21st Century Transportation

Efficient public transportation systems like intercity rail and clean bus systems, along with safer biking and walking options would make America’s transportation future better for everyone by reducing pollution, and increasing our options for getting around.

We Need Safer, Cleaner, More Affordable Transportation Options

Changing Transportation: CoPIRG's series of reports on the dramatic changes underway in how Americans travel.

Our current transportation system is dirty, dangerous, expensive, inefficient and inaccessible for too many Coloradans. 

An over reliance on personal vehicles as the primary, and often only, way to get to jobs, school, grocery stores, medical appointments and other services is negatively impacting Coloradans – our health, our safety, and our economy. 

Moving People, Not Cars and a Lack of Good Transportation Options 

Our transportation system is designed to move cars not people, which threatens our health and safety. In 2016, 605 people died on Colorado’s roadways including 100 pedestrians and bicyclists. The dangers of walking and biking leads too many Coloradans to drive even short distances of less than a mile to complete trips, which in turn contributes to our ever worsening obesity rates in Colorado. 

Owning and operating a car is also expensive for individuals and for society as a whole. The average cost of owning and operating a car in Colorado is $8,698 per year. This, combined with increasing housing costs and an undeveloped transit system, especially in poorer urban areas and rural areas, means that too many people have to forego spending money on medical costs or other necessities to be able to drive to where they need to go. In too many places, transit itself is not affordable.

With an unnecessary amount of people using their own cars to travel in their community and around the state, Colorado’s roads have become choked with traffic. To relieve congestion, decision makers waste billions of dollars widening highways, which doesn’t actually relieve congestion, instead of helping people get out of their cars by providing better options. For example, beginning in 2000, Colorado spent $1.2 billion widening I-25 in Denver. Within three years of completion, I-25 congestion was back to pre-construction levels and cities around I-25 now had to deal with the additional local congestion and parking from the influx of cars on the new, traffic-choked lanes. 

The I-70 corridor between Denver and the mountains is also choked with traffic. Even though nearly everyone is driving the same road and going to only a handful of ski resorts and mountain towns, a lack of options results in everyone piling into individual cars, a completely inefficient system. 

Relying on cars as the only form of transportation in Colorado is not only costly and inefficient, but it is also inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of people. 360,000 Coloradans, or 9.2% of Coloradans of driving age, do not have a driver’s license. In addition, many Coloradans in rural areas are aging out of driving. The population over the age of 75 in rural parts of Colorado is set to double in the next 25 years and will need transportation options if they are going to be able to age in their homes. 

Fossil Fuel Transportation Leads to Dirty Air 

Over 99% of the vehicles on Colorado’s roads run on fossil fuels. This accounts for over a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, which is fueling climate change. Vehicles also contribute about a third of the asthma triggering nitrogen oxide (NOx) in the Denver metro area. Much of this pollution settles in pockets of our states, especially in the areas next to interstates and highways.

Transit, Walking, Biking and Zero Pollution – The Right Path Forward

To bring Colorado’s transportation into the 21st century, CoPIRG is working to expand transit, walking and biking options. We are also pushing for a zero pollution transportation system that dumps fossil fuels in favor of clean, renewable energy-powered electric vehicles.  

We believe:

  • Every Coloradan needs safe, affordable and accessible transportation options that move people efficiently around their community and around the state.
  • Every transportation option in Colorado, whether cars, buses or trains, needs to emit zero pollution. 

Over the last year we have worked to pass a bill through the state legislature to increase funding for transit, walking, and biking. We have also supported local policies that increase multi-modal funding. We are working to convince the Colorado Department of Transportation to invest more money in current transit services like Bustang, the statewide bus service, and to reduce spending on wasteful highway expansion projects in favor of new transit, walking and biking infrastructure and services. 

We are also working to ensure Colorado’s share of the VW dirty diesel settlement money is invested in electric vehicle infrastructure and to push cities and transit agencies to upgrade their fleets to be 100% electric-powered since the grid is getting increasingly cleaner. 

