UTA will offer free public transport to improve air quality

As temperatures soar and ozone levels rise, Utah officials say parking the car and taking the UTA will help clear the air.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) UTA is offering free rides on all of its transit options this week in an effort to improve air quality.

Wasatch Front residents will be able to ditch their polluting cars this week and ride public transit for free, thanks to a program to clean the air.

The Utah Transit Authority announced this week that it will offer free fares Thursday and Friday on all of its bus and train services — including the FrontRunner commuter rail, the Park City-Salt Lake City bus service, the paratransit and UTA On Demand.

GREENbike, the region’s non-profit bike share program, will also provide 24 hours of free service during those days. Cyclists must enter the code 8121 at any bike station to access a free bike.

“The free days we’ve had during this program have been very successful,” UTA Board Chairman Carlton Christensen said in a press release. “We look forward to building on this success and raising public awareness of how they can help improve air quality by using public transport. »

The first Free Days, held last August, resulted in a 5% increase in bus ridership and a 12% increase in FrontRunner ridership. New users accounted for nearly 20% of journeys made.

State lawmakers approved funding for Free Fare for Clean Air Days in 2019.

Kim Shelley, executive director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said in a news release that vehicles are the biggest contributor to the region’s grimy air.

“We’ve seen that when we remove barriers to using public transport,” she said, “people will make the choice that reduces pollution and improves the quality of life all around.”

The free days are coordinated between UTA and the state Air Quality Division, which monitors Utah’s air for unhealthy levels of ozone and particulate matter.

According to the division’s website, Salt Lake County air quality for Wednesday and Thursday was forecast to be unhealthy for sensitive groups as temperatures and ozone levels rise. A forecast for Friday was not listed.

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