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Residents of loft outraged by new construction for bus stop

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DENVER -- A battle is brewing between some downtown dwellers and the Regional Transportation District.

Residents of the IsBell Lofts at 1800 Lawrence St. woke up Monday to the clamor of construction. It was the first sign of what would be coming outside their door -- and they are not happy about it.

The city of Denver is building what’s called a transit island because buses will no longer be able to pull up to the curb because of new protected bicycle lanes.

The project is supposed to make it safer for pedestrians, but residents wonder if it’s at their expense. It started with the creation of the bike lanes, which removed parking and blocked access to bus stops.

On Tuesday, IsBell residents saw the bigger picture as freshly poured concrete formed a transit island.

“RTD is moving a bus stop from midblock to literally right in front of our front door. And they’re creating a huge island platform for this stop. For unknown reasons, evidently a bench was not sufficient,” said Kay Coulson, an IsBell resident for about one year.

Coulson said the island will look similar to one with a metal post and canopy -- and consequently block her door, signage and access for emergency workers, delivery drivers, residents and guests.

“Our crime is up exponentially,” said Coulson, saying it has more than doubled on the block in the past three years.

Residents worry the island could bring crime in the neighborhood even closer.

“Now there is a valid reason for people to loiter in front of the building. It may attract people who are not necessarily riding the bus, but now have an excuse to stand there,” IsBell resident Tom Fagan said.

Residents said it didn’t have to be this way, that they could have kept the island where the stop is now at midblock.

“The city asked us to move it closer to the intersection. It’s a little bit safer for people when they get off the bus. We hope they’ll cross at the intersection, in the crosswalk, rather than midblock,” RTD spokeswoman Tina Jaquez said.

Plus, the city said it’s not safe to put the new island between two existing parking lots with cars coming in and out.

“We all have to work together on maintaining safety and flow of traffic as much as we can," Jaquez said.

The island will look more like the one two blocks away, without a canopy and 20 feet shorter. It’s progress that has some worried about the direction the city is taking on public transit, if a benefit to one is a detriment to the other.

“If it can happen to our building, it’s going to happen to others in downtown Denver. This is not helping people want to live downtown,” a citizen said.

Residents are bothered that they were not a part of the conversation for the island. But RTD said it has more than 10,000 bus stops throughout the metro area and cannot inform the public about changes to all of them.

RTD said it understand the concerns over crime, but it hopes to reassure residents with its force of transit police and security officers monitoring the buses.

It also suggests residents download RTD’s Transit Watch app that lets people take pictures of problems and send it to transit police.

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