In order to put our transportation system on a better path forward, CoPIRG is making the case for change and documenting the problems and solutions through our research including a first of its kind report on the transit, walking, and biking needs in Colorado. We are generating media attention through earned media events and social media campaigns like our work to promote Bustang. We are running corporate campaigns to Make VW Pay to clean up our air. Finally, we are building the political will to push CDOT, the Governor, state legislators and local government leaders to invest millions more in transit, walking and biking.

See the latest on our work below.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

CO clean air commission votes unanimously to consider Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rule

Today, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to begin consideration of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard. If adopted, the ZEV program would be one of the biggest actions Colorado could take to reduce air pollution, tackle climate change, save consumers money, and increase the number of electric vehicles available at Colorado dealerships. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

The State Legislature just sped up Colorado’s transition to electric vehicles

While the federal government stalls out on clean transportation, environmental, public health and consumer advocates came together Tuesday to celebrate major progress on electric vehicles at the State Legislature, and to call attention to the next major step Colorado can take to speed up vehicle electrification. Advocates called on the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to begin consideration of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program this Friday. Adopting the ZEV program is one of the single biggest actions Colorado could take to reduce air pollution, tackle climate change, save consumers money, and increase the number of electric vehicles available at Colorado dealerships. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The sad reality of car dependence: 'Denver paved over paradise and put up a parking lot'

Denver draws thousands of visitors and new residents every year, but the city is slowly paving over what makes it special.

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News Release | Denver Streets Partnership | Transportation

Denver Earns “C“ on 2018 Progress Toward Safe Streets Goals

A new progress report card released by safety advocates with the Denver Streets Partnership awarded Denver an overall “C“ grade for the City and County of Denver’s progress on the Vision Zero Action Plan designed to improve the safety of Denver’s streets. The progress report card looked at Denver’s 2018 infrastructure goals in eight categories and found that, while Denver met its goals for miles of bike lanes constructed and operational improvements at major intersections, it failed to meet its goals for sidewalks constructed, traffic calming work, and street lighting enhancements.

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Governor Polis moves Colorado faster towards electric vehicle future

This morning, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order that will allow Colorado to take a big step toward the electric vehicle future that we need to tackle our state’s current air pollution problem. The Governor’s order takes meaningful steps toward an electric vehicle future including moving forward on a statewide electric vehicle program, dedicating millions more dollars toward converting dirty diesel buses to electric-powered, and building out electric vehicle charging stations in a systematic way across the state. 

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and I-70 Coalition | Transportation

#BaldTiresSuck: New campaign calls on Coloradans to check tires before driving to mountains

As Colorado’s mountains get blanketed with snow, advocates with CoPIRG Foundation and the I-70 Coalition gathered at a Park-n-Ride in Golden to launch a new campaign called #BaldTiresSuck aimed at educating drivers to check their tires before driving into the mountains. The groups highlighted that driving on bald tires along I-70 and other mountain roads in winter weather conditions is unsafe for you and for the travelers around you, and it can cost you a stiff penalty if your car causes a crash or lane closure. Even if you have a vehicle with adequate tires, CoPIRG and the I-70 Coalition encourage travelers to take advantage of transit options to travel along and around I-70 communities including Bustang's new West Line service. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Victory: Colorado's Air Quality Regulators Adopt Vehicle Emission Standards

Today, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted to adopt the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program standards for cars and trucks. Vehicle emissions are among the largest contributors to carbon pollution in Colorado and contribute to the smog and air toxins that threaten public health. The new LEV standards will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cars that threaten our health and economy, help Coloradans breathe easier, and help families save money at the pump.

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Over 7,600 Coloradans Call for Clean Car Standards Ahead of Vote This Week

On Tuesday, CoPIRG Foundation organized an event with clean car advocates to announce that over 7,600 Coloradans have called on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt state emission standards for gas-powered vehicles. The AQCC will be voting on whether to adopt the standards on either Thursday, November 15th or Friday, November 16th, depending on when the hearing on the rule concludes.  

