Denver and RTD get serious about changes to the 16th Street Mall

RTD commissioned new MallRide buses. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
RTD commissioned new MallRide buses. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
RTD commissioned new MallRide buses. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

Denver and RTD are setting off on a federally mandated review that could open the door to moving the free MallRide or changing its distinctive pavers. Or everything could stay the same — that’s an option, too. 

Because the 16th Street Mall was built in 1982 with federal funds, any potential modifications must undergo a National Environmental Policy Act review. And the city is coughing up the money to pay for the review and Section 106 processes and concept designs.

Denver and RTD are approaching the federally mandated study “with an eye on potential reconfiguration to optimize the corridor for transit, pedestrians and leisure activities,” Denver Community Planning and Development said in its announcement.

The 16th Street Mall on Sunday, June 26, 2016. (Chloe Aiello / Denverite)
The 16th Street Mall on Sunday, June 26, 2016. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)

This comes on the heels of two studies last year, both of which suggested that changes in the mall’s current configuration could be advantageous to the city.

First, RTD found out that the pavers cost them $1 million a year and started studying replacing them. That study did not result in a recommendation to move the shuttle off the mall, reports the Denver Post:

“Some consideration was given to moving the MallRide off the mall, but “all the parties have agreed the shuttle will remain on 16th Street,” Currey said.

[…]

“One change being considered is putting shuttle lanes in the middle of the mall to increase the increase the amount of sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.”

Then, a place-making study from the city and the Downtown Denver Partnership recommended testing shuttle rerouting.

Both studies will inform the new federally mandated one, which means the city is serious about changing.

Henry Cobb presents a prototype design for the pattern on the 16th Street Mall to Denver officials around 1979. © Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Henry Cobb presents a prototype design for the pattern on the 16th Street Mall to Denver officials around 1979. © Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

After the expanded analysis, we could have recommendations to move the shuttle, enhance the sidewalks, put in alternate surface materials, expand seating or just keep the mall as-is.

The analysis is expected to take about a year, said Denver CPD.