UTA Announces Free Fare Days on Thursday and Friday, August 12-13, 2021

In partnership with the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ), the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), and the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) Utah, the Utah Transit Authority has announced two Free Fare for Clean Air days. 

On Thursday and Friday, August 12-13, the fare will be free on all UTA bus and rail services, including paratransit, the Park City-SLC Connect, and UTA’s new On-Demand micro transit service in southwestern Salt Lake County. GREENBike is also offering a special promo code during the free fare days providing 24 hours of free service.

How to Ride UTA

The easiest way to plan your trip is by downloading the Transit app, available in the App Store or Google Play. You can also visit www.rideuta.com to plan your trip with Google or view bus and rail schedules, route maps, stop locations and more. If you need more assistance, please call UTA Customer Service at 801-RIDEUTA (801-743-3882) between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Masks are required on UTA in compliance with the current federal order from the Centers for Disease Control. Children under 2 years of age as well as employees and riders who have a medical condition preventing them from being able to wear a mask are exempt from the mask requirement.

Working Together for Clean Air

“In early 2019 UTA had two consecutive sponsored free fare days, and we saw a 16 percent increase in ridership,” said Carlton Christensen, UTA Board of Trustees Chair. “We look forward to building on that success with this program, further increasing awareness among the public about how they can help improve our air quality by riding public transit.”

The Free Fare for Clean Air program is part of a science-driven effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front by helping to encourage more people to consider using transit as an alternative to driving. Funding for the free fare days was made possible by House Bill 353 (HB353) sponsored by Representative Joel Briscoe during the 2019 Legislative Session. 

“We’re teaching learned behavior, once people realize how easy it can be to take transit, we hope more will make it their routine,” said Rep. Briscoe. As a legislator, I’m thrilled to see so many organizations partnering to make this happen. Air pollution is a policy problem we can solve when we put our minds together and when we’re all committed.” 

HB353 authorized a three-year pilot program where all UTA services will be free on certain qualifying days. The bill provides $500,000 to fund several Free Fare for Clean Air days.

“The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is excited for the opportunity to partner with UTA by providing the forecasts that will initiate the free fare days,” says Bryce Bird, air quality director for DEQ’s Division of Air Quality. “During warm, sunny summer days when pollution starts to build along the Wasatch Front, it is important that we all take actions to reduce our individual emissions. Keeping cars off the road and taking public transit is a great way to reduce these emissions and protect human health.”  

When Are Free Fare Days Announced?

The decision to declare Free Fare Days is coordinated between UTA and DAQ based on science and health risk. The DAQ constantly monitors Utah’s air shed to identify when levels of ozone as well as particulate matter are unhealthy.  When unhealthy pollution levels are forecast, the Division calls a Mandatory Action Day, which indicates critical periods when Utahns should avoid high-emitting activities such as wood burning, operation of gasoline-powered yard equipment, and extensive automobile usage.  For more information, visit air.utah.gov.

Ozone is an odorless, colorless gas made up of three oxygen molecules (O3) and is a natural part of the environment. It occurs both in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, or stratosphere (the “good” ozone that protects us from solar radiation), and at ground level in the lower atmosphere, or troposphere (the “bad” ozone that forms during sunny summer days that causes health problems). Reducing trips through riding transit, telework, or other measures helps reduce emissions of ozone precursors, thereby limiting the formation of ozone.

UTA and the Department of Air Quality communicate regularly to identify optimal time frames to implement free fare days. When air quality is projected to be unhealthy (red or orange on the DAQ index) during those time frames, UTA and DAQ will coordinate to announce one or more free fare days.

“Over the past year and a half, we have seen what an impact driving less can have on our air quality, revealing that air quality improvements are possible with collective action,” said Kim Frost, UCAIR Executive Director. “We are excited that the legislature funded this program and we encourage everyone to try transit, see how it can work for you, and by keeping your car off the road, reduce your emissions.”

“The more we can get out of our cars and onto UTA buses and trains, the cleaner our air will be,” Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director HEAL Utah said. “The Free Fare Day program will ideally not just reduce emissions for a day or two, but will help all of us discover the trade-offs of incorporating public transportation into our daily lives, no traffic, no parking, and air that’s easier to breathe for everyone.” 

All the partners are very excited about this program and the opportunity to increase awareness and engagement with the community about the impact we can have on our air quality by changing our transportation habits.

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For more on what you can do to improve our air quality, click here