New Report Ranks Denver 8th Among 70 Major American Cities For High-Tech Transportation Options

Media Contacts

CoPIRG Foundation

A new report from the CoPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group ranks American cities on how many new technology-enabled services and tools they have to meet transportation needs. It finds that Denver ranks 8th among the nation’s 70 largest cities.

The report, “The Innovative Transportation Index: The Cities Where New Technologies and Tools Can Reduce Your Need to Own a Car,” compares cities based on the presence of these new technologies, including ridesourcing services like Uber and Lyft, carsharing services like eGo CarShare and Zipcar, bikeshare and ridesharing systems, apps for navigating public transit and hailing taxis, and virtual ticket purchasing, among others. It is the first study of its kind.

The research demonstrates how rapid technological advances have enabled new transportation tools that make it convenient for more Americans to live full and engaged lives without owning a car.

“None of these options even existed a few years ago, and the trend is just beginning,” said Danny Katz Director of CoPIRG. “Technological advances are giving people new and convenient ways to get around more freely without having to own a car.”

“Expanding the availability of shared-use transportation modes and other technology-enabled tools can give more Americans the freedom to live “car-free” or “car-light” lifestyles,” said Jeff Inglis, a policy analyst at Frontier Group and co-author of the report. “Smartphone apps and new transportation services are making it easier for people to get where they need and want to go, while avoiding many costs associated with owning, insuring and maintaining a private vehicle.”

According to the report, Denver residents have numerous high-tech transportation options and tools available to them including:

  • One-way carsharing provided by companies like car2go.
  • Round-trip carsharing provided by companies like Zipcar, eGo CarShare, Hertz and Enterprise.
  • Ridesourcing provided by companies like Uber and Lyft.
  • Peer-to-peer carsharing provided by Relay rides.
  • Taxi-hailing apps like Curb and individual company apps for many of the local providers. 
  • Bikesharing provided by Denver’s Bcycle program. 
  • Numerous apps and smartphone resources for connecting with RTD’s transit system through RTD’s own website by using apps that provide access to RTD’s trip planner, routes and schedules, audio schedules for every one of the agency’s 9,500 bus stops, and several transit display mobile apps. In addition, apps like Nextbus and Moovit provide access to Denver’s transit system and DIA shuttles.
  • Multi-modal apps and smartphone resources like Ridescout and the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ Way to Go program that provide Denver residents tools to compare different modes of travel and design options for themselves.

 The breadth of Way to Go’s program did not fit neatly into any one of the categories that the CoPIRG Foundation study examined. A partnership between the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and seven local transportation management associations (TMAs), Way to Go offers not only a regional ridematching service for carpools, vanpools, and schoolpools but also provides resources and tools for biking, walking, public transportation, carsharing, work schedule options (such as telework, flexwork and compressed work week), and the Guaranteed Ride Home, organizes the Bike to Work Day and works with employers to use and promote commute options in the workplace.

Leading the pack among the 70 cities are Austin, San Francisco and Washington, DC, which each have at least 10 of the 11 high-tech transportation options examined in the report. Denver was tied for 8th with Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Diego.

Denver was among the group of 19 top cities with a combined population of 28 million that offer eight or more technology-enabled transportation services and options.  These cities with abundant choices all adopt open-data policies, which have led to the development of multi-modal apps that allow passengers to transition seamlessly through different modes of transportation. For example, switching from transit to bike share for the last mile of a commute.

Other findings from this new study:

  • Individually, these services and tools make a difference. But together, they are more than the sum of their parts. Someone considering riding public transit instead of driving, for instance, will want to know about complementary options for times when riding the bus or train wouldn’t be convenient.
  • The cities in this report all host a variety of services or tools that make it easier for Americans—and Millennials especially—to lead a car-free or car-light lifestyle. Having a suite of options allows people to spontaneously choose the most convenient option for them.
  • There is much that cities can do to encourage more and better use of innovative transportation choices. Just because these services are new shouldn’t stop officials from responsibly integrating them into their plans and policies.

“Denver embraces local innovation and new technologies for transportation choices, some of which are being invented or improved on by our local entrepreneurs” said Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kniech.  “These choices are part of the reason Denver is a top destination for millennials, and will also make it easier for our aging population stay active, improving our City’s vibrancy and quality of life.”

“With RTD’s annual ridership at its highest point ever at nearly 105 million passenger trips, it is important to offer our passengers updated commuting tools as our ridership will continue to grow with the opening of five new lines in 2016,” said Chuck Sisk, RTD Board chair. “The addition of real time bus tracking data through third party apps later this year offers yet another tool that will enhance the ease of connectivity to all of our services.”

Many newer transportation options involve sharing vehicles, or sharing space in a vehicle. “The shared mobility industry is growing and evolving at an incredibly rapid pace,” said Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, based in Chicago. “These innovative services not only provide riders with new transportation options but, by integrating with existing transit systems, they have the potential to offer tremendous social and economic benefits such as reducing emissions, lessening congestion and improving public access to transportation.”

Even when these services provide access to a car, they still make it easier for Americans to reduce their auto dependence because a traveler does not need to pre-commit to long-term costs of ownership, repairs, insurance and parking.

“We’re just seeing the beginning of what technology can do to transform how we get from point A to point B,” said Katz. “It’s great to see that Denver is on the forefront of this transportation evolution. These new options will help define city life in the years to come.” 

The report calls on policy-makers and elected officials to explore ways to tap the potential of technology-enabled services to address transportation challenges and increase the number of people with the option to live car-free or car-light lifestyles