ESLLC Public Transportation Challenge
For the public transportation challenge, I chose to go to the Solar Park in the Denver Federal Center. Accompanying me on a breezy fall afternoon were Rachel and Alex Sorioro. We used Google Maps to plan out our route to get to the Solar Park with the prior knowledge we would have to get on a bus after taking the light rail. It was moderately difficult to get to the Solar Park because of how far away it was and the exact location was fairly unclear. Luckily there were some nice bus drivers and helpful signs in addition to Google to get us there. Not everyone has access to a smartphone or GPS like we did; everyone has access to the transit signs and bus drivers. It would have been possible but more difficult to get there without the help of Google Maps because Google gave the times of the buses and pretty good directions. Overall taking transit worked pretty well.
Taking public transit was exciting as well as a little stressful because there were more transfers than what I was used to. In addition I had never been to that area before. We went around 2:30 p.m. and it was a little before 6:00 when we got back to Denver University. It was very easy to board the light rail because it is more familiar now than then it was at the beginning of the year. Boarding the buses was more of a challenge because we had to find the stops and there were no direct bus routes. There was about an equal mix of people on the buses that looked African American, Latino, and white. Most people had some sort of cool, brightly colored hat (lots of Rasta colors) and many wore jackets that looked worn. On the first bus we took from Colfax and Alameda, one man with baggier looking clothes went on and sat down, trying to play it off like the woman in front of him paid for his ticket when she had not. That is when I realized how nice it was to have an RTD pass. Not only for the money it saves, but for the time to get on the bus too.
The Solar Park is not a particularly joyful place, unless you enjoy looking at solar arrays for large amounts of fun. We stayed for about thirty minutes as we walked around the rows of solar panels and read some signs about how they worked and how much energy they generated. The Solar Park is a very sustainable area of Denver, and while the panels only generate 22% of the Federal Center’s electricity’s needs, one must take into account the immense size of the Federal center with the many large buildings. While the park does not necessarily bring the community of Denver together, it is accessible to people of low income. It costs nothing to take a tour and one can get there through public transportation. The area around it is very sprawled, so expect a lot of walking and being pretty far from downtown. There are a lot of wide, fast paced roads around there and it gives the impression having a car there would be very helpful.
Instead of using a car to get back to Denver University, we took public transit again. When we traveled to the Solar Park, we took the H line to Colfax and Alameda, which was straightforward and easy. From there we hopped onto the 16L bus to W Colfax Avenue and Kipling Street, which was the closest bus stop to the Denver Federal Center. From there we could have walked about two miles or taken bus 100 in a roundabout way to get there, so we chose the latter. Compared to getting there, coming back was much easier because we took more of the light rail.
From the Federal Center we walked to the nearest bus stop and took the 3 bus that took us all the way to the Alameda light rail stop. From there we took the E Line back to Denver University, which was pretty busy due to it being rush hour. On the light rail a man in shaggier looking clothing came on the bus and when he saw a hooded young man near the door with his ear buds in, he started cursing and muttering at him under his breath. When the muttering man got off the light rail and cursed the young man loud enough he could hear over his ear buds, the young man angrily asked what the other man had just said. During that moment the doors closed and we could see the older man run after the train, cursing and yelling his arms. If it looked like there was going to be a greater chance of a physical altercation (or a verbal one since the young man couldn’t hear anything being muttered at him with his ear buds in), I likely would have intervened. It was only until the man got off the light rail and freaked out did we all realize how the situation could have gotten much more out of hand. That incident made the ride much more interesting and illustrated how all types of people can take transit.
Coming back on transit, there were a lot more people who looked like they were working since it was rush hour. I don’t think you can accurately assume if someone who is taking transit has a car or not. If I had to guess just from the looks of people, most people on the buses did not have a car and most people on the light rail were taking it for the convenience of not having to worry about a car. Hopefully people were taking transit for environmental purposes, but who could really say without asking them.
If more people knew how much more public transit and transportation is a sustainable mode of transportation compared to cars, I think more people would take it. For now, I think it is more about what is convenient and affordable for people. Transit gives people with lower incomes the chance to get around without having to pour money into a car. Everyone taking transit is also faced with the same conditions, regardless of their income or social status, making it a more socially just method of transportation.
Written by John Kurtz, ESLLC 2015-2016