RTD to begin systemwide fare study, equity analysis next month 

Recognizing that its fare structure is one of the most expensive in the transit industry, the Regional Transportation District (RTD) this summer is embarking on a comprehensive, systemwide study of its fares and a fare equity analysis to ensure that the agency is doing all it can to make its services more accessible.

The process, expected to take a minimum of 18 months, will be the first of its kind for RTD and will include comprehensive public involvement to gain input and feedback from customers, local leaders and agency employees. The work will include extensive multicultural outreach, involving culturally specific community organizations that serve the BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) communities, youth, seniors, people with disabilities, the unhoused and veterans, as well as those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.

“I realize that the current fare structure is burdensome for many RTD customers,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “It compromises those who use transit the most, a viewpoint we have heard from the public for some time now and that I have heard in earnest since assuming my role in November.”

As RTD continues to navigate the impacts of the pandemic, the agency has had requests from various stakeholders to re-evaluate its fare structure and develop pilot projects to make using RTD services more affordable. Instead of pursuing a piecemeal approach to fares, RTD is taking a comprehensive and holistic look at its fare structure and pass programs.

“RTD exists to provide service to a vast breadth of customers, and the most important question to examine is whether the agency is best meeting customers’ needs,” Johnson said. “I want to understand our customers’ pain points, and an examination of our fares through a lens of equity and accessibility intends to provide that answer.

“Beginning this process now is crucial as RTD charts a road to recovery, and the community will serve as a vital component in helping us understand where our focus must be.”

Johnson and a working group of individuals from various RTD departments have been meeting since late March to review the agency’s fares and fare programs. They have agreed that the fare study and equity analysis will follow a process consistent with guidance from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and will include a comprehensive fare equity analysis of any proposed fare changes.

The process is scheduled to start next month with a dialogue with the agency’s Board of Directors, to include discussion of recommendations from previous fare studies and a pass program working group convened in 2017 and 2018. The Board could consider approving the fare equity analysis a year from this fall, with any changes implemented in 2023.

RTD now follows a fare structure that was implemented in 2016, with fare levels in three categories: Local, Regional and Airport. The RTD Board approved revisions to the agency’s fare structure and pass programs in September 2018 that were implemented in 2019.