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

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 | 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.

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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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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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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 | Transportation

Millennials Want More Public Transportation | Sean Doyle

A new poll shows that access to public transportation is “very important” for Millennials in considering where to live and where to work.  The results support our research over the past few years that found Millennials are driving less than older generations and are more prone to walk, bike, or take transit to get where they need to go.

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Blog Post

You're likely to see more electric cars on Colorado's roads in the next few years, and that means less smog-causing and climate-changing pollution.

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.

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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