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Boulder County adopts mobility plan to address transit needs

Plan aims make transit more accessible for all users
RTD Bus (1 of 1)
An RTD bus in Longmont

Boulder County resident Chris Bentley had three strokes five years ago and was barely able to get around for the first few years.

Then he took the county’s Mobility for All class and his world opened back up.

“(It) taught me so much about how to get around that now — I’m on an electric scooter — I take the buses everywhere,” Bentley said during a Boulder County Commissioner hearing on Thursday. “I have a little booklet … about accessible trails. I take the buses and go on those all the time. Whenever I see anybody that’s in a wheelchair or scooter, I tell them how easy it is to use the bus if it doesn’t seem like they’re getting around like that.”

Boulder County’s transportation division, in coordination with community partners, has spent the last 18 months creating a transportation services plan known as the Mobility and Access for All Ages and Abilities plan. It will serve as a guide for the county’s multimodal transportation policy as it pertains to people with special needs, including seniors, people with disabilities, Spanish speakers, low income users and the youth, for the next five years.

The plan aims to address the unique transportation needs and gaps in the system to reach more users like Bentley. It is the first plan of its kind in Boulder County.

Developing a local coordinated plan also opens the county up to specific federal funding to begin addressing these needs.

While Boulder County coordinated the plan, it is meant to be a guide for municipalities and community partners as well.

“Boulder County may be the steward of this plan, but all of the strategies … are not meant for Boulder County to tackle alone,” Youth Transportation Program Manager Cammie Edson said. “It really was developed in partnership and it is meant to be executed and implemented in partnership.”

The plan includes two tiers of implementation, one meant to happen in the next one to two years and the second being longer term strategies.

Priorities include creating year round access to bus routes and bus stops, making sure they are maintained and cleared in the winter. Expanding affordable and free transit fare programs was also a big issue for the community.

“We live in an expensive area and housing and transportation combined are really out of reach for a lot of folks,” Mobility for All Program Manager Angel Bond said. “We see more and more people who are transportation burdened in addition to housing burdened.”

The plan looks at bringing an Access a Ride certification center to Boulder County and aims to support volunteer driver populations. Additionally, the plan looks to expand travel training to special needs populations so people can learn how to use these services.

Long term priorities include thoughtful land use planning coordinated with transportation in mind and implementing universal design in transit stations. Driver retention and training is a core part of the plan, since none of the work can be complete without drivers.

The Boulder County Commissioners unanimously approved adopting the plan following a round of supportive comments from the community.

“What it represents to me is potential,” Commissioner Claire Levy said of the plan. “Once you get mobility, then the world opens up for you.”