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February 8, 2023

House Advances Bill to Improve Free Transit Program

DENVER, CO – The House passed legislation on a preliminary vote today to improve the grant program that funds Colorado’s free transit rides during peak ozone season. HB23-1101 supports the continuation of the Ozone Season Transit Grant Program which led to a significant rise in public transit ridership across Colorado. 

“During the free transit month last August, RTD experienced a ridership increase of more than 20 percent,” said Representative Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “Our bill expands this successful free transit program to save Coloradans money on fares and further reduce the amount of harmful ground-level ozone pollution released. Our neighbors along the front range deal with some of the worst air quality in the state, and we’re making progress toward cleaning up our air with the free transit program.” 

“Breaking down barriers to accessing public transit, including financial barriers, is a great way to get transit-curious Coloradans aboard our buses and trains,” said Representative Stephanie Vigil, D-Colorado Springs. “This legislation would improve the Ozone Season Transit Grant Program so more folks can take advantage of free rides. This successful program helps cut down on the number of cars on the road, saves Coloradans money and works to improve our air quality.”

HB23-1101 would improve the Ozone Season Transit Grant Program, which provides funding to the Regional Transportation District (RTD) and transit associations throughout Colorado to offer free rides during ozone season. 

Last year, Colorado Democrats championed SB22-180 which allocated $28 million toward free transit during ozone season to improve Colorado’s air quality. HB23-1101 utilizes funding from this initial investment to enhance the Ozone Season Transit Grant Program for the next three years. This year’s bill also would allow transit agencies to use grant funding during different months of the ozone season, rollover unspent grant funding to make an impact in future years and use the funding for outreach and education. 

RTD released final August 2022 ridership numbers in the fall. Data revealed a significant increase in the use of services, particularly buses within the district, during RTD’s 30-day Zero Fare for Better Air program. 

RTD also experienced a 36 percent ridership increase between August 2021 and August 2022 as well as a 21 percent ridership increase between July 2022 and August 2022. There were also significant increases in ridership in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and mountain communities. 

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