UTA free fare days could be used to combat air pollution

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SALT LAKE CITY – The Wasatch Front has been covered with a thick blanket of smog and pollution, but there could soon be a new tool to fight the murky inversion in the future — and the Utah Transit Authority may help.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert wants to set aside $100 million in 2020 for cleaner air. Part of that money would go toward free public transportation days during times of poor air quality.

UTA spokesman Carl Arky said a lot of details still need to be worked out before a solid plan can come into picture, but agreed the public transportation system offered a way to reduce the level of pollution created by commuter vehicles.

“How can we respond? How quickly can we respond? What would it take to do so? There’s a million moving parts and we look forward to the challenge of figuring that out,” Arky said.

UTA organized a Free Fare Friday in December 2017. Ridership went up about 23 percent that day. Arky said the increase in ridership proved both that people will use public transportation and that UTA can pull it off.

That free day, in particular, cost about $75,000, according to Arky.

“I think UTA is ready,” Arky added. “We just want to sit down, and we want to hear what the governor’s office is thinking, and what they’re thinking up at Capitol Hill, and work with them.”

While Herbert has $100 million earmarked for cleaner air, it’s not clear how much of that would go towards the free fare days.

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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.


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