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New Report Says Denverites Driving Less, Biking More

Nathan Heffel
Cars stopped on I25 in Denver.

While it may seem that traffic congestion across Colorado is getting worse, a report released Wednesday by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) says across the state’s largest urban areas; residents actually reduced their driving miles, decreased commutes by car, and increased their use of public transport and bicycles.

The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” measured the driving habits of 100 of the largest cities in the country including New York, Portland and Houston. Here in Colorado, Denver and Colorado Springs were studied.

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Colorado and across the country,” said Danny Katz, Director of the CoPIRG Foundation. “Denver policy makers have done a lot to ensure Coloradans have access to transportation alternatives. Based on these national and local trends, we need to continue to invest in public transit and biking for the future.”

In Denver, per capita, there was a 10.6 percent decrease in vehicle-miles driven between 2006 and 2011. In Colorado Springs, there was a decrease of 6 percent. That places Denver 9th on the list of the 100 largest urban areas with a decrease in vehicle- miles driven.

And if you bike to work, you're not alone. The report says workers commuting by two wheels in Denver increased  between 2000 and 2010 by 0.5 percent. It's the  4th largest increase in the country.

Molly North, executive director of Bike Denver says projects like the new 15th street bike lane show how the city is taking the initiative to meet the changing commuting habits of Denver residents.

“As we’re learning how to share the road between motorists, transit, bikers and riders, having that fully installed infrastructure might be a better manifestation for creating a priority way for bikes and pedestrians to get around in our community,” North said. 

In Colorado Springs, folks are also leaving their cars at home when commuting to work. The city saw a decrease in commutes by private vehicle by 3.4 percent between 2000 and 2007-2011, placing it 8th on the top 100 list.

In Denver, the drop was 2.8 percent, or 17th on the list. 

“This report once again makes the strong argument for additional investments in public transit to serve our metro area,” said Scott Reed, communications manager for the Regional Transportation District.

Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC
L-R: Molly North of Bike Denver, Rocky Piro of the city of Denver, Scott Reed of RTD and Ted Heyd of Bicycle Colorado at the CoPIRG report announcement

CoPIRG says the number of passenger miles on public transport in Denver increased by 13.5 percent between 2005 and 2010.

Measured in the number of trips, the group says Denver saw a 3.5 percent increase per capita in that time frame.

“The 10.6 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled combined with the 13.5 percent increase in passenger miles aboard transit clearly shows the growing mode of preference is public transit,” said Reed. “Add in the increase in bicycle usage and we are looking at a dramatic and growing change in the Denver area’s travel patterns and mode choices.”

The  new report builds off earlier studies showing a decline in driving nationally as well as among America’s youth.  CoPIRG says Americans 16 to 34 years of age reduced their average driving miles by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

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