RTD Fare Study Resources

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RTD is undertaking a systemwide fare study to evaluate its fares. Your participation and feedback are welcomed. Language assistance services are provided at no cost. If you would like more information, please call 303-292-2051 or email [email protected]


Study Overview

What is the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis and how is it different from prior fare studies?

The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis is a holistic and customer-centric assessment of RTD’s current fare structure and pass programs. RTD is exploring changes to its fare structure and pass programs to make using bus and rail service more equitable, affordable and simple.

Unlike previous fare studies, this study is not required to achieve specific fare revenue targets. However, as with all fare studies, fare decisions will impact ridership and fare revenue and those impacts will be considered in evaluating trade-offs among fare structure alternatives. As part of this study, RTD will be evaluating the implications of lowering fare revenue targets to accomplish broader goals related to affordability and ridership.

Why is RTD conducting the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis?

Since RTD last reviewed and made changes to its fare structure in 2019, RTD has received customer and stakeholder feedback that fares and pass programs are too expensive and complicated. RTD had also experienced a decline in ridership since 2014, a trend that was severely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the customer base has been changing, with more customers relying on transit as a primary source of mobility.

The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis is an effort to respond by evaluating RTD’s fare structure with a focus on making fares more equitable, affordable and simple and rebuilding ridership.

Equity and Community Feedback

How will equity be factored into the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis?

A more equitable fare structure is the leading goal of the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis. This goal will be pursued through partnerships with community-based organizations, inclusive communications and outreach and evaluation of the impacts of fare structure alternatives on protected populations throughout the study process.

To achieve this goal, RTD will be:

  • Actively engaging underrepresented populations through partnerships with community-based organizations, including focus groups conducted by RTD’s community partners.
  • Promoting inclusivity by conducting customer and community meetings in Spanish and ensuring the availability of language assistance, including translation of the study website and surveys.
  • Convening an Equity Feedback Panel, which will use customer and community input to provide feedback on how RTD’s fare structure may be made more equitable.
  • Conducting fare equity analyses of the fare structure alternatives utilizing RTD’s Title VI Policies and in accordance with the Federal Transit Administration’s guidance and Title VI Circular.

How will community feedback impact the outcomes?

The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis is structured to obtain and use customer and community feedback in identifying and evaluating potential fare structure alternatives. Feedback from customers and community members will be gathered at key milestones throughout the study. Engagement activities include customer and community meetings, focus groups conducted by community partners and surveys. This feedback will be used by the study team to inform its technical analysis.

In addition to informing the technical analysis, this customer and community feedback will be synthesized and shared with the three Feedback Panels. These Feedback Panels are tasked with using customer and community input to provide feedback to RTD on how to meet the study goals, fulfill customer and community needs and balance trade-offs among all goals and needs.

How are community-based organizations involved in the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis?

Community-based organizations throughout the RTD service area will be integral to the success of the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis. RTD has formed contracts with six community-based organizations. These organizations will serve as community partners, helping engage underrepresented populations. These community partners will host focus groups with their communities to better understand customer experiences and gather feedback on how to achieve the study’s goals and obtain feedback on fare structure alternatives. The community partners will also help in promoting other study engagement opportunities.

What are the Feedback Panels and what is their role in the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis?

The three Feedback Panels will consider customer and community input and balance the trade-offs among the three study goals and customer and community needs. The three Feedback Panels represent large groups of stakeholders, including marginalized communities, organizations participating in RTD’s pass programs and formal local jurisdictions. The Feedback Panels will meet following each of the three customer and community engagement milestones to ensure that the Feedback Panels are using customer input in considering RTD’s best options to address and balance customer and community input and all perspectives.

Technical Analysis

What technical data will be used to evaluate fare structure alternatives?

