SALT LAKE CITY — For the entire month of February, all Utah Transit Authority buses and trains will be free.
On Tuesday, Governor Spencer Cox, a number of city mayors and state lawmakers gathered at the Utah State Capitol to announce the plan. It would allow Frontrunner, Trax and all buses (including the popular ski buses) to not charge a fare.
The goal is to try to increase ridership across UTA's entire system in northern Utah, removing cars from the roads and helping with air quality. Already, some cities have experimented with the idea.
"Transit that is fast, frequent and free was the first motivation to increase ridership in Provo," said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi, who said they saw a three-fold increase when the UTX bus was made free.
Others are using it as a data-collection tool to see if it can be made permanent.
"That’s absolutely something I'm interested in for Salt Lake City, for our air quality’s sake, but really for our livability. We have the fastest growing population in the nation, we’re geographically bound in these valleys," Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in an interview Tuesday with FOX 13. "The way people move has an impact on every household’s bottom line, the air that we breathe and the economy."
Under a bill passed last year by the Utah State Legislature, UTA can offer free fare on days when the air quality is at its worst.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, has already filed a bill in the Utah State Legislature to make all public transit across the state free, permanently. He told FOX 13 he estimated the cost would be roughly $50 million.
UTA said it was doing a "free fare February" at a cost of roughly $1.3 million. That's a combination of taxpayer dollars and contributions.