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 | 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.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Governor Starts Colorado Down Road to Cleaner, More Efficient Cars

This morning, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order to begin the process to adopt advanced clean car standards in Colorado. His action comes as the Trump administration moves to rollback federal clean car rules that have been in place for years. CoPIRG joined with leaders from environmental, consumer, health and business groups to highlight that adopting advanced clean car standards in Colorado would provide strong safeguards from air pollution caused by gasoline and diesel vehicles, cut greenhouse gas emissions and save Coloradans money at the pump. 

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air

Buses play a key role in in our nation’s transportation system, carrying millions of children daily to and from school and moving millions of Americans each day around our cities. Buses reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, make our communities more livable and sustainable, and provide transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. Yet, the majority of America’s buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

RTD One of the Only Transit Agencies Nationally Operating Electric Buses

Denver’s transit agency, RTD, is one of the only large transit agencies in the country that has deployed electric buses in its fleet, reducing air pollution and saving money according to a new report on electric buses by CoPIRG Foundation, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group. RTD currently has 36 electric buses. 

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center | Transportation

Denver Needs 1,200 More Electric Vehicle Charging Stations by 2030

With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting Colorado streets in record numbers, a new study by CoPIRG Foundation, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group finds that the city of Denver will need to add 1,200 electric vehicle charging stations to public places by 2030 to be ready for the estimated 36,000 electric vehicles that could be on city streets by then. Currently, Denver has approximately 150 publicly-accessible charging stations on streets, in garages, and at businesses. The city of Colorado Springs will need to add 950 more stations to accommodate an estimated 26,000 EVs. Currently, Colorado Springs has approximately 50 stations. 

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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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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

CoPIRG Calls for Passage of Transportation Bill in House Committee Today

CoPIRG is calling on members of Colorado’s House Transportation and Energy Committee to approve HB17-1242 today. The bi-partisan bill would invest hundreds of millions of dollars into transportation infrastructure and services over the next 20 years, including creating a fund for emergency road maintenance and investing 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.  

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International | Transportation

Guide to Car-Free Skiing Highlights Growing Number of Transportation Options to the Slopes

As tens of thousands of Coloradans prepare to trek from the Front Range to the ski slopes, a new guide from the CoPIRG Foundation and Snowriders International highlights 16 ways for people to get to the slopes without driving their personal car. Among the options, the two groups highlighted CDOT’s soon-to-be-launched SnowStang, the Front Range Ski Bus, RTD’s N line to Eldora, the Winter Park Express ski train, numerous shared shuttles from Denver International Airport and ride share options like Carpool World and SkiCarpool.org.

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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

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 | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Transportation policy is health policy | Sean Doyle

While transportation is often just thought of as how we get from point A to point B, the way we choose to do so can have important consequences on our physical health, air quality, safety, the development of our cities, and how we interact within them.

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Blog Post

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

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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...

Blog Post

 

In 2018, 59 people died on Denver's streets. We can do better and the key is safer streets. On Jan. 22, the Denver Streets Partnership, comprised of CoPIRG Foundation...

News Release | Denver Streets Partnership

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.

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