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Report Finds Fewer People Driving in Colorado and U.S.

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Denver B cycleColoradans are driving less than they used to, according to a first-of-its-kind report released Wednesday by the CoPIRG Foundation, a Colorado consumer advocacy group. The study, which covers the entire U.S., shows that many people are using bikes and public transportation instead of cars, whereas others are working from home, as 9News.com (KUSA) reports.

In fact, the proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle (whether alone or in a carpool) declined in 99 of the 100 most populated areas in the country, according to a CoPIRG press release. In a video on 9News.com, CoPIRG Foundation director Danny Katz said of the 100 largest U.S. urban areas that the study looked at, Denver has seen the ninth-largest decline in the number of people driving per capita. And Denver has had the fourth-largest increase in people biking to work, KUSA reports, with 0.5% more people biking to work in 2011 than in 2006.

In Denver, people drove 10.6% less in 2011 than they did in 2006, writes Alison Noon for The Denver Post. The percentage of people commuting to work by bike increased nationwide, not only in Denver, with an increase in 85 of the 100 most populated urban areas in the U.S., the study found. Katz said: ““There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Colorado and across the country.”

The study lists Colorado Springs as eighth among the largest 100 U.S. cities with a decline in the number of people commuting to work in a private vehicle, as Matt Steiner writes for The Gazette. Between the years 2000 and 2007-2011, the number of Colorado Springs residents commuting by car declined by 3.4%, according to the study. In Denver the drop was 2.8 percent, the 17th largest. The CoPIRG press release says:

The number of passenger miles travelled on [public] transit per capita increased 13.5 percent in Denver between 2005 and 2010. In Colorado Springs, [public] transit passenger miles per person increased by 4.2 percent. Measured in terms of the number of trips taken on public transit per-capita, Denver witnessed a 3.5 percent increase from 2005 to 2010.

The statistics the study looked at for 2006 and 2011 did not include 26 of the 100 largest urban areas in the U.S. because updated data in those regions did not reflect the same areas that were surveyed in the early 2000s, as Noon notes. Thus, of the 74 places studied, 47 had fewer people driving overall, she writes.

CoPIRG says the trend away from driving is not due to the recession, as those urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear less affected by the recession according to indicators of unemployment, income, and poverty. The largest reduction in driving across the U.S. has been among people ages 16 to 34, whose average driving miles decreased by 23% between 2001 and 2009, CoPIRG says.

As this blog reported back in May, according to a CoPIRG study released last spring, the “driving boom” (a six-decade period in which driving increased in the United States) has ended. That study attributed the decline to the fact that those in the Millennial generation are driving less than previous ones. We quoted Monte Whaley writing in The Denver Post as saying that according to that report, “Millennials are almost downright apathetic about cars, compared to their parents and grandparents.”

In the CoPIRG press release, Scott Reed, the assistant general manager of communications for the Regional Transportation District, says the new report makes a strong argument for more investment in public transit for metro areas. He went on to say:

The 10.6 percent decrease in vehicle miles travelled combined with the 13.5 percent increase in passenger miles aboard transit clearly shows the growing mode of preference is public transit.  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.

And Katz said, “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.”

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