In 2015, I was approached by former Mayor (2017-2019) of Manitou Springs, Ken Jaray, on behalf of the Friends of Ruxton Canyon to study Ruxton Avenue. The task of the Friends Group was to gather data about how Ruxton Avenue corridor was used by pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. The study was focused on local residents and tourists that access the uphill attractions of the Broadmoor, Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway and the Manitou Incline.
I love data and the better optimization of the public right-of-way. It made sense to take on this project, and it was fun! I quickly reached out to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) for an intern. I looked for someone with ambition for a public planning and policy profession.
The perfect intern approached me – Jonathan Chavez (or Chavez, as I referred to him). It was his task for the summer to physically count pedestrians and cars in a few strategic locations on Ruxton Avenue. He analyzed where people walked (sidewalk or street). Chavez inquired why and where people stopped. He also analyzed where people would park and if they were making loops (they were) to look for a place to park. He did his job to perfection! Our analysis continued through Labor Day of that year. We then began to provide our suggested outcomes. The full document can be found here.
The following is a summary of the primary recommendations. Italic font represent the items where updates have occurred by the City of Manitou Springs and/or the adjacent attractions:
- Encourage more tourist-focused land uses at the base of the Cog and Incline where parking exists today;
- Create an Urban Design Plan for the corridor, including an update to the Code that is form-based rather than use-based;
- Increase seasonal parking rates at the Cog and Incline destinations;
- Metered parking along Ruxton with first half hour free (this was provided elsewhere in Manitou Springs, but parking was prohibited without permit on Ruxton Avenue);
- Establish interactive signage that display when parking is unavailable;
- Provide a shuttle, or even a chair lift as an option, to the base of the Cog and Incline;
- Update the parking signs for better clarity.
To the credit of the current and past Manitou Springs Mayors and City Council, the many of the suggested action items were taken. This includes increasing parking rates and limiting parking on Ruxton – not the easiest politically. It’s been a while now, so I’m offering a couple more suggestions for Manitou Springs for Ruxton Avenue below.
Ruxton Avenue should be redesigned as a woonerf.
Ruxton Avenue should be redesigned as a woonerf. What is a woonerf, right? A woonerf is a street that is focuses on the pedestrian experience, while still providing access and use by the automobile. A woonerf generally does not have curbs, striping, or the automobile focused elements. Woonerfs typically have a differing pavement material than asphalt. They invite and favor the pedestrian. And most importantly, a woonerf is a slow, beautiful and romantic street. A woonerf would accomplish the three primary goals (no particular order) of the corridor:
- Vehicular access for the residents of Ruxton Canyon and emergency vehicles;
- Access by shuttle (ideally a fixed rail trolley) for visitors to the base of the Incline and the Cog;
- Safe access for pedestrians and bicycles (I’m so happy that e-bikes are now an option for Manitou!) to the attractions.
The first bullet above is an obvious need and goal, but the second two have long-term economic development benefits. When a visitor drives to the base of the Cog and Incline, the likelihood of that visitor spending money in Manitou Springs is not high because very few goods and services are available for purchase. Similarly, when a visitor catches a shuttle at Hiawatha Gardens, minimal options are available.
From my experience, there have been a few instances where I have attempted to purchase food and beverage before and after the Incline. When I have walk from Downtown Manitou Springs, I stop at a restaurant and spent around $10. In most instances, I take the bus and instead stop at a place in Colorado Springs, on my way back home. Until there are active uses to purchase food and beverage adjacent to the shuttle, the economic benefit will remain low. Listen up, Manitou Springs, there is an opportunity to capitalize on the ever-increasing popularity of the Manitou Incline.
Manitou Springs should work toward adding greater intensify of businesses around the primary parking lots, especially if a parking structure is to go in. The ground floor frontage of a parking structure (let’s say at the Hiawatha Gardens parking lot) is the perfect place for coffee shops, breweries, smoothie shops, restaurants, and other shops catering to the visitors of Manitou Springs.
Manitou Springs is such a wonderful town, filled to the brim with charm and potential! As a nearby resident (5 minutes by vehicle; 15 minutes by bike), I want to see Manitou Springs continue to thrive, while maintaining its small town charm!