Jul 26, 2023 - News

RTD slashes fares to boost ridership — marking major overhaul

Data: RTD; Graphic: Simran Parwani/Axios

For the first time in decades, the Regional Transportation District is lowering its fares, making it significantly cheaper for Denver metro riders to catch a bus or train.

Why it matters: The massive overhaul is intended to boost lagging ridership, but also rooted in equity and affordability.

Details: RTD's board of directors approved a plan Tuesday night that will slash local monthly regional and airport passes by 56% — to $88 — and combine local and regional fares into one "standard fare."

  • The cost for bus and rail lines will drop from $3 to $2.75 for a three-hour pass and from $6 to $5.50 for a daily pass.
  • Fares for seniors, people with disabilities, and Medicare recipients will be lowered as well, and discounts for low-income riders are now expanded — with rebates increasing to 50% from 40%.
  • RTD riders who purchase a single three-hour pass will see a slight drop from $3 to $2.75.

Plus: RTD staff also approved a year-long, free-ride pilot program for riders 19 years and younger that will kick in this fall, estimated to cost $5 million.

  • Additionally, the agency is allocating $1 million in passes to homeless service providers as well as other nonprofit partners.

What they're saying: "We are glad to see that RTD is moving in the direction of allowing more people to access the benefit and use public transit," Cathy Alderman, spokesperson for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, told CPR.

Context: RTD was given more flexibility to dictate its own rates after Gov. Jared Polis signed legislation in 2021 that removed a state law requiring RTD rake in 30% of its revenue from fares.

Of note: This week, the Polis administration announced that Bustang, Colorado's public bus service, is slashing fares in half for most routes in August and September to lower ozone emissions, make public transit more accessible and boost ridership.

  • Bustang fares were also reduced by 50% last year, resulting in a 77% jump in ridership, according to the state's transportation department.
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