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Free fares provide a no-cost alternative to cars to improve air quality during Colorado’s ozone season
Governor Jared Polis signed a new bipartisan law to provide free transit fares across the state and thanks to this new law, RTD and transit agencies across Colorado will provide at least a month of free transit fares for all Coloradans this summer and next — saving Coloradans money and increasing access to transit.
Through the month of August, RTD and other local transit agencies in Colorado, via the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies (CASTA), are offering free public transit services to all riders. The Zero Fare for Better Air initiative is being administered by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) through the two-year Ozone Season Transit Grant Program, which is part of the state’s broader effort to improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas pollution emissions, and save Coloradans money on transportation.
“The Zero Fare for Better Air program saves people money, reduces traffic and pollution, and expands access to public transit,” said Governor Polis. “Our clean air plans, in partnership with the legislature, are making transformational changes that will protect the air we breathe, save people and communities money, and improve transportation options for Coloradans.”
In addition to RTD, transit agencies participating in the Zero Fare for Better Air program through CASTA include Archuleta County Mountain Express, Bent County Golden Age, Bent County Transit, City of La Junta Transit, Durango Transit (City of Durango), Greeley Evans Transit (City of Greeley), Mountain Metropolitan Transit (City of Colorado Springs), Northeastern Colorado Association of Local Governments (NECALG)/Prairie Express, Prowers Area Transit Agency, Pueblo Transit, San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation, South Central Council of Governments, and Southern Colorado Community Action Agency.
This program, along with a series of others signed into law by Governor Polis earlier this year as part of a transformational $340 million-plus legislative plan to address air quality and climate, will help ensure Colorado meets the goals laid out in the state’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Pollution Reduction Roadmap. That action-oriented plan provides a path for reaching science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.
“Whether you’re going to work, running an errand, or out for some fun, the Ozone Season Transit Grant Program makes it even easier for Coloradans to use public transit instead of driving. This is especially important during Colorado’s hottest summer days when ozone pollution is at its worst,” said Colorado Energy Office Deputy Director Dominique Gómez.
Increased use of public transportation, in addition to other low or zero-emissions transportation alternatives, such as e-Bikes and electric vehicles, are essential for protecting the health of Coloradans. This program also improves equity outcomes and saves Coloradans money by eliminating the cost of public transportation. Other transit systems have found that low-income riders who rely on transit take significantly more trips when offered discounted or free fares, including for medical care and other social services. This program can help Coloradans get where they need to go this summer while saving money.
“As mass transit use is critical in combating ozone emissions in the Denver Metro region and around the globe, RTD is committed to providing value to the community through greener mobility options,” said RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “The Zero Fare for Better Air Initiative is an exciting opportunity to encourage new transit habits across the region while supporting environmental stewardship. For those unaccustomed to using public transit, there has never been a better time to give it a try than right now. Further, the agency has partnered with local municipalities and law enforcement jurisdictions to seek their assistance in ensuring a welcoming transit environment during the month of August 2022.”
“Durango Transit is thrilled to participate in the state’s Free Fare for Better Air initiative,” said City of Durango Director of Transportation Sarah Hill. “A month of free fare is a great reward to pass on to our frequent riders, and it is an amazing way to introduce a new audience to the benefits of transit. Thanks to the funding provided through SB-180, we are looking forward to making a meaningful impact on traffic congestion and air quality in Durango during the entire month of August.”
Eligible transit agencies and RTD can use the money from this grant program to cover lost farebox revenues and to pay for other expenses necessary to implement the program, including expenses associated with an increase in ridership as a result of the program.