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 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
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles 4

America's infrastructure is in rough shape. Many of our roads, bridges, and transit systems are aging and in need of repair. Yet, year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars' worth of new and expanded highways that do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from repairs and 21st century priorities. This report profiles nine highway projects that epitomize the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

> 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
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. 

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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.

> Keep Reading
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. 

> Keep Reading
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

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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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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

> Keep Reading

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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.” 

News Release | CoPIRG Foundation and the Denver Streets Partnership

After nearly a decade of operations, the Denver Streets Partnership (DSP) gathered on Thursday to say goodbye to Denver’s B-cycle program and release a vision for its replacement - micromobility options like pedal and electric-assisted bikes (e-bikes), electric scooters, and whatever other two-wheeled or one-wheeled modes develop, available in every neighborhood in Denver. The coalition highlighted how a robust micromobility network could help Denver meet critical goals around reducing climate and air pollution, transportation-related deaths, and the number of people traveling alone in vehicles. 

News Release | CoPIRG

On Thursday, the Colorado State Senate's Transportation and Energy Committee voted 5-0 to approve a CoPIRG-backed bill to bring more transparency to state transportation public-private partnerships. CoPIRG applauds the sponsor of SB20-017, Senator Faith Winter, and the rest of the committee, Senators Foote, Scott, Donovan, and Hisey, for voting in favor of the bill. 

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.

 

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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