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February 2, 2023

House Committee Passes Bill to Improve Free Transit Program

DENVER, CO – The House Energy and Environment Committee today passed a bill to improve the grant program that funds Colorado’s free transit rides during peak ozone season. HB23-1101 supports the continuation of last year’s successful Ozone Season Transit Grant Program.

“The numbers are in; Coloradans took advantage of free public transit last August, and our bill improves this successful program for the coming years,” said Representative Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver. “We were excited to see significant ridership increases across the state, and strengthening this program will further reduce passenger car trips, cut down on harmful emissions and support communities by saving passengers money on fares.”

“In Colorado Springs alone, public transit ridership during August increased by more than 60 percent, and our bill builds upon this success to improve our air quality and cut down on harmful ground-level ozone,” said Representative Stephanie Vigil, D-Colorado Springs. “Recognizing regional differences in peak ozone seasons, this legislation provides additional flexibility to transit agencies to improve and expand the free rides program this year.”

HB32-1101 passed committee by a vote of 8-3 and improves 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 leftover 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 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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