In the months since the COVID vaccination efforts kicked off in the state, we’ve made enormous strides – over half of Colorado’s state population has been at least partially vaccinated to date, and community vaccine sites are emerging thanks in large part to organizations and leaders championing the cause. While there may no longer be eligibility and appointment restrictions, other barriers keep our metro Denver residents from getting vaccines. More recently as more people have gotten vaccinated, demand has declined, and dose availability has increased, a default narrative is taking center stage: that those who remain unvaccinated are choosing not to be so. However, the reality is that many of our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other People of Color (BBIPOC) and low-income community residents do not have transport options that are affordable, accessible, or reliable to get to and from vaccine sites. In fact, many residents that are looking for a vaccine are also looking for a ride.
As we reimagine recovery and revolutionize how we use the built environment to support public health and community well-being, we encourage going further in leveraging existing infrastructure to better connect services to the people.
Thanks to an analysis (see below for link) of RTD’s Park-n-Ride (PNR)s, we have a better understanding where the need is and what locations would best serve those who are hardest to reach. PNR locations are suitable for semi-permanent vaccine sites because they are accessible by public transit, car, and other micro-mobility options, they have established infrastructure such as protected areas, utility connections and waste management services, and they tap into and enhance existing infrastructure to meet the moment and ensure access to services as a public health necessity. The report’s author, Luna Hoopes, identified 36 PNR sites as eligible for semi-permanent vaccine operations to serve our low-income and BBIPOC communities who often rely on public transit, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and will likely need a more sustained rollout due to other access issues and potential need for booster shots.
While this analysis show gaps in vaccine site distribution as a snapshot in time and the landscape is evolving rapidly as we move away from mass vaccination sites to community-based locations, it reveals a strategic and timely opportunity to provide easily accessible vaccine sites through existing infrastructure. In Covina, CA, the Foothills Transit agency had built a three-level bus depot and PNR garage last March just before COVID hit. The transit agency pivoted to use this new space to provide an easily accessible location for transit riders to get vaccinated. They also “wanted a location that would support the community where this transit center is located.” Across the country, at least 450 public transportation providers are providing free transit to vaccination sites, according to those behind the VaxTransit campaign aimed as providing those without transportation access to vaccines.
We know that transit agencies across the country have been rocked by devastating loss of riders, issues hiring bus and train operators, and an unpredictable future as we climb out of the pandemic mess. Instead of continuing to place more of a burden on RTD to go out of its way to transport people to vaccine sites, why not bring the two services together and remove that additional burden from RTD? We can partner with vaccine operators to utilize RTD’s existing infrastructure to reach more people and take advantage of existing opportunity. By placing one service near another service, the resulting proximity and ease will allow more equitable access to those who most need and deserve it, and give more residents a fair shot at getting a shot.
As a collaborative committed to a racially equitable and resilient Denver region, we stand with the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community as we collectively grieve the horrific acts of violence in Georgia.
While it may be difficult for some to believe the horrors of Tuesday following this summer’s racial awakening, people of color know all too well the history of hate and violence perpetuated on our bodies as a result of systemic racism, sexism, and discrimination. The history of xenophobia towards the AAPI community in the United States did not begin on Tuesday in Georgia. It permeates US history, from the bubonic plague of the early 1900s to the more recent Coronavirus . Recent data by Stop AAPI Hate shows that harassment and violence towards the Asian American community has dramatic increased over the last year, with attacks towards those of East Asian descent being fueled by a former President that uses hateful, racist rhetoric when speaking about the Coronavirus pandemic.
We urge you to center the voices of the AAPI community in this conversation and support in whatever way you can.
Mile High Connects partner 9to5 Colorado’s National Office in Georgia is working with the AAPI community on the ground and nationally to center the needs of those impacted. You can help by contributing towards the ongoing healing of the Atlanta AAPI Community. Take immediate action to show solidarity with AAPI communities by adding your name to the list of individuals and organizations calling for a community response to AAPI violence. Nationally and locally, support organizations that advocate for economic and social justice with and in low-income AAPI communities such National CAPACD, Asian Pacific Development Center, Vietnamese American Community of Colorado, Boulder Asian Pacific Alliance, and the Asian Chamber of Commerce. Our Asian-owned small businesses need our support now more than ever – consider spending your dollars at locally owned AAPI restaurants and businesses.
We hope for healing, justice, and a more equitable future for all.
Mile High Connects and Denver Streets Partnership hosted Transit is the Future: Denver Transit Justice Forum, a panel discussion with elected officials and area leaders on the importance of public transit as a critical piece in reconstructing a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable economy.
Framing the conversation,Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO Tami Door stated that “A successful city is a resilient city, and transit is at the very center of that.”
Debra Johnson, new General Manager and CEO of RTD, shared that “Transit has been largely underfunded across the country for decades. The transit problems we’re experiencing aren’t indigenous to Denver.”
As the smoke from our state’s wildfires reaches the Denver metro region & with COVID-19 cases on the rise, understanding what’s on the ballot and how it impacts our ability to create and maintain safe, healthy homes is more critical than ever. That’s why Mile High Connects andMetro Denver Nature Alliance joined together to host an information session on ballot measures affecting equitable, affordable access to nature and housing in Colorado, Adams County, and Denver.
