Abandoned Trolley Tracks in Denver

a map of abandoned trolley tracks in Denver, Colorado. A demonstration of open data and a story about urban planning.

Background

I started this project because I met Steve, who is an urban planner for the City of Denver. I met him for coffee to talk about municipal data, urban planning and how tech & open data can be a part of urban planning. Steve told me that Denver used to have street cars that ran all over the city but they were abandoned when cars became more popular. The tracks were never removed and are still sitting under the asphalt of the streets. Hanging above his desk he has a giant paper map of all the old streetcar tracks. Why? Because he likes to be reminded of how urban planning decisions from a hundred years ago still shapes modern development of the city.

The best bars are at trolley stops

If you want to go to the best bars in Denver, you just need to go where street car lines once intersected. The most popular shops all are located at the places where street cars once stopped. When they were in operation, the streetcar lines determined what parts of the city developed. They were the major driver of commerce at the time, and even though they are now buried under the streets, they still have an impact on neighborhoods. The busiest places in the city are still where street cars had the most coverage.

Steve told me this story because it shows the impact of his work as an urban planner for the city. The choices that he makes in his job impact the way that people live their lives in Denver. I wanted to test Steve’s assertion but I had no sense of where the street car lines once were and I wanted to have a map just like the one in Steve’s office.

In the city’s open data files, I found a geo data set of the old street car lines and created a quick web map of them. Although the map is not very detailed, it shows where the old streetcars ran throughout Denver. If you’re familiar with the city, you’ll see that Steve was spot on in his analysis. Where the streetcars intersect are still central points in neighborhoods. Where the streetcar stopped is still where the best bars, nicest houses and most dense urban areas lay. At some point I hope to bike the old street car lines and visit some of those old stops.

Tools used

Project photos