By Michael Guzman, RTD District C Representative
Did you ride RTD for free during the last two months? I sure hope that you did! RTD’s Zero Fare for Better Air is a huge opportunity for RTD to make lives better through connection. The last few months have been busy at the Board Office.
I flew to DC with other Colorado elected officials in late June and had the opportunity to meet with our State Delegation to discuss our pressing transportation and infrastructure needs.
The Board of Directors approved Respect the Ride, our code of conduct policy to create a more safe and welcoming transit environment. Countless hours and lots of sleepless nights went into listening sessions all over the region, discussion and debate, amendments that are still being worked on through committee to craft and authorize a fair and just code that helps all of us enjoy RTD.
I serve on the Finance and Planning Committee we put forth several actions that have resulted in historic action by the Board and RTD. The Systemwide Fare and Equity Analysis, first of its kind in the history of RTD, allowed the board to simplify our fare structure and more importantly to reduce all fares for RTD services. Beginning in 2024, the fare for your ride will be reduced no matter how you use RTD services. RTD will rollout greater discounts for our most vulnerable neighbors, many who rely on public transportation, and hopefully for those of you that began a new habit of using public transportation during July and August. The committee working with the CFO Doug McLeod have also earned RTD the AAA credit worthiness ranking from S&P Global Ratings. Meaning RTD has an extremely strong capacity to meet all financial commitments.
I am so excited to announce the Board authorized and allotted funds for the Zero Fare for Youth Pilot Program for the entirety of the 2023-24 academic year. CEO/GM Debra A. Johnson worked at breakneck speed to receive permission from the Federal Transit Authority for a full year pilot. I am so grateful for her strong efforts to help us realize this program. The Zero Fare for Youth is available every day of the week for all youth 19 years old and younger, across the RTD system. Not only can our young scholars ride for free to school, but also to museums, medical services, and even to the Airport. Sorry, mom and dad, you will still have to pay your fare, but the youth ride free. I am so grateful for the outpouring of support from Denver’s City Council and the Denver Public School Board. With football season fast approaching I was disappointed to learn that the Bronco’s Ride will not return. That said RTD was able to move a record number of people from Coors Field and Empower Field at Mile High during the Rockies v. Yankees Games and the Taylor Swift Concert in mid-July approximately 120,000 fans each night. I am confident RTD will move Bronco Nation quickly and efficiently during football season. Light rail and buses will get you to the game and home again and you can avoid the traffic jam, help lower emissions and save gas and parking money. So, get on board.
On a more personal note, this hijito from the Westside, never imagined that I could be an elected official. Representing the 240,000 constituents in District C is a humbling honor. Your feedback, questions, criticisms and comments inform my work. You are at the table with me every time I enter the boardroom because I learned a long time ago “la gente unida jamás será vencida.” I will continue to speak in Spanish and English, not to grandstand, as has been alleged, rather so that everyone can participate in the public discourse as a matter of equity and access. My Chicano and Boricua cultures inform my language, values and work. It is part of me that cannot and will not be left behind and my fellow directors know, accept, and support. September is both the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month and Rail Safety Month: If the sirens are blaring and the lights are flashing, DO NOT CROSS THE TRACKS! Please wait until the alarms stop, look both ways and only then, proceed safely.
Michael Guzman was elected to the RTD Board of Directors District C in November. His term ends at the end of 2026.