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 | Budget, Tax, Transportation

Do Roads Pay for Themselves?

Highways do not – and, except for brief periods in our nation’s history, never have – paid for themselves through the taxes that highway advocates label “user fees.” Yet highway advocates continue to suggest they do in an attempt to secure preferential access to scarce public resources and to shape how those resources are spent.

> 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
Media Hit | Transportation

CoPIRG creates Transportation Freedom Day

The average American family spends about 20 percent of its income on transportation and one organization used Friday to get out its message of improving public transportation.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

Transportation Freedom Day 2010

To highlight the differences in transportation costs per city, CoPIRG released data from the Center of Neighborhood Technology that calculated each city’s Transportation Freedom Day - the date in which a typical household has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs. That day tends to arrive earlier for residents of cities with more car-alternatives to getting around.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

“Transportation Freedom Day” Highlights Transportation Costs for Residents

Over the next few weeks, residents in the Denver metro area will be able to celebrate Transportation Freedom Day, the date in which a typical household has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs. For residents in some cities like Englewood, Aurora and Littleton, that day will come earlier than many of their neighbors in Brighton, Parker and Evergreen.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

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

Blog Post

As we have seen through the wildfires raging throughout the state, climate change and its devastating effects aren’t slowing down, and it costs Colorado a lot. But a big climate change solution can actually save us money--electric vehicles. We hosted a webinar with the City of Denver, Consumer Reports, and CALSTART to talk about the savings you can get when you switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles and available resources that make electric vehicles more affordable. Here’s some of the key things we covered: 

News Release | CoPIRG

Colorado joined 14 other states plus the District of Columbia to announce today that they will set landmark goals for zero-emission trucks. CoPIRG joined clean car advocates in applauding the Polis administration’s decision to join the pact through an MOU that sets targets for achieving full electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, along with interim sales targets for truck manufacturers. 

Blog Post

Kids need to be exposed to as little air pollution as possible. A key way that we can preserve the promises of the future is ensuring that the buses they take to and from school and field trips are powered by electricity and not fossil fuels. Xcel Energy has released their Transportation Electrification Plan (TEP), and this plan has a proposal to invest over $2 million in helping schools make the switch from dirty gas-powered school buses to clean electric school buses. 

Blog Post

 

On May 15th, Xcel Energy released their first Transportation Electrification Plan (TEP). It’s their proposal to spend $101.5 million on transportation electrification - things like the infrastructure to support more than 18,000 charging stations, 100,000 new electric vehicles, electric school buses, and community charging hubs.  One thing’s for sure: this is a big deal.

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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