RTD wants to give discounts to some riders, raise rates on others

Posted at 10:44 AM, Feb 27, 2018

DENVER -- The price to ride the bus or A-line train could go up. RTD is considering a proposal to raise rates for some riders.

The fare increase would apply to people who buy daily passes or who pay trip-by-trip. It will not affect riders with an EcoPass, a Neighborhood EcoPass or a CollegePass yet. The working group considering the proposal could eventually phase in a price increase for those passes, however.

The idea behind the rate increase is that some riders will pay more to offset the cost of other riders who RTD will offer a discount to.

The discount would apply to two groups: low-income riders and people under 20. The group is also considering a move to allow riders who are 12 years old or under to ride for free if they are riding with someone who paid.

For people under 20, RTD is considering increasing the discounts they receive from 50 percent to 70 percent. The working group is still deciding on whether it wants to cut off the discount to people 20 and under or change in to include more riders.

For low-income riders, RTD is considering offering 40 to 50 percent discounts. It would only apply to people whose incomes are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. For a family of three, that income level would be $45,000.

The discount would help people like Yvonne Partee.

“I work 5 to 6 days a week and I catch the train at, the bus and it adds up. It definitely does,” Partee said.

Partee said she’s seen the bus prices go up over the years and each time it hurts her wallet.

“I’m easily spending 160 to 180 and that’s between bus tickets, I have this little RTD my ride so we fill these up but I mean just myself I spent easily 180 so if I could just cut that down by even 20 or 30 bucks per month that helps so yeah I’d like the idea I definitely like the idea.”

For everyone else, the price to ride the train or bus would increase. Here’s a look at the proposed changes:

  • Local bus fares would increase from $2.60 to $3
  • Regional fares would increase from $4.50 to $5.25
  • A-line to airport would increase from $9 to $10.50

Most commuters Denver7 spoke with were in favor of the proposal.

“I’m fortunate that I have a good career and stuff like that so helping out is what we really need to do. Anything that will really help the kids in school and lower income people I mean I think it’s not necessarily a bad thing,” said rider David McCullough.

Meanwhile, Julie Martin said the extra cost is worth avoiding the headache of driving. She believes parking at DIA alone would be more expensive than taking the train.

Denver7 compared the proposed A-line train price hike with other methods people use to get to the airport. Here’s how they stack up from Union Station to DIA:

  • Proposed A-line fee: $10.50 and $2-4 per day for parking
  • Taxi: About $60
  • Ridesharing apps like Uber: $25-42
  • Drive and park: gas + $6-18 per day
  • Airport shuttle: $28-88

“It’s still really good price and the best way to get to the airport from downtown,” said Mary Stuart. “It’s a lot cheaper than parking downtown in the lot cheaper than a taxi or Uber or Lyft.”

Stuart said she’d start rethinking that idea if the A-line price rose about $20 each way.

Even some people who know the price hike will burden them say they are willing to pay a little more.

“It’s going to affect me in a whole lot of other people but it’s convenient so you got to pay for convenience I guess,” said B-line rider Tim Bernard.

He says he knows what it’s like to struggle financially and he’s willing to pay more to help the less fortunate.

“I was there at one point in my life and whatever it takes to make this world go around I’m all for it,” Bernard said.

However, Christopher Drury says he wishes RTD would consider adding more discounts for people with disabilities.

“It’s harder for me because I’m disabled,” Drury said.

Drury suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. He pays about $100 each month for public transit.

“I commute every single day and I usually get up at about 4 o’clock to try to beat the traffic,” he said. “I just wish there was little bit more discounts of people that are disabled.”

Others say the rate increase will make them rethink how often they turn to public transit.

“That will increase my commuting expenses a good deal every month," said one rider who only wanted to be identified as John. “It's going to make me rethink where I go and where I am able to go to work every day.”

He’s worried about the ripple effect the price hike could cause.

“People in that that borderline region where you’re not quite low-income but you’re not quite high-income either, you could actually be pushed down into a burdened situation.”

RTD is hosting a meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the proposed changes. The public will have a chance to weigh in on the idea. The meeting is happening at 1560 Broadway on the 19th floor.

The final proposal will then go to the RTD board of directors to vote on.