In August 2022, Denver Metro’s transit agency, the Regional Transportation District (RTD), ran a program called Zero Fare for Better Air. The month-long project did not collect fares for any rides on RTD bus and light-rail services with stated goals to reduce traffic congestion, single-occupied-vehicle (SOV) trips and improve regional air quality.

While it may be difficult to ascertain air quality benefits of the program, the increase in transit ridership was immediately apparent to RTD. According to Colorado Public Radio’s growth and transportation reporter Nathaniel B. Minor, “RTD’s [zero] fare August led to a fantastic ridership increase … RTD saw some 6.3 million boardings during that month’s state-sponsored “Zero Fare for Better Air” campaign, a 22 percent increase over July 2022 and a 36 percent jump from August 2021.” RTD’s President and CEO Debra Johnson was thoughtful but optimistic: “I really don’t know if it was just zero fare that resulted in that increased ridership.”

Zero Fare for Better Air in Denver South

In the Denver South region – along with increased frequency and speed of trips – safety, security and cleanliness for commuters on RTD services remain a top concern. Denver South’s 2023 annual Commuter Survey asked questions specific to RTD’s Zero Fare program:  Denver South region employees were generally aware of Zero Fare and nearly half of survey respondents tried RTD during the program.

Were You Aware of the Zero Fare for Better Air Campaign?
Did You Ride RTD During Zero Fare for Better Air?
Why Did You Not Ride RTD During Zero Fare for Better Air

Impacts of HB-1026

Our staff have tirelessly promoted the benefits of the recent State of Colorado Alternative Tax Credit legislation (HB22-1026) which provides a 50% tax credit to employers who provide a generally accepted sustainable commute benefit to their employees.

Some of the outreach the team has conducted has encouraged employers to consider a six-month pilot for an RTD EcoPass program starting in July 2023. Organizations which take advantage of this opportunity will still be eligible to receive the 50% tax credit from the State of Colorado.

If you have any questions about EcoPass pricing for your organization (note: it is way, way cheaper than you think) or the Alternative Tax Credit Bill, please reach out to Evangelos Gatseos or Sheryl Machado.