Free Fare Day took place on Feb. 28 and March 1. The day allowed anyone who wanted to ride Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to do so for free. The purpose of Free Fare Day is to help cut down on air pollution and the risk of inversion in Utah. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson decided to ride Trax to work on Friday morning in order to show her support for the initiative.
Before taking her ride, Wilson expressed her support behind the two days of free fare. “Throughout the course of my career — first as a Congressional staffer and now as Mayor — I’m a strong supporter of expanding our public transportation system,” she said. “With growth, congestion and air quality concerns, our TRAX and bus system is vital to our quality of life. I encourage county residents to also hop on a bus or train today and tomorrow.”
The mayor caught the train at the University Medical Trax Station close to her home. She walked to the station, accompanied by two of her staff, and boarded the train at 8:34 a.m. Wilson then rode the train to Central Point Station and then walked to her office near the station. Her goal was to get to work only using public transportation and her own two legs and demonstrate her support for, as well as the accessibility of, using the UTA system.
Currently, there is a bill proposed at the state congress level in Utah that would allow for more free fare days as well as a decrease in the price to ride UTA operated transportation. According to Wilson, Salt Lake County supports the bill, and she said, “We are hopeful about that [the bill] passing.” The goal would be to make public transportation accessible to more people in order to improve air quality for those in Utah.
If the proposed bill becomes a law, Wilson said “it would be great to align the Free Fare days with these inversions.” The inversions in Utah occur when the cold air gets trapped and mixed with the pollution. While there are natural causes to the inversions, a lot of it has to do with the level of pollution in the valley. By having days available when Trax is free, inversions may be reduced.
Wilson suggests “looking at models in the UTA” as well as other models in other places moving forward in order to “have a holistic system in place.” As her term as Salt Lake County mayor continues, Wilson will more than likely continue to seek improvements to the UTA systems over the next two years — especially since UTA has a large impact in Salt Lake County and on the inversions that spread across the valley.
Many U students rely on Trax and the UTA bus systems as a way to get to the campus. A UTA pass is included with tuition cost, so the Free Fare days may not impact students too much as far as cost. However, the Free Fare days will make it easier for other people to ride UTA as an alternative to driving which will help with the air quality for those on campus.