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RTD ends free rides to contain summer air pollution; free rides for youth continue

RTD officials blame state lawmakers for lack of state funding to continue “Zero Fare for Better Air”
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Posted at 8:20 AM, May 30, 2024

Colorado’s free bus and rail transit option for containing summer air pollution has ended and Regional Transportation District officials on Wednesday blamed a shift in state funding.

Over the past two years, RTD’s “Zero Fare for Better Air” program led to reduced driving in July and August, when ground-level ozone air pollution concentrations typically surge above federal health limits. Drivers drove 9 million fewer miles during those two months (145,393 miles fewer per day), reducing air pollution emissions by 6,166,740 pounds, an RTD program evaluation found. RTD ridership increased by 12%.

That’s a tiny portion of Colorado’s air pollution but agency evaluators concluded free transit had a positive impact. The EPA has designated Colorado as a “severe” violator of federal air quality health standards, forcing the state to sell a cleaner-burning type of gasoline starting Saturday.

“Colorado did not appropriate grant money for RTD to provide both a Zero Fare for Better Air initiative and Zero Fare for Youth program,” RTD spokeswoman Marta Sipeki said in an email. RTD directors have launched a pilot program offering free transit for teens and soon will consider making that program permanent, Sipeki said.

State lawmakers this year reduced overall funding for free transit, approving about $10 million for free-fare programs statewide. RTD officials have said the free transit during summer cost their agency more than $15.5 million in lost revenues. State funds covered $13.8 million of that cost.

Click here to read the full story from our partners at The Denver Post.

Denver 7+ Colorado News Latest Headlines | May 30, 7am

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