COLUMN: Low-income residents deserve RTD passes

-A A +A

Paul Solano

I’m Director Paul Solano, an elected official, representing District K on the Regional Transportation District’s board of directors. 

RTD has initiated and supported many successful programs, improvements and expansions over the last three years. Now, the metro area is ready to build a low-income pass plan. 

Transit has the transformative potential of improving economic efficiency for both the individual and our local economy. When a transit system allows an unemployed individual to find and keep a job, this saves significant tax dollars by reducing payments for such programs as unemployment compensation, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Medicaid. 

Furthermore, transit can reduce social and economic inequalities by enhancing mobility for residents, many of whom lack cars and need assistance in finding jobs outside their primary resident area. 

I know the majority of our riders experience extreme poverty, earning less than $15,000 per year. 

In March 2015, Seattle’s King County reduced fares for low-income riders, proving commitment to equity and access.  Colorado is ready. 

The good news is that we are already headed in the right direction. Those who are unable to pay current or increased fares have several options. Currently, discount fares are available for all seniors 65 and over, individuals with disabilities, Medicare recipients and students ages 6 to19 in elementary, middle and high school,. Children 5 years old or younger ride free (with a limit of three children for each fare-paying adult). While no discount based on income is available, a non-profit discount program exists for qualifying organizations. There is no referral list available for riders who are not already connected with an organization. 

Recently, Broncos fans were given free rides on RTD transit, and buses and trains were completely packed. What this reveals is that there are clear disparities between low-income riders and middle- to high-income riders. Riders who are able to afford tickets to the game get a free ride while low-income people continue to suffer on a daily basis because of high costs of transit. 

There also seems to be a conflict of interest when a public entity is willing so subsidize rides for the benefit of a private entity. Furthermore, this shows that when prices are low, ridership is high, and that is what RTD should be striving for. 

I know that we have people who are unable to ride and unable to connect with needed services and employment. RTD can do better!

Join me to help create and prioritize a low-income pass plan. There is a lot going on at RTD, and we need strong community support to make this a focus. 

Contact me at paul.solano@rtd-denver.com or at 720-469-1261 and let me know that you are ready!


­­— Director Paul Solano was elected to the RTD Board in November 2012 and took office in January 2013. Director Solano represents District K, which is located in the most northeastern portion of the RTD area and represents all of Commerce City, all of the portions of Brighton and Lochbuie that are within the District, portions of Thornton, and portions of unincorporated Adams County.