Trains, Planes, and Trails: How Colorado is Always on the Move (and How this is Re-Shaping the Future)

Early morning insomnia pays off!
Early morning insomnia pays off! Sheila Sund
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With over 100,000 square miles of wide-open spaces to explore, it’s no wonder Colorado is always on the move. Nearly 1,000 miles of interstate and 3,000 miles of Class 1 rail track, along with Colorado’s central location, and low transportation costs mean the Centennial State is a crucial hub for the transportation and logistics industries. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy reported gas costs at 2.5% below the national average, which is a plus for those driving within the state.

It’s not just commercial infrastructure that’s booming in Colorado. Commuters aren’t relegated to their cars anymore. In addition to buses, the Regional Transportation District now operates 35 miles of light rail between its eight operational lines, which service 53 stations across the Denver-Metro area—including the Denver International Airport.

Bike commuting is a popular form of city transportation.
Bike commuting is a popular form of city transportation. Missy S.

Coloradans are commuting by human-powered means, too. A 2016 study by BBC Research & Consulting found that Colorado has 43% of its population has ridden a bike in the past year—good enough for second in the nation for participation in cycling. The state is home to an extensive system of bicycle byways, corridors with dedicated paths or bike-friendly shoulders and regulations in both urban and rural areas.

All these numbers are projected to improve, thanks in part to Governor John Hickenlooper’s Colorado Pedals Project, which he announced in 2015. This initiative will include updated signage, bike-friendly planning within the Colorado Department of Transportation, and educational programming for cyclists and pedestrians statewide.

At the end of the work week, too, Colorado continues to shine: this outdoor recreation mecca is home to thousands of miles of trail on its 30,000 square miles of public land, and more trails are being built each year by youth corps and volunteer groups. The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade estimates that 90% of Coloradans participate in some form of outdoor recreation every year.

Studies on the positive impacts of outside time on one’s health—like this one by Stanford researchers, which came out in 2015—are piling up. So it’s no surprise that, with all that outdoor recreation just a stone’s throw away, plus opportunities to breathe in fresh air on the way to and from work, Colorado consistently ranks among the healthiest states in terms of fitness and overall well-being, according to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index.

Residents’ overall health isn’t the only marker that puts Colorado on the cutting edge. The state’s always-on-the-move mentality is achieving all kinds of accolades. It is 16% below the national average for energy expenditures and is the least expensive state in the nation for electricity, natural gas, and other forms of energy, according to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Tourism.

Trail running on Denver's Green Mountain. 
    Sean Wetstine
Trail running on Denver's Green Mountain. Sean Wetstine

It’s an example other states would do well to follow, and the word is getting out. Residents aren’t the only ones using Colorado’s infrastructure and its comprehensive network of trails—the Colorado Tourism Office reported 77.7 million visitors to Colorado in 2015. The estimated $19.1 billion generated by the tourism industry, which has set a new record each year for the last five years, is a serious boon to the economy—and it provides visitors with a shining example of how always being on the move can positively impact a state.

Originally written for Colorado.

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