The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis is analyzing a variety of data sources to understand travel patterns among RTD customers. These sources include surveys of customers and non-customers, including Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Origin and Destination Surveys, LiVE Program Survey, and surveys conducted as part of this study and other recent studies, such as Reimagine RTD. In addition to survey data, we are compiling and analyzing fare product sales data and ridership data. These data sources provide insight into fare product choices, frequency of transit use, and other demographic data that will be valuable in evaluating fare structure alternatives and assessing tradeoffs among alternatives.

What technical analyses will be conducted to assess the impacts of the fare structure alternatives?

Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessments, the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis will evaluate how well fare structure alternatives achieve the study goals to make fares more equitable, affordable and simple. The study will also consider the ridership, fare revenue, and equity impacts of each alternative by conducting fare modeling and fare equity analyses.

What is fare modeling?

Fare modeling estimates the potential ridership and revenue impacts of each fare structure alternative. The fare model assesses how different pricing and policy alternatives impact specific customer groups. Combined with demographic data, modeling results inform the fare equity analyses, identifying the customers that benefit and those that are adversely affected by each fare structure alternative.

What is a fare equity analysis?

In accordance with RTD’s Title VI Policies and the Federal Transit Administration Title VI Circular, the fare equity analyses will evaluate whether the proposed changes result in a Disparate Impact on minority populations (those identified by race, color, or national origin) or Disproportionate Burden on low-income populations and will identify mitigations if needed. While the Federal Transit Administration in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires a full fare equity analysis only on the final recommendation, conducting preliminary analyses on viable fare structure alternatives will help in comparing alternatives and how well they promote a more equitable fare structure.

Fare Revenue and Funding Sources

Why is fare revenue critical to RTD’s financial sustainability?

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, fare revenue represented between 15 to 20 percent of RTD’s operating budget. If this revenue were reduced substantially or eliminated, RTD would need to cut service to make up for lost revenue.

What are the current sources of revenue for RTD other than fares?

The primary source of revenue for RTD is sales and use tax, which typically accounts for 55 to 65 percent of RTD’s annual budgeted revenue.

What is farebox recovery?

The farebox recovery ratio is the percentage of transit operating expenses that are covered by revenues from transit fares.

Prior to 2021, RTD was required to maintain a 30% cost recovery ratio, which included depreciation in addition to operating expenses, and report cost recovery results in accordance with Senate Bill 89-154. With the passage of House Bill 21-1186 in 2021 RTD is no longer required to maintain a cost recovery ratio.

How will the elimination of the cost recovery requirement through the passage of House Bill 21-1186 impact the outcomes of this study?

House Bill 21-1186 relieves RTD of some statutory restrictions related to the District's operations. Removing the cost recovery requirement provides greater budgetary flexibility for setting fares.

The bill also repealed limitations on the District's authority to charge fees and manage parking at District parking facilities.

Fare Structure, Service Changes, and Other Policy Considerations

How will the new fares impact service? If fares are reduced, will my service be decreased?

The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis will consider how fare structure alternatives impact fare revenue in the short term and RTD’s longer term financial sustainability. Understanding the trade-offs between fares and service will be an important consideration in evaluating alternatives. If there are trade-offs between fare revenue and RTD’s ability to sustain service levels, they will be highlighted in the evaluation of the fare structure alternatives.

Will the study look at fare-capping/pass-earning schemes?

Fare capping, which enables a customer to pay towards a Day or Monthly Pass in single trip increments, requires the use of an electronic fare collection system that is capable of tracking fares paid.

RTD is in the process of implementing a new fare collection system. This new account-based ticketing system, which will leverage RTD’s current mobile ticketing and introduce a new smart card, will introduce new capabilities including fare capping. This will help make fares more equitable and affordable for customers by eliminating the upfront cost of a Monthly Pass and enabling customers to pay towards the monthly fare cap over the course of the month. Since the fare collection system will calculate the appropriate fare, fare capping will also simplify fare payment for customers transferring between services with Local and Regional fares and/or purchasing a Day Pass.

Is RTD considering zero fares?

