Guest Blog by Danny Katz, Director, CoPIRG and the CoPIRG Foundation
Last March, the CoPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group released a new report that ranks American cities on how many new technology-enabled services and tools they have to meet transportation needs. We ranked Denver 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,” compared 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.
We think 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. Technological advances are giving people new and convenient ways to get around more freely without having to own a car.
According to Jeff Inglis from the Frontier Group, “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. 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."
If you look at our report you’ll see that at the time, Denver residents had 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.
- Apps and smartphone resources for connecting with RTD’s transit system
- 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 but is worth mentioning. 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 were 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 offered 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.
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.
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.
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. It’s great to see that Denver has been on the forefront of this transportation evolution. These new options will help define city life in the years to come.
But we need policy-makers and elected officials to do even more 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.
I’m excited to continue to explore these opportunities at Live Ride Share coming up fast on May 17th.
See you there!