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RTD Considers Help For Low Income Riders

By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4)- RTD is looking at two very different options for what to do with riders. On one hand the Board of Directors could increase fees. At the same time many advocates are asking RTD for a discounted rate for low-income riders.

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Under one proposal, local Regional Transportation District bus fares will increase from $2.60 to $3 and the ride on the A Line to Denver International Airport would go up to $10.50 from the $9 trip it is now. The Board of Directors could vote on the price increase by this summer.

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As the rates potentially rise, a Pass Program Working Group has been meeting for months to see how RTD can better serve low income riders.

"It would mean a lot, I would honestly use it more. I would totally use it more," said Jenee Donelson, who has started the Rocky Mountain Bus Riders Union. "Underserved communities need to be able to get from work to school to home and they're not able to do that.

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Donelson says she uses about a quarter of her income on RTD services to get around Denver. She's not alone. More than half of RTD's bus riders are low income and 48 percent of riders make less than $35,000 each year.

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"A 50 percent discount would help those people. It would help those people greatly in order to get around. This is a very small step, but when we're talking about transit, you're talking about people's ability to get from work to home and creating a better and bustling economy," Donelson said.

The working group will meet for a last time on Tuesday at One Civic Center Plaza in the 19th Floor Conference Room, located at 1560 Broadway in Denver from 1-4 p.m. A final plan to present to RTD will come out of this public meeting.

Advocates say the discounted passes are necessary to serve the community.

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Many inside the working group would like to see RTD offer 50 percent discounts to low-income riders. The level is around 185 percent of Federal standards. A family of four in Denver making $45,510 or less could qualify for the program. The working group could also recommend a youth pass for kids ages 5-19 to get a 70 percent discounted rage.

The final recommendations from the working group will go to RTD for review. There is not timeline for the Board of Directors at RTD to vote on potential pass changes.

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he's been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

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