She emphasizes, “Boulder tends to be a little further along the continuum in terms of how we look at transportation. We take a more holistic view; we’re more focused on providing the transportation choices than a lot of other communities in our region.”
She mentions that the other communities are all taking notice. “They realize that we don’t have the money and we don’t have the space to just endlessly accommodate more automobiles.” She adds, “Over the past several years we’ve seen more and more interest and focus in how do we provide the options? What can we do? How do we look at land use and transportation? How do we make transit work?”
Being ahead on the continuum has its own challenge. Because Boulder has been doing this for awhile, it is ahead on a lot of things and it’s a challenge to figure out where the next step should be. “Other communities look to Boulder and learn from what we’ve done, but we’re constantly looking for new ideas to figure out what’s next in Boulder,” says Roskowski. “There’s not a clear, not one community that we look to, to say, OK, we want to be like that community, that’s our goal.
“What we have found is, there are a lot of innovative and interesting things going on in other communities and so while there’s not one role model for us to look to, there is a lot we can learn from other places around the country because we do not have it all figured out.” She emphasizes, “We’ve been doing it for a while, we’ve learned how to do some things well, but there are other communities that are ahead of us in terms of some other things, like BRT.” She stresses that going to various conferences has helped them pick up ideas from others and bring them back to implement in Boulder.
The Transit Piece
The first transit product brought to life was the Hop, a high-frequency circulator that was a joint partnership between the city of Boulder and the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD). “We jointly fund that with assistance from the University of Colorado and it is operated by a non-profit called Special Transit,” says Roskowski.
“Since then we have created Skip, Jump, Bound, Leap and the Dash. They’re all high-frequency services running every 10 minutes at peak hours,” she explains. She mentions the circulators are operated by RTD. “In some cases the city provides the additional sum of money to run, basically buying a transit service from RTD.” The city of Boulder started most of those with Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grants.
She is anticipating future increases in RTD service. “RTD passed the ballot initiative in 2004. Boulder will be getting commuter rail in 2015 and significantly enhanced bus service, BRT-type service, somewhere in the same timeframe. That’s going to be fabulous in terms of improving our regional service, because one of the challenges, if you look at the mode split in Boulder, it’s significant.
“We have really made progress in terms of shifting trips out of single-occupancy vehicles into other modes,” she explains. “But regionally we’re pretty stuck at 80 percent single-occupancy vehicle trips, just because they can’t get there.” With Boulder being a desirable place to live, housing prices have gone up significantly. The city has become a job center with a lot of people who work in Boulder but live outside of Boulder. “That’s one of our new challenges,” she remarks. “Fastracks will help.
“Boulder wants really good, really robust transit service,” asserts Roskowski. “That is a challenge for any transit agency to provide, especially when you look at what your farebox recovery rate is.” She continues, “Transit agencies like RTD cannot just continue to provide more and more transit service; the numbers just don’t work out.
Just like many transit agencies, GO Boulder is trying to figure out how to continue to provide and expand options when there is little funding. “It’s a really challenging and interesting time for us because Boulder saw a pretty significant economic downturn in 2002 or so with the high-tech industry crash,” states Roskowski. “So while 10 years ago we had a lot of money to throw at new services and try new things, we don’t today.