Guest post by Sedona Allen, CALC Youth Advisor
In Fall of 2018, Denver CALC youth representatives took to the board room as RTD convened their regular board meetings and heard input from residents and transit users about proposed fare changes. Denver CALC youth shared information on the Denver Youth - RTD & Transit 2018 Report (see below) as well as provided important input on the low-income and youth discount fare program that was being reviewed. This low income and youth discount fare programs makes it more accessible for young people (who may be outside of the traditional school system) and families to receive discounted passes, as well as community members who are low-income and have this need. Separately, RTD proposed to raise fares in 2019, prompting an urgent need to put the youth and low-income discount fare program in place. For more info on current RTD fares, visit their website here.
Young people involved in the decision-making process felt strongly about making transit more accessible for youth, families, and low-income transit riders, and felt proud to have their voices be heard and were happy to advocate for their community. The following report outlines different key findings and suggestions related to RTD Transit. This engaging process got young people from all walks of life to be involved in critically analyzing and discussing public transportation in their communities.
Engaging with young people: A model for success
With any system impacting young people, the best way to cultivate success is by understanding the perspectives of those young people, and be inclusive by intentionally creating dialogue with populations who are affected by a system. With RTD and public transit, it is important to have conversations with diverse people who utilize public transit to maximize their experience and to ensure health equity is the driver of change. With this report, a model of authentic community engagement was utilized to hear what the community thinks about their local public transit and accessibility.
Goals of this report
➢ Offer an inclusive space for young people to have open dialogue about their experience with RTD and public transit.
➢ Create intentional community engagement to better understand priorities in advancing the RTD & Transit CALC workgroup.
➢ Utilize youth input to elevate the voices of young people who use RTD public transit, while also creating partnerships for future initiatives.
➢ Using public transit - logistics
Young people appreciate the opportunity to utilize public transit. Understanding the gaps of where some neighborhoods do not have many stops or accessibility is important. Programs and/or schools that provide passes (single, booklets, eco-passes, etc.) are essential in supporting students to utilize RTD. Affordable/discount transit options for youth is important to continue. Frequency of some routes should also be increased.
Overall, young people feel fairly safe when taking RTD transit. The exceptions are when they are travelling at night, if they live or commute in specific neighborhoods, and when there is insufficient lighting.
➢ Perceptions and advertising
Many observations show that young people are exposed to more unhealthy advertisements when taking the bus and light rail. Specifically, alcohol ads were called out as a form of target marketing for populations who use RTD transit.
➢ Using public transit - logistics
Take initiative on understanding where public transit is missing in certain communities. Also consider who is being left out, youth experiencing homelessness or out of school were brought up as often not being included in the conversation and not receiving the same resources/benefits as youth in schools and families.
Upon hiring, bus drivers should be trained to know how to appropriately handle dangerous situations and diffuse problems on the bus. Lighting should be sufficient in all areas. There should be a safe route getting to and from public transit stops (utilizing the High Injury Network to see the problem areas.)
➢ Perceptions and advertising
RTD transit buses, light rails, and bus stops should have positive messaging rather than unhealthy advertising. This will promote more positive perceptions within youth and the community.
Summary of Report
This was an informal process of holding space for young people to voice their concerns, thoughts, and experiences with RTD and Transit through focus groups. This report is to summarize the discussions and point out key findings. Overall, the most important thing that arose from these focus groups is that there is so much depth to transportation. RTD transit plays a huge role in getting people, including youth, where they need to go. When making decisions, it is so important to have young people at the table and to be inclusive in the process. That means understanding where there are gaps and intentionally engaging community to fill those gaps. When we work together, there is so much we can accomplish.
Quotes from Youth Participants
“I’ve had some of the greatest experiences on the bus. I have met some of the most awesome people.” -Angelo Bryant
“It is the best time for me to write. Just put my headphones on, you get to see the environment and the landscapes. It is a humbling experience.” -Israel Juarez
“I would have to take the last bus of the night, there would be gang-bangers and drunk people around me… I like the bus but it depends if it is night or day, what area you are in, if you have people with you or if you’re by yourself, even what you are wearing.” - Jesse Gonzalez
“A lot of females do not have good experiences, but guys do.” -Areli Campos
“I used to take the 15 to East High School… I used to call RTD Rough Tough and Dangerous.” -LaPhonso Salas
“I love taking the lightrail, it is way faster than how my mom drives!” -Veronica Allen
“Along with marketing, I would like to see buses have more empowering language for communities of color especially… Imagine getting on the bus and seeing a message that says ‘Don’t give up.’ … It would be nice to have an inspiring message on the bus.” -Christymarie Jackson
Digital Stories and more about transit:
Jesse’s Digital Story - This digital story focuses on RTD and Transit in relation to their advertisements shown.
Sedona’s Digital Story - This digital story is called Paradigm Shifts. One part of this story paints a picture of violence recognized on the bus.
CALC RTD & Transit Workgroup Survey Report - This report shows findings from a 2018 survey conducted by the CALC RTD & Transit workgroup and youth to learn more about perceived safety of transit users along the High Injury Network; specifically Federal Boulevard.