DENVER (KDVR) — Denver is growing fast. The population boom is creating a city with greater density, higher high-rise living, fewer places to park and more cars.
“Historically, we’ve used that lane closest to the curb for people to put their vehicles, and now we’re thinking a little differently about that,” said Nancy Kuhn, spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure.
The city’s population increased by more than 100,000 people over the past decade. Kuhn said people in the growing city need options. Denver has been busy building out dedicated transit lanes and bike lanes, further limiting areas along streets for parking.
“When we put in bike lanes, when we do some other things with that space, there is a tradeoff,” Kuhn acknowledged. “We’re a car-centric society and maybe even a car-centric city. We love our cars.”
Changing the mindset is a challenge for the City and County of Denver. The efforts create frustration for those who are set in their car-loving ways.
For many, it seems like Denver is in the midst of an awkward in-between phase where people still feel the need to have a car because a system of alternatives doesn’t quite accommodate their needs yet. But it’s clear which direction Denver is headed: toward what critics call a “war on parking.” Advocates of the transit transformation say it is a progressive, efficient and green path forward.
Denver is closing in on its goal to add 125 miles of new bicycle lanes over a five-year period, set to be complete in 2023. Zoning is also part of Denver’s transportation makeover.
The most recent zoning change led to Denver City Council approving the removal of parking minimum standards for market-rate housing in the Golden Triangle neighborhood near downtown.
Strategically increasing certain parking fines is also part of the plan.
“The [citations] that got the most increased … we’re trying to reflect what we really want as a city, which is we want people to be able to use bike lanes if we’re building them,” Kuhn said. “We’re trying to get more compliance.”
Meter violations went from $25 to $35. One of the largest citation increases is for blocking a bicycle lane. That fine went from a $25 to $65.
Kuhn said the higher fines were approved after Denver, for the first time in roughly 20 years, took a hard look at citation costs. The money goes into the city’s general fund. Additional revenue from increased fines could result in more money spent on “street safety improvements” — what some fear could mean even more limitations on driving and parking in Denver.