RTD submits the final report “Zero Fare for Better Air”. | So Good News


Written by

Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor

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The Regional Transportation District (RTD) announced on November 30 that it has submitted a final report to the Colorado Energy Office detailing the results of the first Zero Fare for Better Air (ZFBA) period, which took place last August, as a requirement. of the Ozone Season Free Transit Grant Program created in Colorado Senate Bill 22-180.

During RTD’s first term of the ZFBA, an initiative “designed to reduce ground-level ozone by increasing the use of public transportation across the state,” ridership increased across the system, but the catalysts for those results are unclear, according to the report. In addition, the report states that “the agency was able to support ridership to increase without incurring significant costs associated with increased demand for services; the program did not produce significant operational impacts, nor did it lead to a large increase in quality of life or crime incidents on RTD services; and the impacts of the initiative on air quality are difficult to quantify as no baseline was provided.”

According to RTD, the Ozone Season Free Transit Grant program provides funds to recover up to 80% of lost fare revenue and other costs incurred by RTD if fares are offered at no cost to customers for at least 30 days during the ozone season in 2022 and 2023. RTD, the agency says , provided zero-fare service on all transit modes—bus, rail, paratransit and microtransit—during August—Colorado’s highest ozone month. The total cost to RTD associated with the initiative during that month was approximately $10.3 million, the agency added.

The final report (downloadable below) assesses the impact of the ZFBA program on ridership, revenue and costs, operations and customers; evaluates operational impacts that include overcrowding, on-time performance and impact on RTD’s front-line staff; and includes recommendations to RTD staff if the initiative continues next year.

RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson affirmed the agency’s commitment to environmental stewardship when she announced the initiative in June, the agency said. This week, Johnson noted that “the agency’s overall experience was positive, with clients saying they appreciated the zero-rate period and that there was minimal disruption to day-to-day operations.” Johnson called the initiative “an example of working with the General Assembly and the administration to implement a successful partnership,” and cautioned that “drawing conclusions about the success of a one-month pilot is challenging, as transit trends and dates are affected by seasonal factors, such as holidays and the resumption of the school year, in addition to ongoing pandemic impacts and major planned events.”

“The data gathered provides a snapshot of various potential and experienced impacts across the agency’s services, all of which will help RTD gain a better understanding of customer behavior and how to approach future zero fare periods that extend beyond a day or two,” Johnson said, referring to the agency’s last election-related zero-price days this fall. “The purpose of public transit is in the value it provides, and RTD’s participation in this initiative enabled customers to experience the value of our services, whether their travel habits changed for a day, a month or the entire pandemic.”

Highlights from the report are noted within the following categories:

Impact on the rider ship

  • “Total ridership increased by 22% from July 2022 to August 2022, and 36% from August 2021.
  • Average weekday daily ridership increased by 19.9% ​​in August compared to July and increased by 32.4% compared to August 2021.
  • “RTD’s buses saw the biggest increase, with a 23.4% increase compared to July and a 33.3% increase compared to August 2021.
  • “The increase in light rail and commuter rail ridership was more modest from July 2022 to August 2022, at 15.1% and 12.1% respectively.
  • “Much of RTD’s ridership growth observed in August 2022 was sustained into September 2022, even with the resumption of fares.
  • “Ridership increased during the ZFBA period across all of RTD’s complementary paratransit services, including Access-a-Ride, Access-a-Cab and the Uber-based Access-on-Demand service.”

Income and cost effects

  • “The single largest financial impact associated with the ZFBA was lost ticket revenue, at $9,267,964 (based on revenue projections and historical ridership data).
  • “While staff anticipated the need for additional security and cleaning services in response to increased demand as a result of the ZFBA, no such costs were incurred, primarily due to workforce constraints.”

Performance on time

  • “There was no significant impact on on-time bus performance during the ZFBA period.”

Operator conflicts, crime reports

  • “Safety incidents – which include interactions with sick, disabled or disorderly customers, or assaults on customers or operators – did not increase significantly during the ZFBA period.
  • “Security incidents fell 17% year-on-year, from 47 in August 2021 to 39 in August 2022; only two more events occurred in August 2022 than in July 2022.
  • “Crime report data show no major increase in drug-related or other quality-of-life complaints during the ZFBA period.”

System cleanliness

  • “Although RTD did not incur any additional costs associated with cleaning vehicles during the ZFBA, the service and cleaning staff noted that on average more vehicles required cleaning and more time was required to service the vehicles each evening during the ZFBA period.
  • “FTU did not receive a significant increase in the number of customer complaints related to the cleanliness of transit vehicles between the months of July and August 2022, although customers registered a slightly higher number of complaints regarding the cleanliness of bus stops and shelters (32 in July 2022, 38 in August 2022).
  • “There was no change in the number of complaints about cleanliness of vehicles or stations.”

Findings from the customer survey

  • “In August 2022, 76% of respondents reported using rail services and 60% reported using bus services.
  • “While survey respondents indicated they were more likely to use rail services, ridership data from August 2022 showed that 65% of boardings occurred on bus and 35% of boardings occurred on rail.
  • “91% of respondents stated that they had used RTD services before August 2022.
  • “55% of respondents indicated that they increased their use of RTD services during August 2022.
  • “60% of respondents indicated that cost savings were a motivating factor in their use of RTD services during the ZFBA period; 58% of respondents said that environmental benefits were a motivating factor.
  • “77% of respondents indicated that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the RTD services they used during the ZFBA period.
  • “54% of respondents indicated that their satisfaction with HRD services increased as a result of ZFBA.
  • “72% of respondents indicated they were likely or very likely to continue using RTD services in the future, assuming prices return to previous levels.”



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