RTD Board to review potential new fare structure at Feb. 14 meeting

At its next Finance and Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the RTD Board of Directors will review and discuss a potential new fare structure that reflects feedback from thousands of people. The feedback and input were gathered during the most comprehensive and wide-ranging fare study and equity analysis the agency has ever undertaken.

The updated alternative being brought for Board discussion next week lowers fare levels for all RTD services and replaces the current zone-based system.

RTD launched the systemwide fare study and equity analysis last year. Prior to the study’s launch, the agency recognized that customers found its fares to be expensive and difficult to understand. The study set out to reexamine the RTD fare system with a customer-centered approach focused on equity, affordability and simplicity.

“This proposal was created using the feedback we heard during three rounds of public engagement,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “We connected with various populations that are often left out of the conversation because we wanted to understand their experiences.”

The proposed draft fare structure is a modified version of one of the alternatives previously presented for public comment during the fare study. The study team moved forward with the Alternative B design because customers expressed a strong preference for simplifying the existing fare structure. The design was also modified to include lower Local fares in response to customer feedback and to align with equity goals.

Prior to the Board’s consideration this summer, a final fare equity analysis will be conducted to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs receiving federal financial assistance. The final equity analysis will review the proposal to ensure that the changes do not have a disproportionately negative impact on minority or low-income populations.

“Public transportation is a means of garnering access and opportunity,” said Johnson. “The operative word in what we do is ‘public,’ and RTD’s goal is to ensure all people within the region have access to transportation.”

The updated alternative being brought for Board consideration lowers fares for all RTD services. For full-fare customers, it replaces the current zone-based system with a single fare to all destinations except Denver International Airport. Discount-paying customers would pay a single fare, regardless of the distance traveled or services used throughout the region. Specifics in the proposal include:

  • For full-fare customers: a lower 3-hour pass of $2.75 and a day pass of $5.50 for all Local/Regional destinations, an airport fare of $10 and a monthly pass of $88 (down from the current rate, which is as high as $200)
  • For discount-fare customers (individuals 65 and older, individuals with disabilities, Medicare recipients and customers enrolled in LiVE, RTD’s income-based fare discount program): $1.35 for a 3-hour pass, $2.70 for a day pass and $27 for a monthly pass, regardless of the destination (including Denver International Airport)

The proposal also includes new policies that would expand the LiVE program. LiVE provides discounts to qualifying individuals in the service area, and the proposed updates include:

  • Customers enrolled in LiVE would receive a 50% discount fare, up from the current 40%
  • The income threshold for LiVE would move from 185% federal poverty level to 250%, enabling more individuals to enroll
  • The in-district address requirement would be eliminated
  • LiVE fares would be introduced for Access-a-Ride customers

The proposed alternative would also introduce new pass programs in response to community and customer input. The following are not fully formulated and require additional design, coordination and, potentially, securing funding partners to be implemented:

  • A yearlong Zero Fare for Youth pilot program, for customers 19 and younger
  • A Transit Assistance Grant program, which RTD would initially fund with $1 million, for nonprofits serving clients with immediate needs
  • A Semester Pass program for community colleges and technical schools, serving as an alternative to the annual CollegePass program

The remaining steps toward completion of the fare study and equity analysis are as follows:

  • Feb. 14 to March 1: Board provides feedback on draft recommended fare structure
  • April: Board authorizes release of draft recommended fare structure, policies and programs and draft fare equity analysis to the public
  • May: Public reviews and comments on draft recommended fare structure
  • July: Board considers final recommended fare structure and associated fare equity analysis
  • First quarter of 2024: If approved by the Board, the new fare structure is implemented

To review the full report and presentation on this topic to be provided to the Board on Feb. 14, click here. RTD Board meetings are available live on Zoom, using a Chrome or Firefox browser, and streamed via RTD’s YouTube channel. For links, agendas and more, visit the Board’s meeting portal. Public comments are welcome during Board meetings and can also be emailed in advance to [email protected].

More information about the fare study and equity analysis is available at rtd-denver.com/farestudy.