Zero fares systemwide is outside of the scope of this study. A zero fare system would require a new substantial ongoing funding source in order to maintain or increase service levels. While the study will not consider a zero fare system, it may consider offering free fares and/or increasing fare discounts for a subset of customers, in particular equity populations. Without funding to recover lost fare revenue in perpetuity, a zero fare system would result in significant service cuts, negatively impacting RTD customers.

Separately, Colorado Senate Bill 22-180 (SB 22-180), signed in May 2022, aims to improve air quality by providing grants to cover up to 80% of the costs of offering free transit for at least 30 days during ozone season, traditionally from June through the end of August. Funded through this grant opportunity, RTD’s Zero Fare for Better Air initiative is intended to introduce RTD to new customers and to promote transit to reduce auto emissions when ground-level ozone pollution is elevated. RTD’s experience during Zero Fare for Better Air will provide valuable data to assess the potential for zero fares in the future.

Will the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis explore changes to parking fees at RTD Stations and Park-n-Rides?

House Bill 21-1186, in addition to giving RTD greater budgetary flexibility for setting fares, removes restrictions on RTD’s ability to charge fees and manage parking at District parking facilities. However, at this time, there are not any plans to change parking fees as part of the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis.

What types of fare structure changes might be considered as part of the study?

Alternatives and recommendations could include changes to the fare structure, products, fares, and/or discounts. RTD and its consultant team are still exploring fare structure options and other policy changes that will be informed by the feedback received during customer, community and stakeholder engagements in April and May 2022. As the study progresses, conceptual options and fare structure alternatives will be shared to obtain customer, community and stakeholder feedback over the summer and fall.

Will I still be able to use my EcoPass/CollegePass/Neighborhood EcoPass?

RTD’s EcoPass, Neighborhood EcoPass and CollegePass promote ridership and have historically generated a notable share of RTD’s fare revenue. Many transit agencies throughout the United States continue to replicate RTD’s pass programs based on the successes experienced in the Denver region. The Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis is not anticipated to make dramatic changes to these pass programs or eliminate the pass programs. However, any changes to the broader fare structure and pricing will have a direct impact on fares and consequently pass program pricing. Further, some improvements to the programs may be considered to promote equity and achieve other study goals.

How will the fare structure changes for fixed-route services impact Access-a-Ride?

Access-a-Ride provides Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complementary paratransit service for individuals with disabilities who cannot use regular fixed-route bus/rail service. Because Access-a-Ride fare limits are dependent on the fare structure for fixed-route services, they will be considered as part of the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis.

Per Department of Transportation ADA regulations, when setting Access-a-Ride fares, RTD can charge up to twice the fare for a comparable trip on fixed-route service. However, RTD currently charges less than the federal limit at 1.7 to 1.9 times the comparable Adult cash full fare (Access-a-Ride fares include a $5.00 Local fare, $9.00 Regional fare and a $20.00 Airport fare). Fare structure and pricing changes for comparable fixed-route services may have direct impact on the Access-a-Ride fares. For example, flattening of fares on fixed-route service will have significant impact on Regional and/or Airport Access-a-Ride fares as these higher fare levels may no longer apply with the discontinuation of Regional and/or Airport fares on fixed-route services.

In addition to traditional Access-a-Ride service, Access-a-Ride customers have the option to choose RTD’s Access-a-Cab program or Access-on-Demand, a curb-to-curb pilot service in partnership with Uber. Customers using Access-a-Cab are charged an initial $2.00 fare. RTD then subsidizes up to $12.00 of the customer’s total cab fare. If the total trip cost is over $14.00, customers are responsible for any additional balance. Customers using Access-on-Demand are charged an initial $2.00 fare via their payment method in the Uber app. RTD then subsidizes up to $20.00 of the customer’s total Uber fare. If the total trip cost is over $22.00, customers are responsible for any additional balance.

As always, customers with Access‑a‑Ride IDs ride free on all RTD fixed-route bus and rail services.

Visit RTD’s website for more information on Access-a-Ride, Access-a-Cab and Access-on-Demand services and fares.

