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Study: Public transit getting left by the roadside in Colorado

Author: Dan Njegomir - February 3, 2017 - Updated: June 6, 2017

More food for thought as state lawmakers gird for an epic push to forge a transportation-funding plan: A report released by the Boulder-based Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, or SWEEP, says Colorado is ranked 29th among states in per capita funding for public transit, investing just one-twentieth of the national average in the likes of buses and light rail.

From SWEEP’s press release announcing its findings:

The dearth of state dollars going toward public transit is part of a broader puzzle Colorado faces in untangling its intertwined problems of rapid population growth, constrained funding, congested roads and inadequate public transit for rural residents as well as urban dwellers.

“Colorado has historically invested very little state money into public transit compared to other states, spending only $2.62 annually per person, or less than one cent per day. That’s compared to the national average of over $53 per person per year or almost 15 cents per person each day,” said Will Toor, SWEEP’s transportation program director.

SWEEP is a familiar presence at the Capitol, advocating for greater energy efficiency in Colorado as well as Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

“Transportation” is, of course, variously defined at the legislature. Republicans tend to keep it simple; they spell it H-I-G-H-W-A-Y-S. Many Democrats are more likely to include everything from expanded bus service to bike lanes. It’s a classic guns-vs.-butter debate that loops in environmentalists, highway contractors, the business community and economic-development types.

If an elusive transportation-funding agreement is at last hammered out, look for it to include a little something for all of those stakeholders — though the state’s overburdened and aging highway infrastructure will, by definition, be at the head of the line in any funding package.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.