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RTD proposes lower, simpler fares for buses and light rail

Full fare customers would pay $2.75 for a 3-hour pass to reach any destination but the airport, and monthly passes would drop to $88.

DENVER — The Regional Transportation District (RTD) unveiled a proposal Thursday that would reduce fares and simplify the system by eliminating regional fares.

The changes would include an expansion of income qualifications for the RTD's LiVE program and a decrease in fares for lower-income riders. RTD will present the proposal to its elected board next week, after a lengthy study of the system's current fare structure.

The proposal would still require approval from the board of directors this summer and, if passed, wouldn't take effect until early next year.

“We recognize that our fare is expensive," said Stuart Summers, RTD's chief communications and engagement officer. "Individuals told us oftentimes it doesn’t match the level of service you provide.”

The proposed changes are the result of the largest fare study in RTD's history Summers said. The study reached all sorts of people who utilize the system and others who don't.

“We knew that our fare structure was confusing," he said. "It was complicated between local fares and regional fares, airport fares. For new riders, it’s challenging.”

Under the proposal, full-fare riders would pay $2.75 for a three-hour pass to travel to any destination but the airport. The current fare for a three-hour local pass is $3. The proposal recommends lowering the cost of an all-day pass from $6 to $5.50.

Full-fare riders to Denver International Airport would pay 50 cents less, a $10 fare.

The proposal also creates a new monthly pass that would reach all destinations, including the airport, for $88. The current monthly pass that includes the airport is $200.

Credit: KUSA

RTD riders who already receive discounted rides would see their fares decrease, as well. A three-hour pass would decrease to $1.35 from $1.50. A discount-fare monthly pass would reduce to $27 and would allow travel to all destinations.

Discount-fare riders include people over 65, people with disabilities, Medicare recipients and customers enrolled in RTD's LiVE program.

Enrollment in RTD's LiVE program would expand to include people with an income of 250% of the federal poverty level, up from 180%.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services set the federal poverty level for a family of four at $30,000, meaning households of four making $75,000 would qualify for this discount program. The proposal also recommends eliminating a requirement that people in the LiVE program have an in-district address.

The fare change would also include a year-long trial of free fares for children 19 and younger.

The suggestions come as RTD continues to struggle financially, and has struggled to reach pre-COVID service levels. Summers said the district's financial team modeled the new numbers to ensure they would work with the budget.

“Obviously, we’ve done the financial forecasting and modeling, and we feel confident in these numbers," he said. "[Riders and other stakeholders] told us if there’s something you can do to remove the barriers to using your services, ridership will increase.”

RTD's elected board of directors will discuss the proposal at its Feb. 14 meeting. Any changes to fares would also require a final equity analysis to ensure change don't disproportionately impact low-income or minority communities. 

Send tips about this or any story to 9NEWS reporter Steve Staeger by e-mailing steve@9news.com.

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