RTD's new LiVE Program provides the public with more access to opportunity

After being incarcerated for 25 years, Robert Wardell was released from prison last May. Now that he’s free, he’s taking his second chance for all it’s worth. Wardell is taking online classes at Community College of Denver (CCD) this summer, and he plans to transfer to Arapahoe Community College (ACC) in the fall to earn a paralegal degree. His ultimate goal is to earn a degree in animal science or dairy manufacturing at a four-year institution and open up his own dairy operation. In the meantime, he even has a few job offers.

The catch? Wardell currently lives in a halfway house in southwest Denver, both offers are for jobs in northeast Denver, and he relies exclusively on public transportation to get around. Another catch: Because Wardell is taking online classes at CCD, he isn’t eligible for RTD’s CollegePass – and that pass isn’t offered by ACC, which he plans to attend in the fall. Between work, school and home, Wardell is already feeling the sting of his transportation costs.

“It’s a huge trip, but I have to take what I can get at this juncture,” said Wardell, 52. “Some days I buy the [$6] daily pass, and some days I buy the [$3] one-time fare. I ride the bus or train six to seven days a week, so it adds up.”

Wardell, along with others who struggle to cover the cost of transportation, eagerly awaited the July 29 launch of LiVE, RTD’s new, income-based fare program. Pronounced as a verb — as in, “live your best life” – the LiVE Program allows riders whose household incomes are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level to use RTD’s services at a 40 percent discount. Qualifying residents living in the RTD service area can enroll in the LiVE Program through PEAK, Colorado’s online service for medical, food and early child care assistance programs.

Once they are approved, applicants will receive a LiVE Program eligibility card in the mail within weeks. To enjoy the discount, qualifying riders will need to carry both the eligibility card and one of the following forms of LiVE Program fare media: a MyRide card or a mobile ticket (three-hour or day pass).

In launching the LiVE Program, RTD joins a growing number of transit agencies around the United States in making fares more affordable to those who depend on public transportation the most. The program emerged as a key priority of a 25-member working group convened in 2017 to evaluate RTD’s fare structure and pass programs, and it was approved by RTD’s Board of Directors in September 2018. In the months since, RTD has partnered with both public- and private-sector organizations to make the rollout as smooth as possible.

Now that enrollment for the LiVE Program has opened, Wardell is looking forward to using his pass to make the most of his newfound freedom.

“It’s awesome that you can get anywhere around Denver on RTD, and for me, with the reduced fare, I’ll be able to afford regional transportation,” Wardell said. “That will open more doors for me because I’ll be able to go more places. For me, just coming out of prison, not working, just going to school, it’s a big help.”

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Robert Wardell looks forward to the increased freedom and opportunity he’ll have through enrollment in the LiVE Program.