When will RTD restore service to pre-pandemic levels?

RTD does not anticipate restoring service to pre-pandemic levels for the foreseeable future. RTD has been experiencing severe workforce availability issues with operators and other service support personnel and is providing as much service as it can with its current workforce.

Looking forward, RTD is completing the Reimagine RTD System Optimization Plan (SOP), which identifies planned service growth between now and 2027. The SOP proposes a more efficient network of services that will best serve the region with the available workforce and financial resources over the next five years. Visit RTD’s website to learn more about Reimagine RTD.

How does RTD address the needs of customers who may not have a valid state-issued ID or driver’s license when applying for special discounts?

For all of our discount programs, RTD is trying to make sure they meet eligibility criteria and nothing more. In addition to Colorado and United States government-issued proof of identification, RTD may even accept other proof of identification prepared by a home-country consulate in place of traditional legal documents/materials. For youth under 19, RTD will also accept middle or high school ID cards. In situations when customers do not currently possess the required paperwork, RTD may be able to issue a 30- or 60-day temporary card while documentation is sought.

Further, for the LiVE program, a government-issued ID card is not required. Also, while providing a social security number during the LiVE application is recommended because it can streamline application processing, it is not required. Applicants who do not have a social security number or prefer not to provide it can skip the entry screen.

RTD strives to accommodate all customers who request and who are eligible for a discounted fare and aims to be flexible and make exceptions based on individual needs. Any customers who do not have identification requirements but who may qualify for a discount are encouraged to contact RTD directly for help.

Can undocumented youth and students who have received relief through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), yet who may lose a valid form of legal ID, still participate in the CollegePass program?

CollegePass is an annual college-sponsored pass providing students unlimited rides on RTD bus and rail services for a nominal cost included in their tuition and fees. CollegePass cards are issued to students directly by colleges. As long as a student is enrolled with an institution participating in CollegePass and meets any requirements established by the institution (e.g., pays the Transit Pass Fee, enrolled in on-campus classes), the student would be eligible to receive their CollegePass, regardless of being able to provide a government-issued ID.

Customer and Community Participation

How can I get involved?

There are multiple ways to participate in the Systemwide Fare Study and Equity Analysis. Three engagements will be held over the course of the study to gather feedback on the current fare structure and evaluate trade-offs among potential alternatives. These will include customer and community meetings (in the spring, summer and fall of 2022) as well as two surveys (in the spring and fall 2022) that will be posted online and promoted through emails, newsletters and social media. In addition, a formal public comment and hearing process will be conducted in early 2023 on the recommendations.

If you have questions or additional comments, you can send an email to the study team at [email protected], submit a comment on the study website at https://www.rtd-denver.com/fares-passes/fare-study or call the RTD Customer Care team at 303.299.6000.

You can also sign up for study updates and notifications of engagement opportunities on the study website at https://www.rtd-denver.com/fares-passes/fare-study.

Fare Enforcement, Safety and Service

What is RTD doing to improve security at its facilities and on its vehicles?

RTD understands that there has been an increase in concerns about security at its facilities and on its vehicles and has been working to address security as best it can with its available resources. RTD has been working with local jurisdictions, service providers for those experiencing houselessness, and others to try to address security issues holistically.

Anyone who feels unsafe or sees illegal activity while using RTD can report the situation through RTD’s Transit Watch App. This allows RTD to pinpoint the location of the issue and send available resources to address the situation. RTD is also making improvements to Union Station to address ongoing security concerns. Visit RTD’s website to learn more about efforts to create a welcoming transit environment at Union Station.

What is RTD doing about fare enforcement?

While it may appear that many customers are not paying their fare, most customers are indeed paying and may have a pass that does not require them to interact with the validator or ticket vending machine on the rail station platform. When conducting fare inspections on vehicles, RTD typically only sees a fare evasion rate of between 4-8%. This means that well over 90% of customers are paying the correct fare.