UTA Announces Free Fare Day on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 21-22!

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 Tuesday and Wednesday, December 21-22 the fare will be free on all UTA bus and rail services, as well as the Ski Bus, paratransit service, the Park City-SLC Connect, and UTA On Demand in southwestern Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City – Westside. 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 plan your trip with Google or view our Maps and Schedules. 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 still required on UTA in compliance with the current federal order from the Transportation Security Administration. 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
“The free fare days held August 12-13 saw a five percent increase in bus ridership and a 12 percent increase in FrontRunner ridership,” said Carlton Christensen, UTA Board of Trustees Chair. “We are excited to build on that success with more free fare days, continuing this program’s efforts to increase awareness about how we can 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 cold winter inversion 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.”

Partners Support Efforts to Reduce Emissions
“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,” said Lexi Tuddenham, Executive Director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah. “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.”

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.

Particulate matter (PM), also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of small solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. Some particulate matter, like soot, smoke, dust, or dirt, is large enough to see. Fine particulate matter is so small that it can only be seen through an electron microscope. Particle pollution is produced by both primary and secondary sources. Primary particulate matter is emitted directly from construction sites, wildfires, wood burning, gravel pits, agricultural activities, and dusty roads.

Secondary particulate matter is formed in the atmosphere through complex chemical reactions. PM2.5 precursors such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxides (SO2), and ammonia contribute to the formation of secondary fine particulates. Precursors that lead to the formation of PM2.5 are emitted by a variety of sources, including power plants, industry, vehicles, small businesses, buildings, and homes. Reducing trips through riding transit, teleworking, carpooling, trip chaining, or other measures helps reduce emissions of particulates and particulate precursors.

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.

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.