Free fares on all Utah Transit Authority operations on Thursday and Friday
Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo
The wheels on the bus continue to go around at the Utah Transit Authority, but now folks who ride are going to get a financial reprieve and keep the air clean at the same time as UTA holds Free Fare for Clean Air days this Thursday and Friday.
The fare will be free on all UTA bus and rail services including bus, TRAX, FrontRunner, the S-Line Streetcar, para-transit, the Park City-SLC Connect and UTA On Demand.
“The free fare days we’ve had during this program have been very successful,” said Carlton Christensen, UTA Board of Trustees Chair. “We look forward to building on this success, further increasing awareness among the public about how they can help improve our air quality by riding public transit.”
The first Free Fair for Clean Air days were held Aug. 12-13 in 2021 and resulted in a 5% increase in bus ridership and a 12% increase in FrontRunner ridership. New riders accounted for over 19% of trips taken and 70% of survey respondents said they did not use a vehicle to reach transit. The next free fare days were held Dec. 21-22, 2021, before UTA celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics by offering Free Fare February where, according to UTA data, ridership went up.
It appears, by the data, that more people will ride public transportation when it is free.
Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo
For many riders in Utah County, at least one of the bus routes is always free. The UVX route that runs between the Provo Towne Centre mall, by Brigham Young University, west on University Parkway, around Utah Valley University and west of I-15 to the FrontRunner intermodal hub is free of charge. Despite being free already, more riders climbed aboard the 12-mile route in February.
The air quality benefit increased significantly during February — as much as 67% according to UTA’s analysis.
The Free Fare for Clean Air program is part of a science-driven effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front by helping encourage more people to consider using public transit as an alternative to driving, according to a UTA press release.
“Summertime ozone pollution is not something we can see like our winter inversions, but over the past few years some of our worst air quality days have been in the summer months,” said Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Kim Shelley. “Vehicles are the largest contributor to Utah’s air quality challenges along the Wasatch Front. We’ve seen that when we remove barriers to using public transit, people will make the choice that reduces pollution and improves quality of life all around.”
The decision to declare free fare days is coordinated between UTA and DEQ based on science and health risk, according to UTA information.
The Division of Air Quality constantly monitors Utah’s air shed to identify when levels of ozone as well as particulate matter are unhealthy. When unhealthy pollution levels are forecast, the Division calls a Mandatory Action Day, which indicates critical periods when Utahns should avoid high-emitting activities.
“The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah is excited to continue partnering with the Free Fare for Clean Air days,” said Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director of HEAL Utah. “This program has helped gather crucial data that our state policymakers can use to create comprehensive policy solutions for mitigating air pollution and promoting Smart Growth in the Wasatch front.”
Free Fare for Clean Air is done through a partnership with the Utah State Legislature, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Utah Clean Air Partnership and the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah.
More information on Free Fare for Clean Air can be found at http://rideuta.com/freefare.