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, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center | Transportation

Growing Greener

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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

On Bustang's 4th anniversary, 107 elected officials show support for continued growth

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.

> Keep Reading
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. 

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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. 

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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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News Release | GoEV City coalition | Transportation

At Drive Electric Week Event, Advocates Release New Guide to Help Cities Plug In

Environmental, energy efficiency, and consumer advocates gathered on Wednesday at Denver's National Drive Electric Week event to call on all Colorado cities and counties to become a GoEV City and lead the charge to an electric vehicle future. The coalition is calling on cities and counties to make bold commitments to transition towards an all-electric future. To help cities and counties make the commitment, the coalition released the GoEV City toolkit, a catalog of local policies, strategies and programs designed to make it easy for cities and counties to make robust commitments around electric vehicles and advance toward a transportation system with zero tailpipe emissions and huge consumer savings. 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Infographic - New Direction for Transportation

This infographic illustrates the end of the Driving Boom.

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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

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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Blog Post | Transportation

Why Denver's Climate Change Proclamation is Important | Danny Katz

Last night, to little fanfare, the City and County of Denver unanimously approved a climate change proclamation.

This proclamation is important for a number of reasons.

> Keep Reading

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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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