Chris Stiffler from the Colorado Fiscal Instituteunpacked the Gallagher Amendment and the TABOR Amendment, which affect local property taxes, public school investments, and state and local governments’ ability to raise funds for public programs.
Conor Hall front the Trust for Public Land discussed two ballot measures in Adams County affecting open space (1A) and infrastructure (1B) investments supported by long-standing tax assessments. One of Colorado’s fastest growing counties, the population of Adams County is expected to surpass that of Denver within 30 years.
Sebastian Andrews with the Denver Streets Partnershipshared details of Denver’s Ballot Measure 2A, which would fund the city’s climate action. The measure, and Denver’s approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation, was informed by work in other cities (like Houston, TX) and the Climate Action Task Force.
Thank you to our partners MetroDNA and panelists for sharing their insights with us. While MHC and MetroDNA do not endorse specific measures, we share this dialogue in the spirit of community engagement and to ensure all residents have access to information.
Join us for another episode of Denver_portal programming as we explore "Ciclovías"--urban bike lane infrastructure--and other mobility models from across the Americas. Learn how places like Mexico City are leading the way in pedestrian and bike lane expansion projects and how Denver leaders are getting creative to meet our city's mobility needs.
The Denver_portal programming is a collaboration between the Biennial of the Americas and Shared_Studios.
Moderator: Deyanira “Deya” Zavala (Denver, CO)
Executive Director, Mile High Connects
As Executive Director, Deyanira Zavala leads the development and implementation of Mile High Connects’ strategic direction. She is responsible for fundraising and relationship management to advance the Mile High Connects collective priorities. Prior to joining Mile High Connects, Deyanira dedicated her career to supporting aspiring Black, Latinx and immigrant entrepreneurs in Colorado and Texas as a pathway to community asset & wealth building. She also brings national experience having worked with NALCAB- National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, where she facilitated a variety of community economic development projects in support of member organizations, including resource development and capacity building activities. Deyanira is the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, holding a Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Arlington. Deyanira is trained Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitator and alumni of the NALCAB Fellowship and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Elevate Fellowship programs. She currently serves on the RTD Accountability Committee, Reimagine RTD Community Advisory Group, and the Denver COVID-19 Mobility Task Force.
Jill Locantore (Denver, CO)
Executive Director, Denver Streets Partnership
Jill Locantore is Executive Director of the Denver Streets Partnership, a coalition of community groups advocating for people-friendly streets. Previously, Jill was the Executive Director of the pedestrian advocacy organization WalkDenver, which merged with Bicycle Colorado in 2020 to fully staff the Denver Streets Partnership as a division of Bicycle Colorado focused on reclaiming Denver’s streets for people. Jill also worked previously for the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments where she supported regional efforts to coordinate land use and transportation planning. Throughout her planning career, Jill has focused on the intersection of land use and transportation with environmental sustainability, economic development, public health, and social justice issues, and has built a reputation as an important advocate and spokesperson for human-centered transportation and its key role in building healthy communities. Jill has a Masters degree in community planning from the University of Maryland, as well as a Masters degree in cognitive psychology from the University of Toronto.
Areli Carreón (Mexico City, Mexico)
Areli is a longtime activist and a founder of Bicitekas A.C., an organization that promotes the use of bicycles in Mexico City and lobbies for policy change around cycling and urban mobility.
Areli studied Rural Development at the UAM Xochimilco She’s an environmentalist, founding member of Bicitekas A.C. and currently serves as the “Bike Mayor” of #CDMX, an honorary position created by the Dutch innovation lab BYCS in order to promote cycling around the world. Their goal is to create a network of 100 bicycle mayors who shift urban traveling to more than 50% by bike by the year 2030.
Ivan de la Lanza (Mexico City, Mexico)
Iván is the Active Mobility Manager at WRI México - Ciudades. He’s in charge of supplying technical advice and managing the cities for the development of pedestrian projects, cycling, and micro-mobility, as part of the integrated transportation network, public spaces recovery, and safety.
Previously, he was the Manager of Culture, Design and Cycling Infrastructure in CDMX, an area specifically created for the implementation of the Bicycle Mobility Strategy, which was responsible for the implementation of the system of public bikes EcoBici, the building of ciclovias and bike parking, as well as operating the “Sunday Ride” and “Bike Schools”. He has a Degree in Administration at the UVM and has participated as a panelist in several forums and international conferences.
Mile High Connects & local partner Denver Streets Partnership joined Biennial of the Americas and Shared Studios for a special conversation on “Ciclovias” and mobility models from across the Americas. Share what you learned from the session with us!
Posted on March 27, 2020 by Deyanira Zavala in News
By Deyanira Zavala, Executive Director
This week has been a whirlwind of activity as Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) continues to dominate headlines and our meeting agendas.
