Report: FasTracks Would Benefit Denver Region’s Economy And Environment

Environment Colorado

DENVER— “Getting on the Fast Track to a Livable Denver Region”, a report released today by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center and the Livable Communities Support Center, found that the proposed FasTracks plan to build out the transit system in the Denver region would create more than 8000 construction jobs, strengthen the local economy through increased spending, reduce air pollution and limit the rapid pace of increasing traffic and sprawl in the metro area.

“It’s time to get on the fast track to shorter commutes,” said report co-author Elena Nuñez, transportation advocate for Environment Colorado. “Its not every day that we have an opportunity to stimulate job growth and economic development while reducing air pollution.”

“This report confirms what people stuck in traffic know already—we need to expand the transit system soon to address growing gridlock and sprawl,” said co-author Rich McClintock, program director of the Livable Communities Support Center, a program of CRNA.

Lauren Martens, Executive Director of the Transit Alliance, a coalition of citizen groups, business associations, and local governments added, “This valuable new report makes the case for FasTracks even stronger.”

Key findings of Getting on the Fast Track to a Livable Denver Region included the following:

• Despite the recent downturn in the economy, the Denver region’s population is projected to increase by 45% over the next 22 years, from 2.5 million to more than 3.5 million people by 2025.

• Congestion in the Denver metro area is 5th worst in the nation and area drivers experienced 67 million hours of delay due to traffic in 2000. Studies estimate that congestion cost the Denver region $1.2 billion dollars per year.

• Based on a federal analysis of similar transit buildouts around the country, an estimated 8,200 construction jobs and 1200-1800 permanent operations jobs would be created by the $4.2 billion FasTracks financing plan being considered by the RTD board this month. FasTracks would also have a multiplier effect on the economy as wages are spent and business expands, resulting in a projected $380 million annual impact to the regional economy, on average.

• The FasTracks plan would also encourage transit-oriented development (TOD), in which housing retail and offices are co-located near transit stops. Compact development at the more than 60 new transit stops identified in the Vision Plan would result in a projected additional 160,000 to 320,000 residents and 250,000 to 500,000 employees being located within a half mile of a transit stop.

• As more compact development occurs around transit corridors and transit stops, open space would be saved from development. If the system were fully built out as proposed, an estimated 6,500-13,000 acres of land would be saved from development over the next twenty years.

• FasTracks would improve air quality in the region by giving commuters viable transit alternatives to driving, especially summertime ozone pollution. Ozone pollution would be cut by nearly half for commuters who chose to use transit rather than drive.

• The report also analyzed data regarding the projected development patterns in 2025 and found that 91% of the region’s population would be within a five mile drive of a park and ride station when the system is completed.

Getting on the Fast Track to a Livable Denver Region included an examination of population, land use and transportation data from RTD and DRCOG as well as national analyses of similar transit systems and the development impacts of transit in other major metropolitan regions.

The RTD Board of Directors will be voting this Tuesday August 19th whether to move forward with the public comment process on Phase 1 (the FasTracks Fiscally Constrained 10 Year Plan) of the FasTracks Vision Plan.

The report recommended that the RTD Board submit FasTracks to voters in November 2004, citing the fact that the sooner FasTracks is approved, the sooner the region will reap the economic, environmental and quality of life benefits of the transit system buildout.