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UTA services free for the month of February

By Deborah Wilber - Standard-Examiner | Jan 27, 2022

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

A Utah Valley Express bus pulls away from Provo Central station as the Utah Transit Authority celebrates a year of service for the UVX line Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019.

The Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees approved “Free Fare February” Wednesday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and improve air quality in the state. All transit services offered by the UTA will be completely free for the entire month of February.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall approached UTA Board of Trustees Chair Carlton Christen weeks ago about the having the first-ever free fare month.

Since UTA was established in 1970, they have never eliminated fees for more than two to three days, according to spokesman Carl Arky.

Arky said he estimates the UTA will lose $1.2 to $1.3 million in revenue for February. The Board of Trustees is working on the details of how they plan to recoup funds the mass transit system needs to operate.

“It’s the biggest Rubik’s cube I’ve ever seen,” Arky said of the UTA’s daily operations with a tentative budget of $356.1 million for 2022. Sales tax revenue represents the largest funding source for the 2022 budget.

Arky said the full-time Board of Trustees, established in 2019, is paying full-time attention to the transit system after controversy surrounding funding and operations came out about the previous board.

“We’re built in a valley that is built for cars,” Mendenhall said in an interview with KUTV, adding that investing in public transit is important.

Mendenhall said there needs to be more buses and trains to move people along the valley and “Free Fare February” will stand as a great sample of what Utahns can do with free transit as a longterm solution.

According to Arky, ridership increases when the UTA offers free fare as it did on Dec. 21-22 — when the transit authority had enough funding from stakeholders and other partners to cover revenue not received by riders for two days.

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