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 | 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
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. 

> 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. 

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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News Release | U.S.PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay, Transportation

Framework for VW Settlement Announced

Statement by Mike Litt, Consumer Program Advocate at U.S. PIRG Education Fund, on todays announced VW settlement. For more details on what a strong settlement agreement ought to look like, please see the open letter that we released earlier this week with other consumer and environmental groups.

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Media Hit | Transportation

12 of America's Biggest Highway Boondoggles

Given that expanding highways at great public cost doesn’t improve rush-hour traffic, there are better ways to spend this money, argue report authors Jeff Inglis of Frontier Group and John C. Olivieri of U.S. PIRG. They identify a dozen road projects, costing $24 billion in all, that are “representative” of the problem.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

New House Transportation Bill Raises Serious Concerns

After many months of negotiation, today the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is sitting down to mark-up a new transportation authorization and funding bill, known as the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Highway Expansion Projects Stall Under Growing Scrutiny

As part of a pattern of costly highway expansion proposals stalling under increased scrutiny, a federal court in Wisconsin made history last week by forbidding the use of federal dollars to build a highway because no need had been demonstrated. The court put an abrupt halt to Governor Scott Walker’s plans to spend $146 million widening state Highway 23, holding the project ineligible for federal funding. The court cited inadequate evidence in state travel forecasts or recent traffic counts, adding doubt whether other highway expansion proposals around the country are really needed.

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News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Private Road Transparency Bill Dies in Senate Committee

The Senate Transportation Committee voted 3-2 against a bill, SB 15-172, that would have increased oversight and transparency around future private road deals and encouraged the agency charged with negotiating and securing these deals to identify transportation efficiencies by using more transit and demand management programs like carpooling to meet Colorado’s growing transportation needs. The move to kill the bill came right after the committee unanimously approved an amendment to allow voters more say on individual deals. 

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Blog Post | Transportation

How Deadly are Your State’s Roads? | Sean Doyle

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows which states have the safest and most dangerous roads.  Here's how the states rank and what we can do about it.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Questions we should ask about US 36 agreement | Danny Katz

There are three things people should review around the US 36 proposal - Is this a good transportation project? Should we engage in a public-private partnership to complete it? Has this been a good process?

This post is mainly about # 2, the 600 page agreement between CDOT and a private company to manage US 36 for the next 50 years.

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Blog Post | Transportation

CDOT releases 600 page US36 public-private partnership agreement | Danny Katz

At 4pm today, CDOT released the agreement for the US36 public-private partnership proposal.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Details Emerging on US36 Public-Private Partnership Proposal | Danny Katz

Update from Director Danny Katz on the details emerging around the US 36 Public-Private Partnership Proposal

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Blog Post | Transportation

New academic study underscores CoPIRG finding on reduced driving | Danny Katz

A new report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates that light duty miles down 8.8% between 2004 and 2011.

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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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