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

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. 

> 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
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

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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
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. 

> 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. 

> 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. 

> Keep Reading
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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Report | CoPIRG | Transportation

New Direction

The Driving Boom—a six decade-long period of steady increases in per-capita driving in the United States—is over. This report reveals why and what the implications are.

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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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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

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
Blog Post | Transportation

Clean Transportation Doesn’t Need To Be A Distant Utopia | John Olivieri

For many, when they think of combating global warming, they think of solar panels on rooftops and eliminating coal fired power plants. But, the truth is, there is not an effective solution to address global warming that does not deal with transportation as well.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

A World Without Carbon Pollution – Closer Than You Might Think | John Olivieri

For many, a world without carbon pollution seems like a distant utopia. To some, this even seems unobtainable. The size and scope of the challenge before us can be daunting, yet, there is good news -- a world without carbon pollution is closer than you think.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Why Is Our Infrastructure So Terrible? | Sean Doyle

America is facing a $1.4 trillion infrastructure funding crisis. This isn't some distant problem; it's already having a real effect on everyday Americans.

> Keep Reading

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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.

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.” 

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

 

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.

 
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