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 | 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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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. 

> Keep Reading
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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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.

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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

GoI70.Com Highlights Car-free Ways to Get to the Slopes

As tens of thousands of Coloradans prepare to trek from the Front Range to the ski slopes for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the I-70 Coalition and CoPIRG Foundation released an updated website – GoI70.com – that highlights 12 services people can use to get to the slopes without driving their personal car. The website also provides information about travel patterns to help people organize the best times to travel, connects travelers with mountain deals that can reduce congestion at peak times, and links to real-time traffic information. 

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

41 Local Government Leaders Sign Letter Supporting Bustang

Today, CoPIRG Foundation Director Danny Katz delivered a letter to the Transportation Commissioners for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) celebrating the success of Bustang, the statewide bus service, and showing support for continued expansion. The letter was signed by 41 mayors, city councilors, trustees and county commissioners from communities along the Bustang routes including Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Idaho Springs, Summit County, Eagle County, Vail, Avon, and Glenwood Springs.    

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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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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.

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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

Good Things Come to Those On Bikes | Sean Doyle

Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it's Bike to Work Week!

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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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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) officially adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program Friday, a move that takes aim at reducing ozone pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado is the 11th state to adopt the program. 

 

Blog Post

Electric vehicles don’t just promise to tackle our air quality problems. They will also bring additional consumer benefits from lower fuel costs and fewer maintenance expenses.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

On Monday, clean car advocates announced that 6,201 Coloradans are calling on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, a critical step that Colorado needs to take to protect public health and tackle the climate crisis. The AQCC will begin a public hearing on the rule starting Tuesday, with testimony open to the public from 12:30 to 3pm and 6 to 8pm. They will vote on whether to adopt the standards on Thursday, August 15th or Friday, August 16th.   

Report | CoPIRG Foundation, SWEEP, Frontier Group, Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center

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.

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation

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.

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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