A partnership between the Utah Transit Authority and Zions Bank gave away 4,000 weekly transit passes in July traditionally one of the two worst months for air pollution and riders used them for a total of 20,008 boardings. It was successful enough that UTA says it wants more such events in the future.
The numbers show that the free-pass holders averaged five boardings each during the week their passes were in effect. A boarding is each time a rider enters a bus or train. It is not necessarily a full one-way trip because of transfers.
UTA said those numbers included 5,980 boardings on FrontRunner, 7,304 boardings on TRAX, 6,693 boarding on buses and 31 boardings on express buses. Recipients obtained the passes on a first-come, first-served basis by signing up online when the program was announced. Passes were snapped up within a day of each announcement of availability.
"We are very pleased by the participation in this summer's Ride Clear program," UTA General Manager Michael Allegra said in a statement. "Every person who opts for public transportation helps preserve air quality and decrease summertime smog." UTA said it hopes to repeat the program.
Temperatures above 90 degrees contribute to ozone pollution, said Utah Division of Air Quality Director Bryce Bird, making it especially important to reduce vehicle emissions on hot summer days.
"Air quality is a particular challenge that we face here in Utah, and this July being the hottest on record has made it even more challenging," Bird said in a UTA release. "Anything that we can do to reduce emissions by using public transportation will go a long way to helping our air-quality situation."
UTA said that when full, one of their buses saves 15 tons of air pollutants and 271 tons of greenhouse gases annually. A light-rail train, when full, saves 93 tons of air pollutants and 1,263 tons of greenhouses gases annually. The calculations are based on a Federal Transit Administration study that estimates 52 percent of passengers would drive if public transit were not available.