Lawmakers Want Funding To Increase Public Transportation Participation

Mar 4, 2019

The Utah House has approved a measure to provide free public transportation to measure air quality improvements
Credit Salt Lake Tribune

A majority of Utah lawmakers in the House have approved a plan they hope will reduce air pollution in Utah by encouraging more people to use trains and buses.

A measure to pay for 17 days of free transit days over the next 3 years cleared the Utah House of Representatives on Monday.

Rep. Joel Briscoe (District 25) says his bill is about trying to get ahead of bad air days in Utah. 

"So this fund of 1.2 million dollars would fund 17 days of free fare transit," he said. "The money would go to the Division of Air Quality where the meteorologists and scientists would say, like they did in December 2016, 'hey we see a bad inversion coming - give people three days notice... can you work at home next week? If you can't can you carpool? If you can't carpool, if you need to get out, can you use public transit? And to incentivize you to use public transit, it's free." 

Rep. Briscoe says his bill would also include a plan to track the effectiveness of the free fare days, adding the idea had worked in the past.

"This was done in December of 2017, on December 22nd - about 14 months ago - on a one-day trial period and [there was a] 23 percent ridership increase, another 19,000 people boarded," he said. "[It] took a lot of cars off the road."

The estimated cost of running UTA trains and buses for free would be about $70,000 per day. State funding would largely go to cover UTA's losses for uncollected fares. 

House Bill 353 cleared the chamber on a 47-26 vote and now heads to the state senate.