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

Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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Blog Post | Transportation

To Build A 21st Century America, Start Here | Jeff Robinson

The stakes in the current infrastructure debate are high. But what matters most is not the size of any federal infrastructure package, nor how it is financed, nor even how many jobs it creates in the coming years. What matters most is building the infrastructure that will enable America to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

GoI70.Com Highlights Car-free Ways to Get to the Slopes

As tens of thousands of Coloradans prepare to trek from the Front Range to the ski slopes for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the I-70 Coalition and CoPIRG Foundation released an updated website – GoI70.com – that highlights 12 services people can use to get to the slopes without driving their personal car. The website also provides information about travel patterns to help people organize the best times to travel, connects travelers with mountain deals that can reduce congestion at peak times, and links to real-time traffic information. 

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

41 Local Government Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Bustang

Today, CoPIRG Foundation Director Danny Katz delivered a letter to the Transportation Commissioners for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) celebrating the success of Bustang, the statewide bus service, and showing support for continued expansion. The letter was signed by 41 mayors, city councilors, trustees and county commissioners from communities along the Bustang routes including Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Idaho Springs, Summit County, Eagle County, Vail, Avon, and Glenwood Springs.    

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News Release | Transportation

Highway Administration Reinstates Clean Air Rule In Response to Lawsuit

In a victory for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration responded to a lawsuit brought by U.S. PIRG, NRDC, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

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Pages

Media Hit | Transportation

Officials Release US 36 Contract

The Colorado Department of Transportation has released its much-criticized contract with a private firm to operate U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder for the next 50 years. The contract was posted Friday on CDOT's website. It wasn't previously available to the public.

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Media Hit | Transportation

CDOT releases 600-page U.S. 36 management contract for public review

A controversial pact between the state and a private firm hired to manage and collect tolls along U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder was released to a skeptical public Friday afternoon.

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

CoPIRG Releases Principles for Privatized Transportation Projects

As Colorado’s transportation officials pursue more and more “public-private partnerships” (PPPs) to help build and maintain roads and transit projects, CoPIRG released a set of principles that the public can use to determine if projects adequately protect the public interest. CoPIRG released the principles the week the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is holding public information sessions on a proposed PPP to build and maintain highway US 36.

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Denver Sees 9th Largest Drop in Driving Per Capita

A first-of-its-kind report by CoPIRG Foundation shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Colorado’s largest urbanized areas, Denver and Colorado Springs. In addition, both cities saw greater use of public transit and Denver saw greater use in biking.

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Pages

News Release | CoPIRG

The Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee moved two important transportation bills forward that will help improve and expand high-quality transit service in the state. The bills would create a front range passenger rail district and allow RTD more flexibility to improve transit service.

News Release | CoPIRG

As the legislature works on a transportation funding bill, nine Coloradans from across the state shared their personal multimodal stories and called for a significant investment in transit, walking, rolling and biking. In addition, over 60 online personal stories were unveiled highlighting the importance and the benefits of going big on multimodal.

News Release | CoPIRG

CoPIRG is calling on the House Committee on Transportation and Local Government to pass HB21-1186, entitled Regional Transportation District Operation, sponsored by Representatives Gray and Sullivan, and Senators Winter and Bridges. The bill would remove a set of state requirements that are unnecessary and could be counterproductive to operating a transit system that can transport more people.

Blog Post

With the passage and signing of SB110, Colorado will add $30 million to the CDOT safe streets programs that are putting the safety of people first. This new injection of money builds momentum for the kind of transformation we need to see on our main streets and downtowns - change that needs even bigger investments over the next decade. 

Transportation

Colorado puts safety first with $30 million investment in transportation

Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill dedicating an additional $30 million to Colorado’s Safer Main Streets and Revitalizing Main Streets programs. Funded projects will range from sidewalk and other pedestrian improvements, to upgraded safety at intersections and new paths that provide safer space for biking.

 

Transportation

Colorado headed the right way on electric vehicles

Xcel Energy has announced a plan to invest $100 million in Colorado's electric transportation over the next three years. The plan would support Gov. Jared Polis' goal, set last January, of having 940,000 electric cars on the road by 2030. In addition to their environmental benefits, electric vehicles also cut utility costs for consumers.

 

Transportation

Colorado Department of Transportation pledges millions toward improving pedestrian safety

In a win for pedestrian safety, the Colorado Department of Transportation has pledged more than $37 million toward fixing intersections and building and improving sidewalks and pedestrian signals on urban main streets in Denver.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

2018 was the deadliest year for cyclists since 1990

Seventeen pedestrians and two cyclists were killed every day, on average, in traffic crashes in 2018. PIRG Transform Transportation Campaign Director Matt Casale explains that cyclists face a dilemma: walking or biking are convenient and pollution-free modes of transportation, but they're also dangerous in a world that's been built car-first.

 
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