Thursday, October 1, 2015

Counterpoint to Tribune's Op-Ed Touts Denver Transit

More predictable rail cheerleading from the Tribune, this time with an op-ed written by Andrew Bowen about how great the EIGHT COUNTY Denver Regional Transit (and taxing) District is with light rail.
When members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Transportation Committee go on a benchmarking tour next week to Denver, they will probably be a bit wide-eyed as they experience one of the most progressive, efficient, people-friendly multimodal rapid transit systems in the nation — if not the world.

“Gosh,” they might gush. “Could we have something like this in Hillsborough County?”

The short answer is “yes, we can.”
Yes we can. If we fall for the trap.
[I]n Denver, the initial price tag was $4.7 billion, which voters approved 58 percent to 42 percent in 2004.
Which, by 2008, had ballooned to $7.9 billion.

Yes we can. If we ignore the predictable cost increase.

From the Denver Post, they have difficulty making otherwise simple decisions.
"Building one 11-mile segment of commuter rail from Westminster to Broomfield could cost as much as $681 million while about 100 miles of enhanced bus service in the northern suburbs would cost roughly half that and serve nearly eight times as many passengers, according to an analysis for the Regional Transportation District."
Yes we can. If we ignore common sense.

Still, the vast vast majority of workers in Denver commute in their cars. If Denver RTD is so great, why do only 6.5% of workers commute using RTD? That's all modes, not just light rail, but buses as well. Over 80% commute by car. And 2.4% by bike, and that's 4 times the national average.

Yes we can. If we set a low bar for success like Denver.

But I'm sure there's been a great increase in transit ridership across Denver RTD with all this investment, right?

We can check the National Transit Database for ridership and look into Denver's numbers 2004 when they passed the referendum, and 2013, the latest available data and applying a little fourth grade math.
Population in the service area increased 24%.
Service area square miles stayed the same.
Annual Unlinked Trips increased 23%
In other words, transit trips across all modes of Denver RTD grew at slightly LESS than then population growth despite, as Bowen stated, Denver has "one of the most progressive, efficient, people-friendly multimodal rapid transit systems in the nation — if not the world."

Yes we can. If we want to spend billions with no improvement in our mobility.

Still, I'm sure there some good news in Denver, right?

Well, yes, there is.

Denver RTD sales tax revenue is up 6.6% for 2015 year to date over 2014.

Denver RTD Monthly Financial Status July 2015
But their ridership is under performing by 2.8% from their 2015 budget, and down 0.3% in actual ridership year to date for 2015 compared to 2014.

There you have it. Another cheerleader for under performing and expensive rail transit solutions that ignores the costs and the results, and can't do math.

Sound familiar? 


  1. Most of your points are very misleading. Keep in mind, if you're using RTD ridership data to support your argument, you should at least mention that only one Fastracks-funded line (W line to Golden) has open to date. Four additional lines will open in 2016 and another in 2017. How can you expect a drastic increase in transit ridership before the rail is even open?

    1. You conveniently overlooked the North line was delayed, and the full plans may never get built, and the Northwest line, which if it happens, may be a BRT rather than rail. That is, the money ran out, and reality won't meet expectations. Not to mention RTD had to do some unnatural acts to fund more debt with the PPP to avoid another sales tax increase referendum, but still putting the taxpayers at risk.

      And you never state what is misleading. I cited all my sources.