Utah Transit Authority on Tuesday announced it would allow passengers to use its services for free throughout the month of February in an effort to improve the state’s air quality by reducing vehicle emissions.
“UTA has held several free fare days with support from our partners,” said Carlton Christensen, UTA Board of Trustees Chair. “We are excited to build on that success with Free Fare February, continuing efforts to increase awareness about how we can improve our air quality by riding public transit.”
The free fare applies to all UTA bus and rail services, including the FrontRunner and the new UTA on Demand project, which serves the west side of Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Erin Mendenhall, who led the effort, expressed her support for “Free Fare February” outside the Utah Capitol building steps Tuesday afternoon.
“Salt Lake City will continue to fight for clean air, through policies, programs and education. Our efforts are much more effective, though, when we have valley- and state-wide partners who join in,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement. “Free Fare February is an example of that type of collaboration and I’m excited to see the impact this change has not only on Salt Lake City’s air quality but on our neighboring communities as well.”
Local entities supporting the “Free Fare February,” include Dominion Energy, Chevron and UCAIR, as well as the mayors of Ogden and Provo. Salt Lake City Council also plans to contribute up to $50,000.
One Utah Democrat is sponsoring a bill to make public transit free for Utahns. State Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, earlier this year introduced proposed legislation – HB 164 – that would allow Utah Transit Authority to offer its services to passengers for free.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UTA saw its ridership pummel and struggle to recover. At one point during the health crisis, UTA’s commuter rail train, the FrontRunner, saw its ridership drop by 90%. TRAX and bus ridership each fell by nearly 75% and 70%, respectively, during the pandemic. Since then, UTA’s ridership has slowly improved.