About 100 people turned out to protest Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) proposals for a fare hike, elimination of transfers, and a hike in the price of monthly passes. RTD wants to raise the fare for each passenger boarding from $2.25 to $2.60. Officials say that they propose a daily pass price of $5.20 over the current single ride fare of $2.25 with transfers. Some passengers say they sometimes do not have the entire $5.20 at the beginning of the day and only earn it throughout the course of the day. For these riders, paying a per-boarding fare of $2.60 without a transfer each time they board in the same direction would result in their paying a higher total fare for the same trip. This could add up to over $10 during the course of a day for some passengers.
In tonight’s last public meeting of the series hosted by RTD, General Manager Scott Reed said that an initial look at public comment has shown that passengers found zones to be confusing because they don’t understand how they work or how they are enforced. Passengers also found transfers to be confusing, outdated and limiting in time restrictions. Riders have said that they can’t afford to make all of their necessary trips in a single day and that they want simple transfers between bus and rail and the same fare for bus and rail.
Based on public feedback, RTD staff proposed the following recommendations:
- A simplified pay structure with a pay per boarding system
- The elimination of transfers and zones
- A low-price day pass to allow riders to travel all day for the price of a round trip
- Price per boarding would depend on service type and not on distance
Reed went on the say that the goals of the current RTD fare study are to simplify fare policies in an equitable, and cost effective way and as best as possible meet the needs of the district for the 5 new lines, four rail lines, and one bus rapid transit line to open in 2016, “We want to make sure that any recommendations are easier for passengers to understand, easier for us to implement in today’s fee structure, and that they are equitable as best possible. We also need to make sure that any resulting recommendations meet RTD revenue targets to avoid services reductions. RTDs revenue sources come from sources that RTD does not control.”
Sources of RTD operating revenue:
Sales and use tax accounts for 60%.
Operating grants from the federal transit administration 16%
Passenger fares 22%
It’s that 82% figure that protesters were targeting as the reason they should have a say in the decision-making process.
A passenger who identified herself as Mic came to the meeting to talk about how easy it is for others to skip paying fares which she felt was unfair to her but a student who called herself Pima Rose said that she is a student on a limited budget and that she is one of those who has had to skip paying the fare.
Violet who is has been homeless said that she also has not been able to pay the fare but that she wouldn’t be able to get to her job without riding the light rail. She said that she has served jail time for fines associated with failure to pay.
Norma Rambila said that her situation is similar, “I’m a resident of Westwood. The truth is, these changes are more greatly affecting low income people. Our neighborhood is affected because of the lack of busses. We are low income. And aside from that, we have children. So when we send one of our kids to the store for a gallon of milk, they pay $3. These changes mean he’ll now be paying $2.60 and without a transfer, we end up worse off.”
What is certain, RTD said, is that a final decision will be made by May 2015 and implemented in early 2016.