Right now, there is an important effort underway to reduce pollution and congestion along the Wasatch Front. Specifically, the Utah Transit Authority is running a no-fare promotion for the month of February. That means every bus, TRAX light rail, FrontRunner train and ski bus is no fare all month.

In addition to potentially saving a consumer money, every car taken off the road will make our air that much cleaner during this difficult inversion season. A recent BYU study found that high pollution levels along the Wasatch Front can reduce lifespans by two years. It also found that there are between 2,500 and 8,000 premature deaths every year attributable to pollution right here in our own community. In other words, our efforts to clean the air matter. So, if there was ever a time to take transit, this is it.

Transit normally takes a healthy taxpayer subsidy to work. In UTA’s case, that is about 85%, coming mostly from local sales tax and some federal contributions, which is typical for a transit agency of its size. The other 15% comes from fares. 

For February, taxes will subsidize nearly 100% of UTA, thereby making this no-fare promotion possible. UTA has considerable excess capacity. This promotion will be deemed a success to the extent that it can be shown to have “moved the needle” by filling that excess capacity by increasing ridership and reducing cars on our highways, thus reducing air pollution.

The success of this program will go a long way toward making the case for a no-fare ride all next winter, or as a permanent no fare UTA year-round.

Richard Snelgrove

Salt Lake County Councilman at-Large

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