SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives on Monday approved a pair of clean air measures Monday that establish a pilot program of free fare days on mass transit when the air is bad and funding for wood stove conversions.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said HB353would provide $1.2 million to cover Utah Transit Authority's fares on 17 bad air days over three years.
"We're trying to change behavior," he said, noting an Envision Utah poll of 500 people found free fare is the No. 1 motivating factor to get people out of their vehicles.
With tailpipe pollution estimated to be 50 percent of the problem leading to poor air quality, Briscoe said the pilot program may work to clean the air.
In 2017, when UTA offered free fare right before Christmas, ridership increased by 23 percent, he noted.
Briscoe said the goal is to encourage more people to carpool, work from home or take transit, particularly on those "moderate" pollution days prior to full-fledged inversion setting in.
While people are getting the message it's best to refrain from driving on the worst of the worst days, Briscoe said the same does not hold true for those moderate days — and numbers show public transit ridership on those days actually surpasses those days when air pollution isn't an issue.
Rep. Scott Chew, R-Jensen, asked how the program would be promoted so motorists know they can take advantage of free fares.
Briscoe said the Utah Division of Air Quality will administer the funds and work with the Utah Clean Air Partnership to notify the public.
In another effort, Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, successfully got HB357to pass on a 53-17 vote.
That bill provides one-time money of $14 million to assist households that want to convert wood-burning stoves to gas appliances. The money will be distributed based on income.
Both measures go to the Senate for consideration.