Community organizers, nonprofits, and others in our network are responding with tremendous heart and courage. They are issuing calls to action in support of protecting our front line workers – those living paycheck to paycheck – from the ripple effects of this public health crisis. Folks who were are already feeling the anxiety of a paycheck stretched beyond the numbers on it due to rising rents, higher monthly transit costs, and stagnant wages. Mom and pop entrepreneurs who turned side hustles into full-fledged, full-time businesses when they couldn’t secure a job and are now worried that the next client that walks through the door for a pick up order may be their last.
Mile High Connects will be compiling resources and updates on our website, so please visit www.milehighconnects.org/covidresources for the latest news. We will also update our Facebook and Twitter regularly to share what we’re hearing and seeing in the communities we are a part of, and the opportunities we have in front of us.
We’re calling on you, our Community, to stick with us as we reflect on the inequities that this crisis has highlighted for us as a region – inequities that we have long known and felt, but are now facing the bright light of day.
Dear Partners, I am announcing today that I am stepping down as Executive Director of Mile High Connects effective April 5th. In my nearly two years with the Mile High Connects team, we have realized our long-term goal of achieving affordable transit for the region, facilitated meaningful conversations around racial equity with the City and County of Denver’s leadership, and transformed the way our collaborative works, stepping into equity conversations fully present to the realities of our current environment.
We are stronger today that that ever before, with an extraordinary Steering Committee comprised of regional thoughtleaders and Community Builders. Our Steering Committee has unanimously decided to ask Deyanira Zavala to step into the Executive Director role. We have worked very closely over the last 18 months and I have full confidence that she is the right person to lead Mile High Connects in this next phase.
As for me, I will be heading home to Amherst, Massachusetts to help take care of my elderly parents. I was hoping that I could make this decision later and continue to help Mile High Connects through this crucial time of transition before moving on, but for personal reasons I am needing to prioritize the needs of my family at this time.
I am proud of what we have accomplished together. It has been a privilege and honor to work with you all and lead this extremely important and powerful collaborative at this crucial time in the Denver Metro Region.
Last week, the RTD Board approved the Preferred Alternative for the 2019-2012 Fare Structure, by a vote of 10 to 5 in favor of the recommendation. This includes two new discounts:
Low-Income Discount – 40% discount
Youth Discount – 70% discount
This is the culmination of five years of collaborative partnership between RTD, Mile High Connects, and many community partners. Tuesday’s board decision is a major milestone towards making Denver a more equitable place to live and work as it ensures that our public transportation system – and the economic opportunities it provides – is both affordable and accessible to all.
We commend RTD’s board and staff for all of their hard work and commitment to working with the community and we commend all of the individuals, elected officials and community members for their unwavering support. The decision to form The Pass Program Working Group, a community based, highly diverse working group, alongside strong executive-level staff support demonstrates RTD’s dedication to successful community stakeholder relations. This was a consensus approach to decision-making that involved considerable compromise and t the outcome is commendable. For those with the lowest levels of mobility and income, affordable transit can have significant and positive implications for social and economic inclusion.
MHC is deeply grateful to our network of partners and also recognize that our work is not done. We are fully prepared to deploy resources to assist RTD with implementation and continue to support future efforts to furthering transit equity. In the near term, we commit to working with RTD to ensure the program achieves the desired outcomes and ensuring all in our region have access to opportunities. But today, we are taking a moment to celebrate. The new fare structure will ensure youth and low-income people have a chance to get to class on time, to the doctors appointment, to that job interview, to that higher-paying job, or to the grocery store.
MHC’s leadership along with a number of partners and RTD, developed a low-income and youth discount pass program. This program will create a 40% discount for transit for those living at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. The proposal is currently under review by RTD and MHC continues to actively seek support from the public to ensure RTD implements new discounts for youth and low-income riders. Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2018 State of the City Address included urging RTD to adopt the complete Pass Program reccomendation.
“And to our friends at RTD, we urge you to adopt the proposal before you, which would dramatically reduce fares for students and low-income residents and make transit free for all youth under the age of 12.” – Mayor Michael B. Hancock
RTD Needs to Hear from YOU!
RTD is currently hosting informational meetings to provide updates about the completed Pass Program Study and current fare review. At these meetings, RTD staff will discuss fares, the Pass Program Study and the working groups fare recommendations, the agency and its budget, and more. RTD staff will be available to answer questions from the public so now is your chance to let your voice be heard. MORE INFO
Upcoming Neighborhood Meetings:
Wed., July 18, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Englewood- Englewood Civic Center
1000 Englewood Pkwy, Community Room, 2nd floor
Thur., July 19, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Lakewood- Clements Community Center
1580 Yarrow Street
Sat., July 21, 2018, Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Montbello- Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver
4397 Crown Boulevard
Mon., July 23, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Aurora- Aurora Municipal Center
15151 E. Alameda Parkway City Café, 2nd Floor
Tue., July 24, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
South Denver- Thomas Jefferson High School
3950 S. Holly Street
Wed., July 25, 2018, Noon – 2:00 p.m.
Downtown Denver- RTD Administrative Offices
1660 Blake Street, Rooms T & D
Thur., July 26, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thornton- Margaret W. Carpenter Recreation Center
11151 Colorado Blvd, Rooms B & C