POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Will lawmakers fund free UTA fare beyond one week?

Feb 2, 2023, 12:30 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2023, 10:25 am

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FILE An electric bus that will go into service later this summer is pictured at the Utah Transit Authority Park & Ride in Millcreek on Friday, May 31, 2019. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Transit Authority has approved free fares on all public transit for one week starting Feb. 12 during the time the NBA all-star game is in town. But will lawmakers fund it further?

Gov. Spencer Cox has asked for a year of free transit in his budget. But the chair of the executive appropriations committee that approves funding, Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Davis, said: “We haven’t really spent a lot of time with the governor’s budget yet.”

Other leaders say there may be some appetite. However, Stevenson is hesitant about an entire year of no fares. 

“We start looking at no fare for an entire year and you still have all your expenses with no return whatsoever … it’s a rather difficult thing,” he said.

The governor estimates it’d cost about $25 million to have free fares for an entire year. Other leaders think making a more functional public transit system needs to happen first so it can be as easy as taking a car.

But Democratic leaders say it’s important for clean air — and making it free helps ridership.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Salt Lake City, said he’d like to do things like double track front runner and make it faster first.

“I actually think your ridership would go up on public transit when it actually competes with the automobile,” said Adams. “We’ve got a ways to go before that happens so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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Will lawmakers fund free UTA fare beyond one week?