Denver at Eye Level

“Denver at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. As I decide what I want to focus on in my first 2018 Oregon post (what would you like to read about?), I’m focusing this post on my May 31 layover in Denver. I wasn’t planning to include a layover in Denver on my flight from Charlotte to Portland until I saw how much cheaper flying through Frontier is. While there are many disadvantages to flying through Frontier, which may prevent me from flying through them again, I couldn’t resist getting a free flight with a long daytime (important because I wouldn’t do nighttime layover) layover in Denver out of my flight to Portland. Plus, I got to catch up with Allison Barton, who is my 2nd cousin. She lives in the Denver region and I haven’t seen her in about 15 years!

Can Denver become a “smart city”?

I started my long Denver layover by figuring out transportation. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible in Denver and many other cities to pay for transit and bikeshare using the same fee and use both systems with one app or card. I hope this changes soon as many cities invest in smart city technology. Even though a day transit pass throughout the Portland region costs $5, a day transit pass from the Denver airport costs $9!

Since Capital Bikeshare sells single trips for $2 and I only planned to take one or two trips, I was shocked Denver B-cycle doesn’t sell single trips. The cheapest is a day pass for $9! I may be too frugal, but paying $9 for only one or two trips felt too expensive so I ended up walking and riding transit.

I also didn’t ride bikeshare because I hadn’t memorized where all the stations are located and where the system limit is. I was concerned I wouldn’t find a station nearby or bike beyond the system limit and not be able to find a station to dock the bike. Due to these concerns, I wish Denver had dockless bikeshare. Most dockless bikeshare companies charge $1/trip.

16th Street Mall

Enough ranting about how I’d improve Denver. I enjoyed many things about Denver. While an almost 14-hour layover may seem like plenty of time to explore Denver, I knew it would be over quickly so I prepared before arriving where I wanted to go. Even on a Thursday during normal work hours, the mile-long 16th Street Mall was busy. I constantly saw the free MallRide shuttle, so it was reliable to use.

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16th Street Mall

The following photos show some of the placemaking along the 16th Street Mall.

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The below photo shows it being used.

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Proof the piano was used.

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The below photo shows it being used.

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Proof the chess/checkers board was used.

9th Street Historic Park

I came across the 9th Street Historic Park while searching for historic sites to visit. Since the park is part of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, many of the historic houses have been converted to university buildings.

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9th Street Park is a Pedestrian Mall

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Every house had this marker.

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I wish I would’ve had time to visit all the story sites along the Denver Story Trek.

Larimer Square

While I didn’t find any historic markers to read, Larimer Square is where Denver was founded.

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View of Larimer Square from 14th Street. Yes, you see a bike signal. There’s a protected bike lane on 14th Street.

Confluence Park

After walking several miles on a 90-degree day, I enjoyed putting my feet in the cold South Platte River at the Confluence Park.

Protected Bike Lane at Bus Stop

I found several protected bike lanes in Denver. Since designing protected bike lanes with a bus stop is often challenging, the below photo shows how Denver did it.

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Protected bike lane at a bus stop

The Alley at the Dairy Block

I wasn’t even looking for the Alley at the Dairy Block when I was randomly exploring Denver. According to this article, the alley opened in April 2018 and is Downtown Denver’s first activated alley. The alley reminds me of Brevard Court in Uptown Charlotte.

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Bus Rapid Transit

I was on my way to meet Allison Baron, who is my 2nd cousin, for dinner when I saw a bus-only lane on Broadway. Since I’ve seen private cars in bus-only lanes in other cities, I was surprised most Denver drivers stayed out of the bus-only lane unless they were turning, which is legal. The bus-only lane is just painted!

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Do you see “bus only” painted on Broadway and the right turn only except buses sign?

Returning to Airport

Allison pointed out the beautiful Denver sunset over the Rockies as she drove me back to the airport. Since the sunset was on her side of the jeep, I didn’t want to reach my phone over her while she was driving to take a photo so I didn’t get a photo.

Denver Sunset

Denver sunset over the Rockies. Photo: slack12 on Flickr.

Since I have lived and worked in Oregon City for over a month, my next post will focus on how I’m feeling with these life changes. As with previous posts that discussed my work life, I plan to only share what can be shared publicly.

