SALT LAKE CITY — A bill introduced ahead of the 2022 legislative session would make all public transit in Utah free.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, filed House Bill 164, which would block public transit districts in the state from charging a fare to passengers. Rep. Briscoe told FOX 13 it is an extension of earlier legislation he passed that subsidizes transit fares on days when Utah's air quality is poor to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto the bus.
"We know that when we offer UTA without fares, we get increased ridership," he said. "So if we want cleaner air days, let’s provide some alternative means for driving cars and trucks."
The fiscal note on such legislation would not be cheap. Rep. Briscoe estimated that it would cost the state between $30 to $50 million. But he argued that it would increase mobility and ridership in Utah and encourage an expansion of transit coverage across the state.
Rep. Briscoe said he did not know how it would fare in the Utah State Legislature, but hoped it would spark a discussion about mass transit.
According to Dr. Brian Moench, president of the organization Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, vehicles are to blame for half of normal air pollution.
“Anything we can do to get people to start using mass transit or get out of their cars and walk and bike — all that’s very useful,” he said.
Moench said there are many benefits to this bill and is hoping it’ll pass.
“We hope they understand that this is really a public emergency and to address our air pollution in a very meaningful way. This isn’t going to take care of all of it, but it will certainly help,” he said.