Colorado Near the Bottom in Funding Public Transit

January 31, 2017


BOULDER, CO (January 31, 2017) Colorado ranks near the bottom in state funding of public transit, investing one-twentieth of the national average and ranking 29th among all states, says a new report from the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). Moreover, unlike 20 other states, Colorado does not use any gas tax money to help public transit, according to the January 2017 study titled “State of Colorado is Near the Bottom in Funding Public Transit.”

The dearth of state dollars going toward public transit is part of a broader puzzle Colorado faces in untangling its intertwined problems of rapid population growth, constrained funding, congested roads and inadequate public transit for rural residents as well as urban dwellers.

“Colorado has historically invested very little state money into public transit compared to other states, spending only $2.62 annually per person, or less than one cent per day. That’s compared to the national average of over $53 per person per year or almost 15 cents per person each day,” said Will Toor, SWEEP’s transportation program director. “At the same time, there is significant demand for additional investment in transit across the state, for improvements including rural transit services that provide lifeline access to medical care, as well as urban transit services.”

Toor noted that the state legislature already is debating how to adequately fund transportation in Colorado. “Much of the discussion has focused on revenue to maintain and expand highways.  However, it is important to understand the broader picture of how Colorado funds all types of transportation infrastructure,” he added.

Several failed legislative proposals would have raised money for highways, but none would have improved funding for rail, bus or bicycles.

“This type of highway-oriented funding will not adequately address the diverse transportation needs of Colorado,” Toor said. “Any new transportation funding, whether implemented through legislation or by ballot, should include meaningful funding for all modes.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • Colorado ranks near the bottom in state funding for public transit.
  • Local and regional government taxes and fare revenues have not been enough to meet the need for transit, leaving a large funding gap.
  • Several studies conclude that Colorado faces a public transit funding gap exceeding $500 million per year.
  • The only consistent state source of transit revenue in Colorado is $15 million per year coming from vehicle registration fees that was established as part of the 2009 FASTER state legislation, but inflation has eroded the buying power of this fixed sum.

SWEEP also quoted a 2015 Colorado Department of Transportation Statewide Transit Plan, which enumerated several unmet needs, including rural areas and the Western Slope:

  •       $107 million/year for rural transit funding (such as for access to medical care);
  •        $900 million/year for transit needs in the Denver metropolitan area;
  •        $13 million/year in the North Front Range area;
  •        $5 million/year in the Pueblo area;
  •        $10 million/year in the Grand Junction area;
  •        “Many millions” (unquantified) in the Colorado Springs area.

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Contacts and report authors: Will Toor, SWEEP Transportation Program Director, 303-591-6669 or Mike Salisbury, SWEEP Transportation Senior Association, 303-960-3348,