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Boston at Eye Level

“Boston at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. While I know you’re waiting for me to write about how I feel being back in Oregon, I have two posts I want to share before writing about my life back in Oregon. The first post is about Boston and the second post is about Denver. Since I knew I’d be moving back to Oregon, I quickly planned a weekend trip to Boston from after work on Friday, May 4 to early morning on Monday, May 7. I arrived back in Arlington, VA after midnight on May 7 then worked at the City of Alexandria, VA that morning. I was excited to explore Boston for the first time and catch up with Keihly Moore and Jesse Boudart. Keihly graciously invited me to stay at her home in Boston’s Egleston Square Neighborhood and borrow one of her many bikes.

Before I arrived at Keihly’s home, I was amazed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which is the Boston region’s transit system. Unlike Metro in the DC region, MBTA in the Boston region doesn’t require users to swipe their transit pass to exit the station. I was embarrassed when I arrived at the exit turnstile and tried to use my transit pass to exit. Since I couldn’t find a way to swipe my transit pass on the exit turnstile, I had to ask someone how to do this. They looked at me as if I was an alien and said to just walk through the exit turnstile. I followed their lead and was able to exit the station.

Since the MBTA doesn’t know where riders exit, it can’t charge riders based on how far they travel, which is what Metro does in the DC region. MBTA also can’t collect any destination data, so MBTA only has the origin data. As a GIS and transportation data nerd, I would find it frustrating to work with transit data in the Boston region.

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Boston’s exit turnstiles. Photo: OUTFRONT Media Inc.

I arrived at Keihly’s home after a short walk (I’m used to walking miles) from the transit station. Since her home is up a steep flight of stairs and I have an extreme fear of heights, I had to overcome my fear to enter and exit her home. I’m thankful I visited Keihly during the spring because the stairs would have been covered in snow during the winter. When this happens at my home in the South, I would just wait for the snow to melt, which usually takes a day. Since it constantly snows in Boston during the winter, I’d be waiting all winter to leave.

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Catching up with Keihly Moore in Boston

Since Keihly had a long training ride on Saturday to prepare her for the 5-day, 400-mile Bostreal (Boston to Montreal), Jesse gave me a nerdy bike tour of the Boston region. Jesse, who now works as a traffic engineer at Toole Design Group, was one of my two Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentors in 2016. We had only Skyped during our 3-person meetings, so I got to meet Jesse for the first time in person when I visited Boston. I was exhausted from biking several miles on a bike I hadn’t ridden before that I forgot to take a selfie with Jesse. Since Jesse only had a few hours to give me a bike tour of the Boston region, we didn’t stop often to take photos and I didn’t want to risk my phone falling out of my hand while biking. Due to this, the below photos are the only photos I took.

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View of Downtown Boston (left on the horizon) and Boston’s Back Bay (center right on the horizon) from Prospect Hill Park in Somerville

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View of Downtown Boston from a trail on the north side of the Charles River. Boston has a great trail network along both sides of the Charles River.

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Protected Bike Lane at MIT in Cambridge

I enjoyed talking with Keihly so much on Sunday that I forgot to take photos. Or maybe I didn’t want to be seen glued to my phone taking photos. I think it’s a combination of these factors. Either way, I enjoyed the limited time with Keihly. Even though I had heard of Boston’s famous Emerald Necklace, which was designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, Keihly showed me why he would be embarrassed by some of how Boston implemented his design. The below 8-lane highway, which connects Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, is supposed to be part of the Emerald Necklace. While the highway does have trees, it doesn’t feel like a park with 8 lanes of traffic and narrow sidewalks!

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Emerald Necklace’s Arborway between Jamaica Pond and Arnold Arboretum

My flight back to Baltimore-Washington (cheaper than flying to DC’s Reagan and Dulles) was late in the evening and Keihly had a rare Sunday work presentation at a church, so I explored more of Downtown Boston on my own. Since I was still new to Boston, I was thankful to have help finding things to do. My Portland (not the original Portland in Maine) friend, Carl Larson, suggested the Black Heritage Trail. While the trail wayfinding could have been improved, I was able to find most of the sites, which taught me about Boston’s role in the Underground Railroad.

