Salt Lake City public school students, staff and faculty will be able to get a free lift to class starting this year, thanks to a pilot program approved Wednesday by transit officials.
The Utah Transit Authority board of trustees unanimously approved a transit pass program that will give employees and students in the Salt Lake City School District access to buses, TRAX lines and streetcars.
James Yapias, executive director of the Salt Lake Education Foundation, told board members the passes will help as families struggle with the surging costs of housing and transportation.
“This will certainly give our students an edge,” he said.
The program, worth $379,000, has long been in the works and is slated to run until the end of next July. The school district and foundation will pay $279,000 for the passes, with the remainder being funded by Salt Lake City.
Officials are still figuring out how to best distribute passes to students and employees.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a statement that the program will not only ease the financial burden families face with transportation costs but also will help keep the region’s airshed a little cleaner.
“Riding public transit is one of the best ways to improve our air quality,” she said, “and these passes will make it much easier for thousands of Salt Lakers to do so.”
The passes may also be used beyond getting to and from school. The program does not include free transportation for family members.
Students make up a huge slice of the UTA’s ridership, and officials hope offering access to the region’s transit network will encourage future use, spokesperson Carl Arky said.
Kensey Kunkel, a manager with the transit authority, said the program also aims to entice prospective employees from outside the city to work in the school district.
The pass does not include rides on the FrontRunner, but district employees will be able to get discounted rides on the commuter train.