UVX bus tour 02

Dale Howard, a bus operator, drives a Utah Valley Express bus during a demonstrative ride Tuesday, July 31, 2018, along the UVX bus route in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

When Monday dawns, the long-awaited Utah Valley Express bus route will make its debut, and it won’t be just university students, faculty and staff who can ride for free.

According to Shawn Seager, planning director for Mountainland Association of Governments, thanks to a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, anyone can ride free on the UVX route from Provo Towne Centre mall to the Orem intermodal hub and back for at least the next three years.

The grant is to help air quality and congestion, and is a federal pilot program to test air quality and congestion before and after the three-year window, according to Seager. The pilot program allows for the free ridership.

Seager said the grant was worth $1.9 million and allows Utah Transit Authority to invite anyone to ride the UVX route free.

The free route should not be confused with the free-ride program for students, faculty and staff and families from Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University, who can ride the entire UTA system for free including, other bus routes, FrontRunner and TRAX, for 10 years.

“UVX is such a new experience,” said Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, UTA regional general manager. “Go out with your families and try it. Then when they have a need they can say ‘yeah, I’ve ridden that.’”

De La Mare-Schaefer said riding free is a no-risk opportunity for people to get to know the UVX buses and route. She thinks people will be surprised how nice the ride is.

UTA has been touting the new route on social media platforms and at both universities in a new marketing push. The pilot program will hopefully reduce air pollution and road congestion.

“We’d like people to turn vehicle trips into transit trips,” Seager said. “The less they are charged, the more people buy, as we’ve seen in national studies.”

Seager added, “If this is successful, we could continue the zero fare beyond three years and look for other forms of funding.”

Besides the zero-fare UVX project, several other transportation improvement projects were presented and approved by MAG on Aug. 2, including a five-year project sheet with more than 20 projects, from Interstate 15 construction around Lehi to fixing small intersections throughout the county.

The total amount for the combined projects is close to $1 billion, according to Seager.

As for riding the UVX route and connecting with other UTA systems, De La Mare-Schaefer said those who are uncertain of how to plan a trip can call the customer service line at (801) 287-4636, and a representative will walk people through every step of the way.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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