April 16, 2005

Updated: Denver’s Changing Face

The Rocky Mountain city of Denver is undergoing a massive change, thanks to huge public support for mass transit, public funding for the arts, and new city-suburban cooperation, the Christian Science Monitor reports.

Voters turned down a major public transit project seven years ago; but this time around, the $4.7 billion investment to create 120 miles of new rail line passed easily with almost 60% support. (Lucky for them they weren't laboring under the same rules as Framingham Town Meeting, which also gave our planned new library 60% support but alas we needed two-thirds). "One big factor: the Southwest light-rail line, which has proved far more popular than even the most optimistic predictions," the article notes.

The city has a "bustling pedestrian mall;" and voters also OK'd a 0.1% sales tax to fund spending on the arts.

And there's been political cooperation between city and suburbs "on everything from transportation to water rights." Sure sounds nice....

Update: The city's soaring commitment to public transportation was sparked by Denver's Southwest Line, a new light rail line connecting city and suburbs.

"Since July 2000, when service began on the 14-mile trip, riders have flocked to the line in numbers that vastly exceed original expectations. The popularity of riding a train to work put to shame the screechy warnings of anti-tax opponents who said light rail was a liberal, big-government boondoggle that was too expensive, needlessly drained money from highway construction, and wouldn't lure suburbanites out of their SUVs," writes Keith Schneider in the Seattle Times. "Wrong. Denver residents love light rail. ...

"Instead of building highways that spread development ever farther from the central city, the Denver region decided to strengthen its urban core and focus growth along miles of new light rail, commuter rail and rapid-bus lines. Rail transit is less costly to maintain, less polluting, far more durable than concrete and saves energy. Public transit also offers developers dozens of stations around which to build the sought-after new neighborhoods that are proving to be the choicest, most affordable and accessible places to live in Denver."

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