RFTA will consider $1 flat-fare for kids on regional commuter buses

Move designed to get more families into buses and out of private vehicles

Yusely Maria brushes the hair off the face of her son, Kevin Brenner Neyra, 3, while they wait for their bus at Rubey Park Transit Center in downtown Aspen on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. RFTA will be holding a public hearing on Thursday to consider switching to a $1.00 flat bus rate for children using the public transit system between Aspen and Rifle. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A bus trip throughout the region could be less expensive for kids and more affordable for families starting in September.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is considering dropping to a $1 flat-fare per ride for youth using regional commuter service. Kids ages 6 through 16 currently get $1 off the adult fare.

RFTA’s board of directors will consider the $1 flat-fare at their meeting Thursday and consider if the discount should end at age 16, 18 or 19.

“That ($1) discount made sense (30-plus) years ago when the fares were much lower, but the amount of the youth discount never changed when fares were subsequently raised several times over the decades,” RFTA director of planning David Johnson said in a memo for the board.

He used an example of travel between Glenwood Springs and Aspen to show how the proposed $1 fare could help families. The cash from is $7 and the kids’ fare is $6.

The cost for two adults with three children would be $64 round-trip on a cash fare or $47.36 using a discounted card fare.

With the proposed $1 youth fare, the price would be reduced to $25.16. “While still a significant sum, when the cost of driving one’s own automobile and potentially paying for parking are added into the equation, the difference is not as great,” Johnson wrote.

RFTA is looking for ways to get more people out of private vehicles and into buses as traffic jams continue to strangle the valley. In many observers’ estimates, the traffic problem is getting worse.

“The hope is that a lower fare would stimulate ridership among youths and their families and reduce the need for parents to drive their children around the region because the bus fare is too expensive,” Johnson wrote.

If the flat-fare is approved by the board at its meeting Thursday, it could be implemented Sept. 6. No fare is charged between Aspen and Snowmass Village because of a financial contribution by the Elected Officials Transportation Committee. Kids younger than 6 ride for free. That wouldn’t change.

There would be an estimated financial loss of between $92,000 and $217,000 if the board adopts the $1 fare for ages 6 through 18, according to an analysis by a RFTA consultant. The comparison used pre-COVID ridership levels.

The loss in the dollar amount collected from youth would be somewhat offset by more adults riding the bus to accompany kids, the assessment said.

In addition, RFTA believes the $1 flat-fare for youth will help it recover its ridership quicker in the post-COVID world and the revenue loss would be blunted over time. Ridership in 2021 is down about 45% through July compared with the same period in 2019.

RFTA’s board of directors will meet virtually Thursday morning. The public hearing on the youth fare is scheduled for 9:10 a.m. though the actual time could vary. Directions for joining the meeting via WebEx are available at on the Board Meeting page.