Fare-free summer transit, expanded state bus service coming to Colorado

Media Contacts

DENVER – With a $68 million investment, the Colorado Legislature approved a bill to provide at least a month of statewide fare-free transit this summer, a near doubling of the Bustang bus service for the next three years and an additional investment in a successful program that improves the safety and comfort of main streets. The bill is based on a November proposal by Gov. Jared Polis aimed at tackling ozone pollution. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for signature into law.

All three pieces of the bill, SB22-180, offer an opportunity to increase clean travel options and reduce tailpipe emissions, which fuel Colorado’s harmful ozone pollution.

Statewide fare-free transit will receive a $28 million investment.  Eliminating transit fares can increase transit ridership, which is an important long-term strategy to reduce air pollution. A recent “Free Fare February” pilot undertaken by the Utah Transit Authority saw ridership increase 17% during weekdays, 58% on Saturdays and 33% on Sundays during the course of the program.

The bill will also invest $30 million in Colorado’s statewide bus system Bustang. Launched in 2015, the Bustang’s impact significantly grew from 102,503 annual riders in its first year to 238,302 annual riders in its fourth year before the pandemic. 

Finally, the bill invests $10 million more in the Main Streets program. This program has already focused over $100 million in safety and quality of life improvements that make it easier for people to walk, roll and bike along main streets. 

In response, Danny Katz, CoPIRG executive director, released the following statement:

“We cannot solve our unacceptable air pollution problem without significantly increasing clean travel options. While these investments won’t be enough to ensure clean air for Colorado this summer, they are a great start. Eliminating fares will recruit a lot more people to ride transit and build momentum for even bigger investments so we can significantly improve our public transit system. Doubling Bustang to near hourly service will increase clean travel options along I-25 and I-70, some of our busiest corridors. Finally, the Main Streets program is making the small investments that add up to make our main streets more people-friendly, and ensure we have more ways to safely and comfortably walk, roll, ride and bike to access the businesses, schools and residences on them without having to drive to complete every trip.”