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

Denver City Building Wrapped With People-Friendly Streets Petitions

With just a few weeks to go before Denver unveils its draft budget for next year, the Denver Streets Partnership wrapped the front of the Denver City and County building with a 400-foot long ribbon strung with over 600 petitions calling for an increased investment of at least $22 million in sidewalks, bikeways, and safety improvements throughout the city. At the event, dozens of Denver residents spoke about why Denver needs to focus more dollars on creating people-friendly streets, and then delivered the petitions to the Mayor’s office and Denver City Council.

> 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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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

CoPIRG Condemns Rollback of Fuel Economy Standards

In response to the Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s proposal to roll back national fuel economy standards and strip the rights of states to adopt their own strong emissions standards, Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG Foundation, released the following statement: “We are outraged and extremely disappointed. Fuel economy standards make cars more efficient, saving Coloradans money at the pump year-after-year. The Trump Administration’s action sucks money out of the wallets of Coloradans and Colorado businesses. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

America's infrastructure is in rough shape. Many of our roads, bridges, and transit systems are aging and in need of repair. Yet, year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars' worth of new and expanded highways that do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from repairs and 21st century priorities. This report profiles nine highway projects that epitomize the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

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News Release | Transportation

Highway Administration Reinstates Clean Air Rule In Response to Lawsuit

In a victory for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration responded to a lawsuit brought by U.S. PIRG, NRDC, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations, Cleaner Buses Included in $68 Million VW Settlement Proposal

Consumer and environmental groups applauded the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment’s (CDPHE) draft plan to spend the $68 million that Colorado will receive from Volkswagen’s (VW) settlement over their emission-cheating vehicles. The plan, released on Monday, would steer $10 million into electric vehicle charging stations that could cover many of Colorado’s major roads as well as building electric charging stations at workplaces and apartments. $36 million would incentivize government agencies and the private sector to upgrade diesel-powered trucks and buses to electric powered. 

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Bustang Ridership Increases 52% in 2nd Year

Ridership on Bustang, which provides bus service connecting Denver to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and mountain communities along I-70, swelled 52% in its second year, providing 155,864 passenger trips, according to the public interest group CoPIRG Foundation. To mark the 2nd anniversary of Bustang service and show broad public support, CoPIRG Foundation staff stood at Bustang’s gate in Denver’s Union Station and gathered signatures on a large, colorful, birthday card made out to the Colorado Department of Transportation, which operates the statewide bus service. 

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

CO House Passes Transportation Funding Bill

On Friday morning, the Colorado House aaproved the CoPIRG-backed HB17-1242, a bi-partisan bill that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including at least $100 million in multi-modal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion. The bill passed on a 41-24 vote.  

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

House Committee Approves Transportation Funding Bill

After a seven-hour hearing, the Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee approved the CoPIRG-backed HB17-1242, a bi-partisan bill that would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including at least $100 million in multimodal options that can provide safe routes to schools, better access to jobs and critical medical services, and more affordable and efficient choices to deal with congestion. The bill passed with minor amendments and heads to the House Finance Committee. 

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Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004. The trend away from driving has been led by young people.

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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.

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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.

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Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

Colorado's Transportation Crossroads

Colorado’s transportation network does a poor job of meeting the needs of the state’s residents.

Expanding public transportation can provide more Coloradans with alternatives to driving, while laying the foundation for an efficient transportation system for the 21st century.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Don’t Believe the Hype – Millennials’ Transportation Habits Are Changing | Sean Doyle

Despite news stories claiming that Millennials are buying up cars at record rates, the reality is quite different. After adjusting previous studies to account for differences in the size of the generations measured, on a per-capita basis, Millennials are 29 percent less likely than members of Generation X to own a car.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Breaking the Silence on Transportation and the Climate

Transportation policy-makers in most states and at the federal level have simply never seen it as their business to consider, much less act to reduce, the climate impacts of their infrastructure investment decisions. The Obama administration’s actions last week, however tentative, suggest that that is about to change.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Major Milestone for Transportation in Colorado | Danny Katz

Today, a new rail line opens that connects Denver’s International Airport with downtown Denver. The “A line,” as it is known, is one of nine lines of light-rail, commuter rail and bus rapid transit that will connect the Denver metro area when it is all completed. This was a major priority for CoPIRG and we campaigned heavily for it, knocking on doors, organizing community events, building a broad coalition and securing support in the media and from elected officials.

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Blog Post | Transportation

All Americans Deserve Clean Air to Breathe, On Earth Day and Every Day | Sean Doyle

U.S. DOT asks if we should measure global warming pollution from transportation.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Owning Fewer Cars Isn’t Just For Millennials | Sean Doyle

New transportation options are making it easier for people to use transit more, own fewer cars, and even save money on transportation.

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Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

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. 

News Release | CoPIRG

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. 

Blog Post

Denver draws thousands of visitors and new residents every year, but the city is slowly paving over what makes it special.

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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