Downtown Denver Partnership Releases Results of Annual Commuter Survey

January 19, 2017

The Downtown Denver Partnership released its annual commuter survey, highlighting how Downtown Denver’s nearly 124,000 employees commute to work as part of the organization’s commitment to create a robust and visionary mobility network in Downtown Denver that enhances transportation options for all users, connects to surrounding center city neighborhoods and strengthens economic development opportunities by ensuring seamless regional connections.

The 2016 Downtown Denver Commuter Survey reveals that, in terms of transportation benefits, Downtown Denver employees place a higher value on a transit pass over a parking space. 87 percent of employees rate a transit pass as a very valuable or valuable employer-provided benefit, which is also the most common employer-provided transit benefit with 68 percent of employees receiving a fully or partially subsidized transit pass.

“It’s clear that employers play a big role in impacting commuting habits. Specifically, when employers offer employees a transit pass as part of their employee benefits, they are 67 percent more likely to use transit, and 28 percent less likely to drive alone,” said Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership. “It’s imperative we work closely with employers and transportation providers to encourage employees to consider alternative modes of transportation in order to achieve our goal to create a truly multi-modal center city.”

Also notable is that for the first time in the five years conducting the survey with the current methodology, the number of people driving alone (40.3 percent, up from 38.5 percent in 2015) exceeds the number of people who regularly use transit (39.6 percent, down from 40.6 percent in 2015). 74 percent of those who regularly drive alone to work, however, are open to considering other modes.

“Our goal is to increase the number of people choosing to bike, walk and take transit while reducing the number of people who drive alone to under 35 percent by 2021,” said Door. “Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock recently called 2017 the ‘Year of Mobility’ for his administration, and the findings of this year’s survey will help us inform significant mobility planning processes underway for the center city, including Denver Moves Downtown.”

The addition of transit options has also positively impacted the number of people selecting transit as a commuting option. Specifically, transit use among residents of the Stapleton neighborhood increased from 5 to 30 percent from 2015 to 2016, an increase that may be attributed to the April 2016 opening of the University of Colorado A Line which provides commuter rail service from Stapleton to Denver Union Station.

“The Partnership will continue to advocate for a variety of high-quality transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure in the center city, options that are imperative to our ability to attract and retain a high-quality workforce and the businesses looking to hire them,” said Door. “By leveraging our understanding around commute choice, we can best advocate for infrastructure and policy solutions that will make Downtown Denver the most attractive employment location in the region and nation.

And it’s not only new options that impact commuting decisions, but also several factors including age and gender and commute length, which averages 13 miles among all commuters. For example:

  • Younger male commuters are more likely to bike and walk
  • Females in their 30s and 40s are more likely to drive alone
  • Transit use increases in older commuters
  • 30 percent of commuters who have a commute length of five miles or less drive alone, despite having more options than those with longer-distance commutes. These short distance commuters are also more likely to walk and bike to work.

New to the 2016 survey is a more comprehensive look at commuter attitudes towards certain modes, options and improvements. Convenience, cost, time and health considerations all play in a role in commuting decisions.

The Downtown Denver Commuter Survey is conducted to support goals outlined in the 2007 Downtown Area Plan, the long-term strategy for Downtown, that include ensuring Downtown is the largest and most convenient transit district while also building a premier environment for bicycles and pedestrians.

Understanding commuting preferences of Downtown employees is also important to developers and business owners looking to invest in Downtown Denver, as well as employers looking to augment their benefits packages to attract and retain high quality employees. In addition to the main report, the Partnership will deliver more than 100 custom reports for employers in early 2017 to show the commuting habits within each individual company, a valuable tool for employers to leverage for recruitment and retention.

“The individual company results provided by the Downtown Denver Partnership of our employee commuting habits is invaluable to our organization, helping us inform decisions around employee benefits, health and wellness opportunities, employee recruitment and retention, and more,” says Ray Bellucci, Senior Managing Director and Head of Institutional Retirement Plan Services at TIAA, which employs more than 1,500 people in Downtown Denver.

The annual survey is produced by the Downtown Denver Partnership with support from the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District and Way to Go, a program of the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

The survey tallies the results of 7,547 responses, 6.1 percent of the total employee population in Downtown Denver, solicited in September and early October 2016. Click here for a complete copy of the report and survey methodology.