Appelhans & Boeschenstein: The case for investing in a variety of transportation options
Authors: David Appelhans, Bennett Boeschenstein - March 8, 2017 - Updated: March 4, 2017
In Colorado’s state Legislature this year, the issue on everyone’s mind is transportation. Coloradans know how badly we need funding for transportation — but it’s not just about building roads and bridges. Coloradans want to see investment in mobility options, such as buses for the elderly and safer routes to schools. We are writing today to urge the General Assembly to address the need for transportation options that exists in our communities and across the state.
To take a step back, Colorado’s population growth is currently the second-fastest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census. Our dramatic, rapid growth has increased demand on our transportation infrastructure, and future growth is going to create even more. In addition to funding improvements for roads and bridges, our communities want to see significant investment in different forms of transportation that will make our streets safer, modern and will provide more options for all Coloradans.
As elected officials, we don’t have time to waste on political squabbling. We want to see our state Legislature act in the best interest of local communities. In this case, the solution is clear: We need greater investment in different ways for people to get around. Not only will this pay off by encouraging economic growth and improving public health, but it will fund necessary access to amenities for Coloradans across the state.
More funding for different modes of transportation will not just affect the urban areas of Colorado. This type of funding is needed in small towns, big cities and rural areas. Currently, our state’s transportation options are severely underfunded — one recent study found Colorado is ranked 29th among states in per capita funding for transit, investing just one-twentieth of the national average. Across the country, on average, states provide 26 percent of the cost of operating public transit, while in Colorado the state provides only 1 percent.
This type of funding will bring direct benefits to Coloradans from all walks of life. A good example of what this funding could accomplish happened in Teller County last year. The Teller Senior Coalition received a grant through the Colorado Department of Transportation for operating expenses. With this funding, they were able to provide additional transportation services to their senior and disabled population, meeting the increasing ridership demand and expanding their services to include social activities. In response, some clients said they feel they are living a more independent life and are able to make new friendships and social contacts.
Many riders are calling to request more activities and to make sure they are on the list to attend everything offered.
With more funding aimed toward a diverse array of transportation options, programs like the Teller Senior Coalition can increase mobility and access and better serve the needs of the community.
At the same time, it’s important that we focus on creating safer walkways and bicycling infrastructure to link together our communities.
Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have increased in Colorado since 2002, and there are thousands of miles of bike lanes and hundreds of intersections that are unsafe. Even outside of urban centers, these forms of transportation can boost local economies. For instance, in Glenwood Springs, the installation of a widened pedestrian walkway on a popular downtown street contributed to a 10 percent increase in revenues for local businesses in 2015.
Communities in our districts and across Colorado deserve transportation options to meet our needs and provide choices for how we travel.
We applaud the efforts of our state legislators to find transportation funding streams to serve community needs, and we hope that funding for a wide array of transportation options is included in this initiative.