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Why RTD is exploring new fare policies

It’s been nearly five years since the Regional Transportation District last implemented fare increases and nearly a dozen years since Denver’s public transit agency changed its fare policies.

As you may have heard, RTD is in the middle of a comprehensive fare study aimed at simplifying its existing fare structure before 2016, when our growing agency will open five new transit lines, including a new commuter rail line to Denver International Airport.

Besides the addition of new transit lines built under the voter-approved FasTracks program, there are other reasons our agency is exploring new fare policies.

RTD-fare-study-meeting-in-Denver
RTD fare study meeting in Denver

In fact, during the first of two rounds of public meetings RTD held last fall, the public cited confusion over light rail zones, transfers and the application process for the agency’s reduced fare program as some of the most pressing aspects of RTD’s current fare policies.

Riders want to know how light rail zones work and why it seems so difficult to calculate how much they should pay when traveling from zone to zone or from station to station.

They also want to know why transfers – those little slips of punched paper bus drivers hand out to riders – are limited to three hours, whether they allow passengers to transfer from bus to rail, and whether people can use them on return trips.

Finally, those who attended earlier public meetings or provided input via the web said they found the administrative process for RTD’s reduced fare program – which serves low-income individuals through more than 200 nonprofit agencies across the Denver region – too cumbersome and in need of streamlining.

Committed to listening

RTD has been committed to listening to public input and will continue to do so as the fare study moves forward this year. We’ve already taken into consideration some of the public input we received and have incorporated it into proposed fare policy changes, including recommendations that we eliminate transfers and light rail zones altogether.

Passengers-buy-tickets
Passengers buy tickets for light rail

Riders also told us they liked the ease, simplicity and affordability of day passes that are available in other large cities. As a result, one of the proposed changes to RTD’s current fare structure is the inclusion of an RTD Day Pass that would be sold on buses and at all rail stations, which would enable passengers to ride all day for $5.20. Those who qualify for reduced fares – seniors, students aged 6-19 and disabled riders – would pay only $2.60 to ride all day under the plan.

Other proposed fare policy changes include a pay-per-boarding system requiring riders to pay each time they board a vehicle and a $10 airport fare to replace all SkyRide service levels. Riders would also be able to purchase an $11 Regional Day Pass that would get them to DIA.

The next steps

The next steps for the fare study include 16 public hearings to gather even more public input and an agency evaluation of RTD’s pass programs.

In late April or early May, the RTD Board of Directors is expected to take a final vote on proposed fare policy changes, and the public is encouraged to share their thoughts with RTD before then.

We want your input

More than 1,000 people provided feedback during the first two rounds of public meetings, and their thoughts and opinions have shaped how RTD staff members are approaching this challenge.

Now it’s your turn once again to tell RTD what you think. Submit an online comment, attend a public hearing in your community or leave a phone comment. We’ve heard what you’ve said so far – and we’re still listening.

See a complete list of proposed fare policy changes and the schedule of upcoming fare study public hearings here. You can also leave your comments about the proposed changes.