Guest Post: The proposed RTD Affordable Fare program is a path to inclusivity in Denver

by Jessica Vargas on August 1, 2018

Guest Commentary by Deyanira Zavala, Program Coordinator, Mile High Connects

 

I’m not from Denver, but I certainly got here as fast as I could and immediately fell in love with everything I thought it was – walkable, bike-able, and car-lite. Coming from Texas, it took me a minute to see the glaring disparities. You see, when my family moved to a community just outside Fort Worth, Texas in the early 1980s, our town was comprised of vast farm land followed by a subdivision or two. This fond vision is something I hear often around these parts as well.

As population grew year after year, streets & freeways were widened, sidewalks were narrowed, and public transit became a thing of the past. Traffic became the norm. Summer temperatures were often near 100 and no car AC meant trying to find a breeze whenever we could. And if you were thinking about walking to the store, good luck!

When I hear the conversation happening around an affordable, equitable transit system, I think of home and hope that we in Denver choose a better path. Let’s choose a path that recognizes that the impact of a two hour traffic jam spans beyond the individual driver to the community at large. Let’s choose a path that prioritizes communities and their ability to get to and from critical doctor’s appointments. Let’s choose a path that builds on our investment in public transit and provides everyone access to this service.

Our region’s investment in public transit has helped cut congestion and improve air quality but there’s more work to do. Most low-income people struggle to afford rides today and don’t have access to the same benefits we all do. Our community can address this failure by implementing a plan that provides a reduced fare for people with limited incomes.

This kind of program is not new to RTD. Existing programs offer discounts or free passes to seniors, students, people with disabilities, and veterans. Businesses and neighborhoods can also apply for collective discounts. By providing an affordable, income-based fare, families at or near the poverty level can shift their hard earned dollars towards critical needs – healthy food, medical care, and quality child care.

RTD has started to listen to the growing number of community activities, nonprofits, and local government leaders seeking change but now it’s time for the RTD board to make the serious commitment to its riders. The RTD board will be voting on the fare review program in September so we are calling on the residents of Denver to let their voice be heard – it’s time for an equitable public transit system.

Share your opinion online at the RTD website, and contact your RTD board member.

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