Afternoon Headlines May 25, 2017

Low income public transits riders in the metro area will not be benefiting from an expansion of discount passes by RTD. Regional Transportation District board members voted 11 to 3 on Tuesday night to not increase funding for the program in the second half of 2017. The funding will stay at $6.8 million, the same level of funding as 2016.

Chris Stiffler, an economist with the Colorado Fiscal Institute says that while RTD offers some discounts, there are not enough programs for those who need it. Instead he says a lot of their discounts actually benefit upper-income travelers. Stiffler says free parking at regional bus stops is an example of this, as people who ride regional buses tend to be higher income transit riders. Other discount programs like the eco-pass, also tend to benefit upper-income passengers as they are often distributed through large companies. “The design is the bigger the company the bigger the discount, so the people who do have eco-passes are most likely to be upper-income employees. McDonalds are not giving eco-passes to their minimum wage employees.”

The decision means that local nonprofits that administer the program are constrained in the number of discount passes that they can buy for low-income riders, no matter the increase in demand.

Boulder officials are working to assemble a committee that will decide how the city will spend funds from the new sugary drink tax.

The seven member “Health Equity Advisory Committee” will work to allocate an estimated $1.5 million expected to be generated by the end of this year as a result of the 2 cents per ounce excise tax on soda and sugary beverages.

Kammi Siemens with the city of Boulder’s Human Services Department says that the committee’s primary focus will be to address issues of health equity.

“What they will be doing is providing recommendations on what existing programs could address expanded funding and then in 2018 we’re expecting to have almost $3.5 million in revenue from the tax which would be used to fund both existing programs as well as new city and community programs.”

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