Increasing Access to Transit for Denver’s Youth

June 01, 2016 by Matt Samelson

Photo: Jeffrey Beall

We think every high school student in Denver deserves a key to the city.

Learning opportunities abound at our community’s schools, libraries, cultural facilities, and recreation centers as well as through activities and jobs that occur after-school and in the summer. The institutions and programs are in place, but the missing key is access to transit.

Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the City & County of Denver have created an expansive and impressive list of educational and employment opportunities for the city’s youth:

  • Students and families can choose the school they wish to attend through the DPS SchoolChoice system.
  • The City’s My Denver Card serves as a library card, free recreation center pass, free swimming pool pass, and provides admission and discounts at many of the city’s cultural facilities such as the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
  • Internships during the school year and summer with the DPS Career Connect department.
  • Summer employment through the City’s Office of Economic Development.

The city and the school district provide some transportation options, but these efforts are not coordinated or comprehensive to truly serve as the key for all students.

For the past year and a half, the Donnell-Kay Foundation and Together Colorado have been working with DPS, the City, and Denver students and families with the objective of crafting a transportation proposal that provides free (or low-cost) monthly RTD passes to all DPS high school students year round. We are proposing this investment because it would expand education and employment opportunities for high school students. The programs are in place. Let’s make sure kids can get to them.

In early May, community members on the DPS Community Planning Advisory Committee for the school district’s proposed 2016 bond and mill levy stepped up to the task. Working with DPS staff, they recommended that $400,000 of the upcoming mill levy proposal be dedicated to increased transit opportunities for DPS students. This is a tremendous first step to allowing DPS to bundle existing dollars for RTD passes with these new resources. Approval is still needed from the DPS school board and Denver voters.

Our partners at the city are crucial in this endeavor. Mayor Michael Hancock has been emphatic about expanding reliable, safe transportation options for work, school, and daily life. Adding a transit component to the My Denver Card will go a long way to accomplishing this goal.

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