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Governor proposes free public transit fare on bad air quality days, UTA believes it can be done

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Transit Authority is trying to figure out how they can give their services out for free, on bad air quality days.  Governor Gary Herbert is proposing to set $100 million dollars for cleaner air, and some of that would go toward free fare when the air is especially dirty.

Officials from UTA are convinced people would definitely use public transit if it were free.  Spokesman Carl Arky says they had “Free Fare Fridays” in December of last year, and they were a big hit.

“We saw a big spike in ridership on not just Trax, but Frontrunner and the buses as well,” he says.

However, putting these free fare days together is harder to do than it may sound.  Arky says there are a lot of details that need to be hammered out.

“How do you get the word out?  How do you change your fare system so that on that day when people tap on and tap off they’re not being charged?” he asks, adding, “How do you gear up and have more trains?  How do you have more personnel?”

Plus, Arky says they don’t know how much money would be set aside for them.

“If they’re trying to identify bad air days a day or two in advance, how does UTA respond to that?  That’s something we would have to look at.  That probably is the greatest challenge,” he says.

However, Arky says UTA is excited to be part of this plan, and they’re determined to make this possible.