Denver to Spend 50 Times on
Transit Relative to Highways

A Denver Post article on 30 January 1999 reported criticism by Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) authorities of data used by Governor Bill Owens in his inaugural speech earlier in the month. Governor Owens had indicated concern that 40 percent of Denver area transportation spending was used for transit, which represents only two percent of metropolitan travel.

  • RTD officials attempted to discount the two percent market share contention by claiming that RTD has a 27 downtown work trip market share. In fact, 1990 US Census Bureau data places the figure considerably lower, at 16.7 percent (Denver CBD Public Transit Market Share by Transportation Analysis Zone).

      The 27% figure is a 1995 Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) estimate. It is simply not believable that RTD's downtown market share has increased by more than 50 percent since 1990, or that the Census Bureau data was incorrect by such a large margin. The Census Bureau uses a standard national methodology for journey to work estimates, as a part of the decennial census (next census: 2000). To illustrate the problem with the 27 percent estimate, if the Census Bureau had produced the same "error" as DRCOG's data would seem to indicate in Denver, the correct market share in New York's central business district would be 120 percent, rather than the reported 74 percent.

    Outside downtown, transit's market share is very small (from 4.2 percent in the city of Denver outside downtown, 4.2 percent in the balance of the city of Denver and 1.7 percent outside the city). DRCOG data(1) indicates that transit's market share is 1.7 percent, a figure that the Governor rounded to two percent (Table #1).

  • RTD officials claimed that RTD receives only 22 percent of regional funding. While a number of methods for calculating this figure are available, DRCOG data(2) indicates that transit will receive 55 percent of transportation spending through the year 2020. If anything, the Governor's figures may have been too conservative (Table #2).

This would indicate that transit will receive more than 50 times as much funding per point of market share than highways through 2020 (Table #3)

Table #1
Transit & Highway Market Share:
In Daily Person Miles
Person Miles 1998 Market Share 2020 Market Share
Transit 1,160 1.7% 2,220 2.4%
Other (Mainly Highway) 66,150 98.3% 91,940 97.6%
Total 67,310   94,160  

Table #2
Regional Transportation Plan Through 2020
(In Millions)
Element Operating Capital Total Share
Transit $5,319 $2,423 $7,742 55.4%
Other (Mainly Highway) $1,611 $4,623 $6,234 44.6%
Total $6,930 $7,045 $13,975  

Table #3
Spending Per Point of Market Share Through 2020
Transit $328,351
Other (Mainly Highway) $6,384
Ratio of Transit Spending to Other Spending 51.4


1. Metro Vision 2020

2. Metro Vision 2020

(c) 2001 --- Wendell Cox Consultancy --- Permission granted to use with attribution.
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