Tackling Grand Challenges: Mobility in an Urban Setting

By Matthew Walters, undergraduate student, Political Science

Transportation affects all levels of daily living: where we work, who we interact with, and where we go for fun. In order to better understand ourselves and the decisions we make, we have to understand the methods of mobility which can both grant and limit our options. In turn, our decisions shape how we build the networks which connect us. Urban areas like Denver offer various methods of public transit. However, these systems have historically been implemented with expansive visions which fail to meet the immediate needs of potential riders. Rather than focus on the grand designs of citywide transit planning, our team went right to the people who use it most.

Over the past few months, a partnership between students at the University of Denver and the Highland United Neighbors Inc. has sought to assess current transportation needs in the neighborhood. The team surveyed members of the community to find out what people would actually want to use. We also sifted through countless articles, journals, and writings by industry experts to analyze the different methods of connecting people from their residences or destinations to transit hubs. This phenomenon is known as the “last mile problem”.

Population increases in the Front Range region require us to think differently about previous methods of moving around. There is a growing need to get people off our highways and to reduce our carbon emissions. While public transportation is a great way to achieve both of these goals, it does not always meet the real needs of residents. Our surveys found a need for equity, safety, and increased offerings for our community members. People who currently do not use bikes or public transit believe that such methods are less safe than driving. The elderly and youth are less likely to use such methods due to physical ability. People who wish to bike struggle to find connected protected bike lanes and view inclement weather as a barrier. Underlying all of these findings is a severe lack of current infrastructure to support the current and potential bikers, scooters, and transit riders in the Highland Neighborhood.

We created a report that covered survey findings and outlined several key policy interventions the city could take to better serve the Highland community. Most importantly, this information is provided to the people of the Highland Neighborhood and community associations so they may decide for themselves how best to advocate on their own behalf with the city at large.

**Editor’s Note: The Project was supported by an Advancing Community-Engaged (ACE) student grant. ACE grants are made possible by the generous support of the Arthur Vining David Foundations.

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