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

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership | Transportation

Denver receives C+ for implementing its Vision Zero street safety plan in 2019

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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Clean cars rollback: Bad for our health, our climate, our wallets

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.” 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership | Transportation

As Denver B-cycle closes, advocates call for micromobility expansion to every neighborhood

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. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Key committee approves more transparency for public-private partnerships

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. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

The cyclist’s dilemma: How safety, climate and air pollution collide on America’s roadways | Matt Casale

Walkers and bikers are getting killed at alarming rates -- at a time when we need this type of transportation more than ever. 

> Keep Reading

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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
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.

> Keep Reading
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. 

> Keep Reading
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

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Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

U.S. 36 - What’s the Deal?

As Colorado enters into a 50-year agreement with a private company, Plenary Roads Denver, to complete and manage U.S. 36 and part of I-25, many in the public remain confused and concerned. This report covers three major aspects of the U.S. 36 deal, The Infrastructure Project, The Financial and Management Deal with Plenary, and The Process for Developing and Approving the Deal

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

Privatization and the Public Interest

Transportation funding is a growing issue in Colorado as politicians and transportation officials grapple with funding challenges resulting from a decline in the value of the state’s gas tax, uncertainty around federal transportation funds, shifting travel trends, and pressures from the state’s growing population. Increasingly, state and local officials are looking at new kinds of arrangements between the public and profit-seeking corporations to provide upfront financing for transportation projects, including toll roads and transit lines.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

A review of data from the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and Census Bureau for America’s 100 most populous urbanized areas – which are home to over half of the nation’s population – shows that the decline in per-capita driving has taken place in a wide variety of regions.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

This report for the first time presents government data on state-by-state driving trends. It analyzes which states drive more miles per-person, which states have reduced their driving the most since the end of the national Driving Boom, and how state changes in driving behavior correspond to other changes such as growing unemployment or urbanization.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Infographic - New Direction for Transportation

This infographic illustrates the end of the Driving Boom.

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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
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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading
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...

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post

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. 

News Release | CoPIRG

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. 

News Release | CoPIRG

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. 

Blog Post

On September 18th, 2015, the world learned VW had misled hundreds of thousands of people into buying dirty, diesel vehicles designed to avoid emissions standards. Five years later, we looked back at our campaign to hold VW accountable and highlighted how tens of millions of dollars from a legal settlement and a customer “buy back” program has helped Coloradans head toward a cleaner, electric-powered future.

Blog Post

From mask mandates to capacity limits, the largest public transit systems and ride share companies have new procedures

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.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Get on the electric bus

A look at six early adopters of electric buses

 
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