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 | 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. 

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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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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.

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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

Colorado joined 14 other states plus the District of Columbia to announce today that they will set landmark goals for zero-emission trucks. CoPIRG joined clean car advocates in applauding the Polis administration’s decision to join the pact through an MOU that sets targets for achieving full electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, along with interim sales targets for truck manufacturers. 

Blog Post

Kids need to be exposed to as little air pollution as possible. A key way that we can preserve the promises of the future is ensuring that the buses they take to and from school and field trips are powered by electricity and not fossil fuels. Xcel Energy has released their Transportation Electrification Plan (TEP), and this plan has a proposal to invest over $2 million in helping schools make the switch from dirty gas-powered school buses to clean electric school buses. 

Blog Post

 

On May 15th, Xcel Energy released their first Transportation Electrification Plan (TEP). It’s their proposal to spend $101.5 million on transportation electrification - things like the infrastructure to support more than 18,000 charging stations, 100,000 new electric vehicles, electric school buses, and community charging hubs.  One thing’s for sure: this is a big deal.

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.

Transportation

Colorado Department of Transportation pledges millions toward improving pedestrian safety

In a win for pedestrian safety, the Colorado Department of Transportation has pledged more than $37 million toward fixing intersections and building and improving sidewalks and pedestrian signals on urban main streets in Denver.

 

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.

 
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