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

Victory: Colorado's Air Quality Regulators Adopt Vehicle Emission Standards

Today, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted to adopt the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program standards for cars and trucks. Vehicle emissions are among the largest contributors to carbon pollution in Colorado and contribute to the smog and air toxins that threaten public health. The new LEV standards will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from cars that threaten our health and economy, help Coloradans breathe easier, and help families save money at the pump.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Over 7,600 Coloradans Call for Clean Car Standards Ahead of Vote This Week

On Tuesday, CoPIRG Foundation organized an event with clean car advocates to announce that over 7,600 Coloradans have called on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt state emission standards for gas-powered vehicles. The AQCC will be voting on whether to adopt the standards on either Thursday, November 15th or Friday, November 16th, depending on when the hearing on the rule concludes.  

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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

Pages

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
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Legislature Approves Increase in Public Protections in Private Road Deals

Nearly three months after Colorado signed a controversial, 50-year, private road deal concerning U.S. 36, the Colorado Legislature approved a bill that would increase transparency and public protections in future private road deals. CoPIRG applauds the bi-partisan bill, SB-197.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Increase in Public Protections in Private Road Deals Up for Vote

Two months after Colorado signed a controversial, 50-year, private road deal concerning U.S. 36, the House will consider a bill that would increase transparency and public protections in future private road deals. CoPIRG is calling for the swift passage of the bi-partisan bill, SB-197, which cleared the Senate last week on a 25-10 vote.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Toll roads causing problems, but Colorado says it's immune

Colorado's controversial plunge into public-private partnerships to oversee and collect tolls from local highways comes as credit agencies and other states are struggling with the arrangement, mostly because America's driving boom could be over.

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Pages

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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Pages

Blog Post

As the State Senate debates SB21-260, Colorado's transportation funding bill, I sent this message to them to articulate why the bill needs more work.

News Release | CoPIRG

As the Colorado Senate considers a new transportation funding bill, SB21-260, CoPIRG is calling for changes that protect Colorado against any wasteful highway widening projects.  The bill will be debated in the Senate likely this Friday and Monday. 

News Release | CoPIRG

The Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee moved two important transportation bills forward that will help improve and expand high-quality transit service in the state. The bills would create a front range passenger rail district and allow RTD more flexibility to improve transit service.

News Release | CoPIRG

As the legislature works on a transportation funding bill, nine Coloradans from across the state shared their personal multimodal stories and called for a significant investment in transit, walking, rolling and biking. In addition, over 60 online personal stories were unveiled highlighting the importance and the benefits of going big on multimodal.

Transportation

Colorado puts safety first with $30 million investment in transportation

Gov. Jared Polis has signed a bill dedicating an additional $30 million to Colorado’s Safer Main Streets and Revitalizing Main Streets programs. Funded projects will range from sidewalk and other pedestrian improvements, to upgraded safety at intersections and new paths that provide safer space for biking.

 

Transportation

Colorado headed the right way on electric vehicles

Xcel Energy has announced a plan to invest $100 million in Colorado's electric transportation over the next three years. The plan would support Gov. Jared Polis' goal, set last January, of having 940,000 electric cars on the road by 2030. In addition to their environmental benefits, electric vehicles also cut utility costs for consumers.

 

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.

 
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