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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.
- 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.
Early Wednesday evening, Colorado’s utility regulator gave a greenlight to our largest utility’s Transportation Electrification Plan, a proposal to invest millions in electric vehicle infrastructure. As we wait for the details, one thing is clear - this is one of the biggest actions taken this year in Colorado to tackle climate change and it will bring big consumer benefits for years to come.
Today, on the 55th anniversary of Ralph Nader's landmark "Unsafe at Any Speed," about the built-in dangers of 1960s cars, as exemplified by the General Motors Corvair, his colleagues led by Joan Claybrook have published a new report: "Safer Vehicles and Highways: 4.2 million U.S. Lives Spared Since 1966." The report makes recommendations to President-elect Joe Biden about how to revitalize and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which Claybrook ran during the Jimmy Carter administration.
The creation of a climate solutions fund vaults Denver to the forefront of cities tackling climate change. It will raise approximately $36 million annually via a sales tax to invest in critical climate solutions like energy efficient buildings, electric vehicle infrastructure and better transit.
Denver voters approved initiative 2A, injecting $36 million into a climate solutions fund that will expand renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure, upgrade buildings to be more energy efficient, and support more multimodal transportation options like transit, walking and biking. The dollars will be raised from a .25% sales tax increase, the equivalent of 25 cents for every $100 spent, which will go into effect immediately.
With nearly 300,000 votes counted, early results show strong support for Denver initiative 2A with 64% voting yes so far. If approved, 2A would create a $36 million climate solutions fund that will expand renewable energy and electric vehicle infrastructure, upgrade buildings to be more energy efficient, and support more multimodal transportation options like transit, walking and biking.
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.
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
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.
Tools & Resources
Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s FutureCoPIRG Foundatio
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