Denver Mayor Demonstrates Insanity

As Albert Einstein didn’t say, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Someone points out that this is actually the definition of perserveration. Whatever you call it, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is doing it.

“Shockingly, 73 percent of Denver commuters drive to and from work in cars by themselves,” says Mayor Hancock. So, he plans to serve the people by working to “dedicate more travel lanes as transit only and make bus service more accessible to everyone.”

Hancock is behind the times, as the share of Denver commuters who drive alone to work hasn’t been 73 percent since the early 2000s. According to census data, it was 71 percent in 2000, but grew to 74 percent in 2006 and was 76 percent in 2016.

Denver has elected pro-transit, anti-auto mayors since at least 2002. With their endorsement, Denver’s Regional Transit District has spent billions of dollars on transit improvements.

This has had a measurable effect on transit ridership. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of commuters taking transit to work grew by 1.1 percent. This can hardly be considered a success considering there were 35 percent more commuters in 2016 than in 2000.

In that same time period, the number of people driving alone to work grew by 38 percent and the number of cars carrying commuters to work grew by 31 percent. (The census identifies the number of 2, 3, 4, 5 to 6, and 7-plus carpools; to calculate auto numbers, I assumed an average of 5.33 people per 5-to-6 carpool and an average of 7 per 7-plus carpool. The numbers in these categories are so small that changing these assumptions would not affect the outcome much.)

Put another way, the billions of dollars spent by RTD on transit improvements after 2000 managed to attract 263 new transit commuters by 2016–23,750 vs. 23,487. Meanwhile, there were more than 69,000 new cars on the road carrying commuters to work–276,236 vs. 207,135. Keep in mind these numbers are just for the city of Denver, not the entire region served by RTD.

While the share who drive alone has grown, it has been offset by a decline in carpooling so that total driving has gone from 84.9 to 84.5 percent (which still means more cars on the road even without an increase in overall jobs). The share who walk or bike has grown from 5.5 to 7.2 percent, but this was offset by the decline in transit’s share from 8.7 to 6.9 percent.

The good news is Mayor Hancock is shocked to learn that the city’s pro-transit, anti-auto policies haven’t worked. The bad news is that his response is to double-down on those policies. As H.L. Mencken did say, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”

Yet it would be nice if our cities were run by people willing to learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of their predecessors. Instead of punishing people who drive to work, cities should reduce the negative impacts of driving by making roads safer and reducing fuel-wasting and pollution-causing delays. Unfortunately, people like Hancock want to do exactly the opposite.

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4 thoughts on “Denver Mayor Demonstrates Insanity

  1. prk166


    Between 2000 and 2016, the number of commuters taking transit to work grew by 1.1 percent.
    ” ~anti-planner

    How is RTD estimating ridership these days? Do they still depend on extrapolating that count based on some limited measurements like a step in a rail car that counts how many times it’s depressed?

    Do we know what the change in revenues from fares for RTD is during this time period? That seems like a better measurement of performance. After all, they could sign some deals with big downtown employers practically giving away transit passes that could boost ridership but leave them worse off in the long run.

  2. LazyReader

    Whether or not electric cars are the dominant tech in the coming years they’re the growing trend in cities….
    You’re never far from a plug, plug in stations are easy to accommodate in parking garages and lots which are ubiquitous. I live in a town of 19,000 yet our Walgreens has electric car chargers…..oh yeah we’re fancy. They actually do help with city air quality (even if the electricity is from coal, the powerplants are far away from the city outskirts) compared to gas/diesel vehicles that emit directly into the city air.

    California has taken it a step further… Banning gas powered cars by 2040…why so far in the future. Because the assumption of course that electric cars will probably take over the mainstream auto fleet by then. The US automotive fleet turns over every 12 years (Every 12 years the majority of cars owned in the US are less than a decade old) In 20 years will electric cars be the mainstay of the auto fleet? Regardless, California will take credit for something the invisible hand of markets would already spearhead. However at the current rate of automobile manufacturing, the industry would have to build over 5 million electric cars per year and sell all of them. So far Ford, GM and Toyota are only producing a fraction of that amount and only a fraction of that production winds up in California garages. Electric cars still haven’t met the cost challenge of being less than 20,000 dollars so they’re incompatible with working people’s rate of affordability and given their jobs, transit may not serve their needs. Honolulu’s boondoggle elevated rail transit system has pushed towards 10 Billion dollars to cost to complete. At that cost that same 10 billion could buy every household in Hawaii a new four cylinder four door with 5,000 smackers left over for gas money.

    Regardless the econuts have voted with their wallets, they’d rather have electric cars and go where they please than collectivist transit schemes and go where they’re told; They want the freedom of going where they please, when they please, how they please…….Even though the epidemiological evidence regarding electric cars is even good for the planet.

  3. CapitalistRoader

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

    That describes Denver perfectly. And it looks like it will continue indefinitely. The average Denverite is stupid and getting more so.

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