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

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
Blog Post | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation policy is health policy | Sean Doyle

While transportation is often just thought of as how we get from point A to point B, the way we choose to do so can have important consequences on our physical health, air quality, safety, the development of our cities, and how we interact within them.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Millennials Want More Public Transportation | Sean Doyle

A new poll shows that access to public transportation is “very important” for Millennials in considering where to live and where to work.  The results support our research over the past few years that found Millennials are driving less than older generations and are more prone to walk, bike, or take transit to get where they need to go.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Communities Roaring for More TIGER Grants | Sean Doyle

Across the country, municipalities are looking for more transportation funding, particularly for public transportation. A recent poll from Politico magazine found that among mayors, aging and deteriorating transportation infrastructure was the most often cited concern. Enter TIGER grants.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Media Hit | Transportation

Colorado Road Money Can Now Be Used on Transit Projects

A new state law that quietly moved through this year's legislature gives cities and counties unprecedented freedom to spend tax dollars on transportation projects other than roads and bridges.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Private groups may oversee more local roads

By privatizing roadways, officials hand over significant control of regional transportation policy to people only accountable to their shareholders, according to a study done in 2009 by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Youth Drive Trend Away From Cars

A new report released today by the CoPIRG Foundation demonstrates that Coloradans and Americans have been driving less since the middle of last decade. The report, Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less and What it Means for Transportation Policy, shows that young people in particular are decreasing the amount they drive and increasing their use of transportation alternatives.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Americans driving less, using public transit more, says report

Ean Tafoya is a lot like other members of Generation Y who regard owning a car as nothing more than a big pain.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Students spend spring break campaigning for transportation changes

While many college students are spending their spring breaks vacationing on the beach, one group of local students is spending the week trying to change Colorado's transportation system.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Five percent of the roads in the City and County of Denver account for fifty percent of the fatalities. These roads are often referred to as the High Injury Network and they are primarily arterials – the larger roads that cut across Denver. Think Federal, Colorado, and Colfax. Last week, CDOT stepped up to focus dollars on safety and multimodal improvements on them. 

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership

The Denver Streets Partnership issued its second annual report card and awarded an overall grade of C+ for the City and County of Denver's progress to meet their own Vision Zero Action Plan aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries. The Report Card focuses specifically on Denver’s progress meeting their goals on street safety improvements, such as building sidewalks and bike lanes.

News Release | CoPIRG

In a statement, Danny Katz, CoPIRG Director said “Clean car standards are a proven way to reduce air pollution while saving people at the pump. The advancements we’ve seen in fuel-efficient cars show these standards do not need to be changed. The Trump administration should drop their proposal to throw clean air efforts into reverse and should focus instead on protecting our health now and into the future.” 

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership

After nearly a decade of operations, the Denver Streets Partnership (DSP) gathered on Thursday to say goodbye to Denver’s B-cycle program and release a vision for its replacement - micromobility options like pedal and electric-assisted bikes (e-bikes), electric scooters, and whatever other two-wheeled or one-wheeled modes develop, available in every neighborhood in Denver. The coalition highlighted how a robust micromobility network could help Denver meet critical goals around reducing climate and air pollution, transportation-related deaths, and the number of people traveling alone in vehicles. 

News Release | CoPIRG

On Thursday, the Colorado State Senate's Transportation and Energy Committee voted 5-0 to approve a CoPIRG-backed bill to bring more transparency to state transportation public-private partnerships. CoPIRG applauds the sponsor of SB20-017, Senator Faith Winter, and the rest of the committee, Senators Foote, Scott, Donovan, and Hisey, for voting in favor of the bill. 

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.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Get on the electric bus

A look at six early adopters of electric buses

 

Transportation | CoPIRG

Denver sets ambitious goals to advance clean transportation

Our Transform Transportation campaign is urging other state and local officials to join Denver in supporting clean transportation.

 

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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