RTD Board approves 6-month promotional fare pilot program for N Line

The Regional Transportation District Board gave final approval Tuesday night to cutting regional fares for the first six months of the N Line when the newest commuter rail line opens to the northern suburbs in 2020, saying that hard times for the agency demand innovation and experimentation.
    
The board voted 11 to 4 – picking up one vote since a preliminary committee approval last week – to make the opening fare on the N Line $3 one-way no matter how far the trip, instead of the $5.25 charged across RTD’s system when a trip extends across three fare zones.
            
The vote refers to the N Line pilot program as “the first” such experiment, and asks agency staff to study fare reductions on other lines as well. Rules that accompany federal funding for new transit lines limit how long and how often fare promotions can be used, but RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova told the Board the limited promotional fare pilot program is likely to pass federal review.
    
“If you don’t try, you don’t know,” said Director Claudia Folska, voting in favor of the N Line pilot. “What this signals to me is that our staff and general manager have a willingness to take this risk with the Board.” 
    
Director Angie Rivera-Malpiede said the positive reaction to the fare pilot from Jefferson County and other officials is a positive move toward regional cooperation, at a time when northern suburban communities are still frustrated that they are the last to receive new rail lines included in the 2004 FasTracks program. She said some of her less-wealthy constituents have been pushed farther and farther out through gentrification, and that a fare break “will be a true gift to my community.” 
    
Board members who opposed the pilot said they worried the cut was not fair to riders on other lines who will still pay the full regional price; that N Line riders would be in shock when fares are adjusted six months after the 2020 opening; and that ridership results from the fare change would be hard to interpret since no N Line numbers exist for comparison.
    
Director Shontel Lewis said she would be at a loss of what to say “when my constituent asks why they were excluded from this benefit.”

Testing of the N Line’s newly built track and systems is underway. Next year’s opening will encompass the first 13 miles of the N Line, extending from Union Station to Northglenn. The full 18.5-mile commuter rail line is to extend to State Highway 7 in Adams County.