Post by Christian Steward, NE Denver Community Connector
My name is Christian Steward. What I do is community. I am a Community Connector for the Office of Community and Business Engagement (OCBE) in the Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI). Although I am a part of this story there are so many branches that make a tree that can produce the fruit of the people.
I would like to introduce the first video of this blog. This is my first experience using the Montbello Connector app to order a ride to a meeting I had in Montbello. This was two days after the official launch. Click on the video below to see the Connector in action.
Oooooooooooo, let’s go! This is the joy of seeing a good plan come together. May I introduce the Mayor of Denver: Mayor Michael B. Hancock.
The Mayor is in the Montbello Connector, the city's first operated point-to-point rideshare shuttle. How did we get here? Let me take you on a journey.
May I introduce you to Stephen Rijo. He is the project team manager for the Montbello Connector. Stephen leads from the souls of collaboration. I was introduced to Stephen in my role as the Community Connector for Montbello. We identified leaders in the community and proceeded through a process to incentivize long term community engagement, the type that informs projects and programs like the Montbello Connector.
Let me take a moment to speak about how project managers in the ranks of DOTI are from diverse backgrounds. I remember the first time I saw Stephen facilitate a meeting in Montbello, which is more than 60% Spanish speaking. Taking a trip into this memory, I recall him presenting in English and then beginning to speak in Spanish to interpret the work into the language that most accurately represents the spoken language in this neighborhood. Stephen’s family is from the Dominican Republic and his bilingual upbringing allowed him to translate for this momentous and transformative project.
Under Stephen’s leadership, grocery gift cards from local grocers determined by advisory committee were offered. Incentivizing the community became an important tool and tactic to provide for a need and present thoughtful ways to build relationships.
We have a long way to go in creating meaningful and accessible community engagement, but Stephen is a great example of leadership.
Have I mentioned, the City of Denver has never planned, designed, and delivered a transportation service before. The city is now exploring suitable and sustainable transportation options for residents.
Let's talk about the vehicles:
1 Handicapped accessible van
1 Hybrid SUV
1 Fully Electric
Meet Grace Rink & Michael Salisbury. They work for the Denver Office of Climate Action Sustainability & Resiliency (CASR). Despite the different departments, Stephen and Michael identified a need to emphasize Denver’s commitment to curving carbon emissions. They met and the outcome was adding another funding source for the electric and hybrid vehicles for the Montbello Connector fleet. Part of the plan to introduce these vehicles was about improving the local infrastructure to include charging stations for electric vehicles. This is the power of inter-departmental collaboration.
CASR ensures that the City's targets are aligned with current climate science, promotes the role that climate action and sustainability play in strengthening Denver's economic vitality and a prosperous future for all residents and businesses, and embraces equity as a value and practice in all of its work. Learn more about CASR by clicking here: https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Climate-Action-Sustainability-Resiliency/About
The Power of 3
This triangular partnership of transportation is critical to warrant success and expansion of transportation services like these. The partnerships will be laid out below and will consist of a mission or vision statement and a website to learn more. We have the city government, representatives of the people, fund and manage the project. We have our operator, Downtowner and our community partner, NETC.
Under a new charter approved by the voters of Denver, DOTI was created on January 1, 2020. DOTI initiated a planning study to discover where a neighborhood transit service should be operated to serve community needs and improve mobility for its residents. Learn more about DOTI by clicking here: https://denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Department-of-Transportation-and-Infrastructure/Programs-Services/Transit/Montbello-Connector
The chart below represents the first two weeks of the Montbello Connector in full operation in Montbello. The statistics and chart are provided by Downtowner. Learn more about Downtowner by clicking here: https://www.ridedowntowner.com/about-us
The Northeast Transportation Connections (NETC) is a transportation management association (TMA) serving the northeast Denver region, including the neighborhood of Montebello. Learn more about NETC by clicking here: https://www.netransportation.org/montbello-connector
NETC has been instrumental to promoting and recruiting drivers that live in the neighborhood. NETC had already been operating vehicles in the neighborhood and has created trust in the neighborhood and been vocal and visible in the realm of community engagement that reaches across transportation. What they understand is how transportation impacts us all.
Learn more about the Montbello Connector Microtransit Pilot here: https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Agencies-Departments-Offices-Directory/Department-of-Transportation-and-Infrastructure/Programs-Services/Transit/Montbello-Connector