zipcar program may be further expanded into these neighborhoods.

The Zipcar program may be further expanded into these neighborhoods.

With access to easy short term car rentals, more students may feel comfortable leaving their car with mom and dad during the school year.

Permit parking is being looked at in neighborhoods impacted by students housing their cars on residential streets for free.

Permit parking is being looked at in neighborhoods impacted by students housing their cars on residential streets for free.

Students in apartments or in on-campus housing sometimes store their cars in residential neighborhoods for free for extended periods of time, taking up valuable parking space that would otherwise be used by the people who actually live in those neighborhoods. Adding permit parking would free up space for residents to park their cars near their house.

Fort Collins' first protected intersection.

Fort Collins’ first protected intersection.

And probably one of the most exciting proposals includes a protected intersection at the corner of City Park Avenue and W. Elizabeth, the site of a ridiculous number of pedestrian, bicycle and motor collisions. The idea behind a protected intersection is that it gives bicyclists space to sit a bit forward of motorists, making them more visible and giving them a little lead time in crossing the intersection.

The last station to visit in the open house last night regarded the early-stage development planning of an underpass under S. Shields at Elizabeth. The underpass would be very long, straight, and located on the south side of the intersection. It would include the removal of pedestrian passage across the north side of the intersection (although the bike lane would remain). And it’s fraught with complications, which the CSU staff are aware of and many residents and business owners reiterated. It’s a complicated puzzle and I certainly don’t envy the engineers who have been charged with creating a solution here. Unlike the rest of the proposals on display last night, the underpass is still in early stages of planning. I look forward to seeing future tweaks to this proposal.

All in all, the changes along W. Elizabeth are exciting and show a strong commitment to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. Hopefully the success of this project will be the first step in providing solutions for problem areas throughout the city.