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For the first time since the methodology changed five years ago, the Downtown Denver Commuter Survey, which was released last week, revealed that more worker bees who regularly commute downtown opted to drive alone rather than take public transit.
The peak in commuters driving stag came as a disappointment to the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP), which solicited responses for the 10th annual survey in September and early October. The partnership’s goal is to have less than 35 percent of “drive-alones” by 2021 in order to alleviate parking demand and up development opportunities; it’s currently at 40.3 percent. The survey’s methodology was changed five years ago by expanding the number of street addresses that can be considered valid for responses beyond the 80202 zip code.
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Despite the 1.8 percent rise in solo drivers since 2015, the DDP is still optimistic that with the proper infrastructure and policy implementation over the coming years, the survey direction can be reversed.
“We are really excited to be releasing this year’s report in particular because this is just before the Denver Moves Downtown plan will be initiated, so we are hoping information like this and next year’s survey will really inform that planning effort in Downtown Denver and the way we plan transportation downtown,” says Aylene McCallum, the DDP’s director of downtown environment.
So who, exactly, is driving solo and who is hopping on a bus or train? Survey says that while commuters over the age of 49 are more likely to use transit than their younger counterparts, women in their 30s and 40s are more likely to drive alone than any other group surveyed, regardless of age or gender.
Luckily for the DDP, the survey also reveals that many commuters are not entrenched in their commuting habits, with 74 percent of those who regularly drive to work alone saying that they are willing to try other modes of transportation to make it to the office, and 57 percent of the same group saying it would utilize transit if it were faster or more frequent. Additionally, 89 percent of transit commuters believe transit is a convenient way to get downtown, but 71 percent of drivers feel the same way about driving alone.
In the meantime, the DDP has a pretty good idea of how to get commuters out of the car and onto public transit: employer-supplied transit passes.
A whopping 87 percent of surveyed employees consider a transit pass to be a very valuable or valuable employer provided benefit, and according to the DDP, providing a transit pass is a significantly cheaper alternative to a parking space.
If that isn’t enough to drive the message home, consider this: If an employer provides a transit pass, their employee is 67 percent more likely to use transit and 28 percent less likely to drive alone. On the other hand, if the employer covers a parking pass, that employee is 88 percent more likely to drive alone and 44 percent less likely to use transit.
“The choices employers make on transportation benefits really impact how their employees choose to get to work,” McCallum says. “These influence employee behavior a lot.”