RTD, Auraria Campus negotiate pilot program for spring semester

In the spirit of renewed partnership, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) along with its partner institutions, the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the University of Colorado Denver, reached an agreement to launch a new pilot program for the Auraria Campus students for the spring 2021 semester.

Each year, students from each institution on the Auraria Campus participate in a spirited student government election and referendum vote on a variety of initiatives, including RTD’s CollegePass Program. Due to the COVID-19 crisis and severe budget constraints, the pass was suspended for the fall 2020 semester, creating a significant challenge for those who rely on public transportation. 

Together, RTD and the Auraria Campus partner institutions negotiated a new pilot CollegePass program to provide discounted, unlimited use of RTD’s local, regional and airport bus and rail service to students for the upcoming spring semester. As a result of the pandemic, RTD has agreed to pilot a short-term program that eligible students can choose to opt-in to through their institutions.

“Public transportation is an important part of day-to-day life on the Auraria Campus, not just for students, but for our faculty and staff as well,” AHEC Chief Executive Officer Colleen Walker said. “We were thrilled to come to the table with RTD’s dynamic new General Manager and CEO, Debra A. Johnson, and community champion and RTD Board Chair Angie Rivera-Malpiede, to develop a solution that would make public transportation easily and readily available to all of our campus community members.”

“Access to the Auraria Campus, as a higher education destination, is crucial to thousands of people who rely upon its services for the betterment of their lives,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “From the outset of our discussions with campus leadership, I was intent on collaborating to find a solution that would be amenable to all involved, recognizing that Auraria, like RTD, is facing financial constraints and challenges brought on by the pandemic. My team and I want to work with our customers at every turn to identify the most suitable opportunities. I believe we have done that in this instance, through earnest conversation, flexibility and an interest in learning from one another.”

Being able to provide cost-effective mass transportation speaks directly to the mission of higher education as it is integral to assisting community members in upward mobility and is an important part of the development of the workforce pipeline.  

“This renewed partnership with RTD, and our collective ability to provide access to transportation shows our commitment to empowering our campus community members and ensuring equity,” Walker said. “I think it’s fitting that this announcement comes on the day that we celebrate a leader who greatly impacted our country. We must never waver in our commitment to empowerment and equity. These are ideals that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fought for throughout his lifetime, and they are reflected in the intent of our organizations’ partnership.”