As is common in most of the US, the White-focused Freedom Trail is much more of a tourist attraction than the Black Heritage Trail. Many tour companies charge money so tourists can learn about the Freedom Trail’s sites from their professional guides. I visited many of the sites along the Freedom Trail.

I explored Downtown Boston’s cool Washington Street pedestrian mall on my way to catch transit to the airport. As with most other pedestrian malls in the US, the Washington Street pedestrian mall was short so I hope Boston expands it someday. I’m sure this pedestrian mall is short because motorists didn’t want to lose too much access to Downtown Boston.

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Pedestrian mall on Washington Street in Downtown Boston

My next post will be about my long layover in Denver when I was moving back to Oregon then I’ll write a post about being back in Oregon.

Montreal at Eye Level

“Montreal at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. While I don’t usually wait a few weeks to write a travel post, I’m glad I waited this time because I learned something disappointing about Montreal after I returned to the US. This disappointment totally changed my perspective on Montreal and how I was planning to write this post. I was originally planning to express my excitement for all the cool placemaking projects and car-free streets.

While the projects and car-free streets are still cool, I wish they were all permanent. Many of the innovative placemaking and car-free streets that I was excited to see in Montreal are closing for the winter. Neighborhoods will temporarily lose placemaking projects that make their neighborhood unique and automobiles will return to what I thought were permanent pedestrian malls. Yes, I realize Montreal has long and harsh winters. However, people in Montreal still go outside during the winter so why can’t the placemaking projects and car-free streets continue through the winter?

Rue Sainte-Catherine

Since Rue Sainte-Catherine is likely Montreal’s most famous pedestrian mall, I’ll start with this example. Why can’t the below street be car-free all year?

Saint-Catherine St E April 2016

April 2016

Saint-Catherine St E August 2016

August 2016

Saint-Catherine St W April 2016

April 2016

Saint-Catherine St W August 2016

August 2016

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Pedestrian Mall on Rue Sainte-Catherine E in Montreal

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Placemaking on Rue Sainte-Catherine E in Montreal

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Musical bikes on Rue Sainte-Catherine E in Montreal

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Giant Chess Boards on Rue Sainte-Catherine O in Montreal

Place Shamrock

While Avenue Shamrock remains a one-lane street during the winter, all the placemaking in the below photos close during the winter. I haven’t lived in an environment where placemaking closes during the winter. What do families in Montreal do during the winter to have fun when the chess board and carousel are no longer there?

Shamrock Avenue May 2015

May 2015

Shamrock Avenue August 2016

August 2016

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Chess on Avenue Shamrock in Montreal

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Carousel with bikes at Place Shamrock

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Parklet at Place Shamrock

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Parklet at Place Shamrock

Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon)

While Place Shamrock closes during the winter, Jean-Talon Market remains open during the winter. Jean-Talon Market is adjacent to Place Shamrock. I’m curious whether the outdoor pianos remain during the winter. I found people playing outdoor pianos throughout Montreal. I’ve never seen so many outdoor pianos anywhere!

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Protected Bike Lanes

While I’m disappointed by how many placemaking projects and car-free streets in Montreal are temporary, I’m confident that at least one project is permanent. Some of Montreal’s protected bike lanes are permanent because they are built using concrete barriers instead of temporary posts. Most protected bike lanes in the DC region and throughout the US are temporary because they use posts.

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Boulevard de Maisonneuve O and Rue University

Montreal still has protected bike lanes that were built using posts and a parking lane. Unlike many post-protected bike lanes in the US, Montreal drivers don’t appear to park in the bike lane. Surprisingly, this was accomplished with only a few posts and signs. I only see one post and no parking-related signs in the below photo. How many posts and parking-related signs would be in this photo if this bike lane was installed in the US? I realize US cities are trying to use many posts and parking signs to educate the public about where to park and protect cyclists. But how many posts and signs are really needed to accomplish these goals?

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Looking northwest on Rue Clark at Avenue Laurier O

Future Blog Post

My one year work anniversary is quickly approaching! While I interned part-time at Oregon Metro for a year during grad school, this is my first full-time work anniversary! My first day at MetroBike was October 25. I plan to reflect on my first year and what I look forward to doing in my second year. Since I can’t publicly share the exact station locations that I have been working on, I plan to share a general overview of how much fun I have had during my first year.