Growing Up Boulder: Getting Teens Around Town

Growing Up Boulder

New Program Aims to See Commuting Through the Eyes of Teenagers.

Remember turning 16 and you couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license? Getting behind the wheel of a car meant freedom. Surprisingly, that isn’t so true anymore, as teens simply aren’t rushing to the DMV. So how are they getting around?

As a parent of a pre-teen, I know that parents chaperone their kids around, and many teenagers find it convenient to travel by foot, bike, bus and Uber. And as a transportation planner, it has been a learning experience to look at travel through the eyes of local teens. As we think about how to make our streets safer and more comfortable to walk, bike, use transit and drive, we’ve asked them what’s important.

GO Boulder staff has partnered with Growing Up Boulder and the city’s Youth Opportunity Advisory Board to give teens a voice in shaping proposed transportation improvements in the East Arapahoe Corridor. Growing Up Boulder is a partnership between the University of Colorado, the City of Boulder, and Boulder Valley School District; it provides meaningful opportunities for young people to participate in Boulder decision-making.

The East Arapahoe project team met with a class of teen mothers to talk about how they travel around town and specifically, the challenges they face traveling to and from their school campus located on the East Arapahoe Corridor. As both teenagers and parents, they provided a unique perspective and described the need for travel options that are fast, convenient and reliable –
especially because they have young children in tow. A couple of the teens mentioned that while they’d prefer to ride a bus, it needs to include features like children’s car seats and easy loading for strollers. We are excited to consider these types of enhancements when designing a transit system that works for all ages.

The East Arapahoe project team has also been actively working with the Youth Opportunity Advisory Board. This is a panel of 16 high school students who represent the youth voice and advise the city on youth-related policies and issues. These teenagers conducted a walking audit along Arapahoe and noted that it’s a fairly hostile environment for walk and biking. They prioritized improvements like pedestrian paths, protected bike lanes, Bus Rapid Transit lanes and street landscaping. They evaluated proposed improvements through the lens of a driver, pedestrian, transit user and bicyclist and offered their opinions on what would and wouldn’t work for each type of user. The input these teens provided has helped the project team create recommendations that are being shared with the public this summer and fall.