RAMBLIN' MAN: Transportation options sought as population increases

February 22, 2014 Updated: February 22, 2014 at 5:52 am

If you think the roads in El Paso County are bad now, just wait.

The county's population is expected to balloon to nearly 1 million residents by the year 2040.

More people. More vehicles. More tires on the road.

Today, according to the State Demography Office, the population in the county hovers around 655,000.

In 2014, the projection is for the county's population to climb to 665,276. By 2040, El Paso County will swell to 965,000 residents.

Those are projections, however. They could be affected by myriad factors in the county, Defense Department drawdowns, jobs, birth rates and retirees.

Still, falling behind, which seems to be the trend in roadwork in the county - indeed the state these days - will accelerate as the population climbs.

Indeed, Denver growth, which will have an impact on El Paso County's growth, is exploding, according to Forbes magazine. The city is the sixth fastest growing area in the United States.

Forbes also lists Colorado as fifth in the U.S. among best states to do business and for careers.

That's just the kind of reporting that ends up drawing people over state lines.

Alternatives to hitting the roads are available, there just aren't enough of them, says Danny Katz, director of Colorado Public Interest Group, a consumer advocacy group based in Denver.

Colorado residents are using transit and other alternative modes of transportation in increasing numbers, he said.

"If we build and invest right now, the good news is that lots of people are looking to take alternatives and cut back on driving," Katz said.

Those changes are being driven by technology and the younger set - such things as buying online, Skype, taking a picture of your check on your phone instead of driving to the bank.

But biking and bikeable communities also are becoming more attractive.

"I think you see good examples of smart alternatives," he said.

Among them, Denver's light rail and a rural bus transit system in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

Colorado Springs, Katz said, "is seeing a rebound from some of the biggest cuts that Mountain Metro saw."

Indeed, Mountain Metro Transit hit a ridership record in October with 252,738 one-way trips on fixed route transit. That was the highest single month ridership since 2009.

Among reasons: increased marketing and local residents using more alternatives to get to work, according to Mountain Metro.

Additional service included more evenings and Saturdays, which meant more options for riders.

It's not stopping there for the city's transit provider.

In March, Mountain Metro plans to introduce additional service that will include the Powers Boulevard corridor.

"You're seeing progress," Katz said. "But we need to be more aggressive as people come in. We need bigger, faster and smarter investments to make sure in the next decade we build a system that can take care of these folks."

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