Low-income fares program won’t expand despite demand, RTD board decides

staff photo
An RTD train speeds past the 16th Street Mall. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

An RTD train speeds past the 16th Street Mall. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The RTD Nonprofit Program, which makes discount passes available to some low-income riders, will not have increased funding in the second half of 2017.

RTD board members voted 11-3 on Tuesday night in favor of keeping the funding at $6.8 million, the same level of funding as 2016.

The decision means that local nonprofits that administer the program are constrained in the number of discount passes that they can buy for low-income riders, no matter the increase in demand. 

It also means that nonprofits that didn’t buy passes during 2016 will be put on a waitlist for the rest of the year, preventing new groups from joining the program.

Several nonprofits told Denverite that they were surprised to learn they would be capped in the number of discounted passes they could buy. That means some of their clients may lose their discount bus passes as the nonprofits try to ration their limited inventory.

We were just blindsided by the cap. When you renew, they don’t tell you about it. It wasn’t like we renewed and they said, ‘OK, you’re going to have to come up with a cap.‘”

—  Robert Andrews, executive director of DenverWorks

Tuesday night, RTD board member Judy Lubow said that she hopes RTD explains its decision to nonprofits.

“I hope there is some explanation given to those that are put on hold or those that can’t buy more to explain what happened or that this is a stopgap measure,” she said.

RTD spokesperson Scott Reed said that the agency has been very clear in its communications.

Director Larry Hoy emphasized that the program will be under consideration for changes in 2018.

“This program is under review, and in my words, likely to look different in 2018,” he said.

The Nonprofit Program will enter RTD’s pass program working group now, which hopes to deliver recommendations to the board in the fall for 2018 budget planning. The group will consider all of RTD’s passes, including EcoPass and student pass.