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 2

Twelve proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $24 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending. These projects, some originally proposed decades ago, are either intended to address problems that do not exist or have serious negative impacts on surrounding communities that undercut their value. They are but a sampling of many questionable highway projects nationwide that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build, and many more billions over the course of upcoming decades to maintain.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Millennials in Motion

Millennials are less car-focused than older Americans and previous generations of young people, and their transportation behaviors continue to change in ways that reduce driving. Now is the time for the nation’s transportation policies to acknowledge, accommodate and support Millennials’ demands for a greater array of transportation choices.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles

Even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities. Eleven proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $13 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

Analysis of SB-197, Public Protections in Private Road Deals

Success in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for transportation projects is not measured by whether you complete a deal but rather whether that deal is good for Colorado and the public interest.

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Blog Post | Transportation

More cars, trucks, buses will be electric following action by Gov. Polis

Gov. Polis backed up his promise to put our state on a path to a cleaner, healthier future with action. On Jan. 17, the governor signed his first executive order to speed up the transition...

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Blog Post | Transportation

Denver earns a 'C' on progress toward safer streets

 

In 2018, 59 people died on Denver's streets. We can do better and the key is safer streets. On Jan. 22, the Denver Streets Partnership, comprised of CoPIRG Foundation...

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Blog Post | Transportation

Good News: Denver City Council Approves Scooters in Bike Lanes | Danny Katz

Good news came out of Denver City Council last night after they unanimously passed new safety and operational rules for electric scooters to allow their use in bike lanes and on city streets that have speed limits under 30 mph.

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Blog Post | Transportation

By Ribbon and Petitions, CoPIRG Pushes For People-Friendly Streets

Wrapping Denver's City and County Hall with a 400-foot long ribbon strung with petitions, CoPIRG called for a new investment in people-friendly streets.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The Trump Administration’s Flawed Reasons for Rolling Back Clean Car Standards | Matt Casale

The Trump administration is making some pretty outlandish claims to justify its roll back of the nation’s most effective program at fighting climate change. Asserting that stronger fuel economy standards make our roads less safe, the administration moved last week to weaken Obama-era clean car standards -- but their claims just aren’t true.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Denver earns a 'C' on progress toward safer streets

 

In 2018, 59 people died on Denver's streets. We can do better and the key is safer streets. On Jan. 22, the Denver Streets Partnership, comprised of CoPIRG Foundation...

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

By Ribbon and Petitions, CoPIRG Pushes For People-Friendly Streets

Wrapping Denver's City and County Hall with a 400-foot long ribbon strung with petitions, CoPIRG called for a new investment in people-friendly streets.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) officially adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program Friday, a move that takes aim at reducing ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt the program. 

 

Blog Post

Electric vehicles don’t just promise to tackle our air quality problems. They will also bring additional consumer benefits from lower fuel costs and fewer maintenance expenses.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

On Monday, clean car advocates announced that 6,201 Coloradans are calling on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, a critical step that Colorado needs to take to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis. The AQCC will begin a public hearing on the rule starting Tuesday, with testimony open to the public from 12:30 to 3pm and 6 to 8pm. They will vote on whether to adopt the standards on Thursday, August 15th or Friday, August 16th.   

Report | CoPIRG Foundation, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center

By combining policies that encourage compact development, sustainable transportation and green building practices, Boulder can help to address global warming, improve the quality of our air and water, and protect Colorado’s undeveloped areas from sprawling development.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

Ridership on Bustang, Colorado’s statewide bus service, surged another 23% in its fourth year of operation, marking the fourth year in a row ridership grew on its core routes that connect communities along I-25 and I-70. To mark Bustang’s fourth anniversary, CoPIRG Foundation staff delivered a giant birthday card signed by 107 local elected officials congratulating the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which operates Bustang, on its success and demonstrating support for its continued expansion.

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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