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

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. 

> Keep Reading
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. 

> Keep Reading
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
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.  

> Keep Reading
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. 

> Keep Reading

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Federal Highway Administration Quietly Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has very quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, which will help avoid wasting billions of dollars for unnecessary highway expansion.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Current Plans to Spend $153 Million to Add Lanes on Colorado Route 470

A new report by the CoPIRG Foundation identifies state plans to add lanes on Route-470 as a national example of wasteful highway spending based on outdated assumptions. The study calls for instead investing scarce transportation dollars to better maintain existing roads and provide more transportation choices such as expanding transit and bike paths.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Bill to Increase Public Protections in Private Road Deals Vetoed by Governor Hickenlooper

Governor Hickenlooper vetoed a bi-partisan bill, SB-197, that would increase transparency and public protections in private road deals. The Legislature passed SB-197 in response to the immense public outcry after Colorado entered into a 50-year deal with a private company to build and manage parts of U.S. 36 including new toll lanes. 

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

US 36 bill head's to Governor's desk

A bill that requires more public scrutiny of public-private road deals passed the House of Representatives on Monday and is heading to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk for signing.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Over 1400 Coloradans Encourage Governor to Sign SB-197

A week after the Colorado Legislature approved a bill, SB-197, that would increase transparency and public protections in future private road deals, 1400 Coloradans from across the state have signed a petition calling for the Governor to sign the bipartisan bill into law.

> Keep Reading

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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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Blog Post | Transportation

85% think FasTracks was a good idea | Danny Katz

A survey in Metro Magazine shows 85% of Denver residents think the FasTracks program was a good idea

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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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