‘No Fare February’ being proposed for UTA to help clean the air

Jan 25, 2022, 7:29 AM | Updated: 7:50 am
FILE (Keith Johnson, Deseret News)...
FILE (Keith Johnson, Deseret News)
(Keith Johnson, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A “No Fare February” has been proposed for the Utah Transit Authority. Salt Lake County councilman Richard Snelgrove is sponsoring the movement, due in part to a recent Brigham Young University study published in the journal Atmosphere.

The report noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has formally proposed reclassifying polluted airsheds along the Wasatch Front as being in compliance with federal standards for fine particulates (PM 2.5) in Utah’s battle with inversions in the winter.

BYU’s study revealed that poor air quality — particularly during the winter inversions — has contributed to a two-year reduction in life expectancy for residents along the Wasatch Front. Researchers estimated the direct and indirect costs of air pollution cost Utahns $1.9 billion annually.

The “No Fare February” proposal will be discussed at the Salt Lake County Council meeting on Tuesday. Snelgrove suggests using $400,000 from the county’s dedicated transportation fund and other financial partners. Based on past, smaller-scale efforts, a 10% increase in ridership is anticipated. Such success would eliminate tens of thousands of vehicle miles traveled from local roads and eliminate thousands of tons of pollution.

This would be the first time UTA went fare-free for an entire month.

“I am encouraged by progress in recent decades to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front compared to conditions that existed here as recently as 20 years ago,” Snelgrove said. “However, seeking ways to improve our air quality must be an ongoing quest.”

Results will be used to evaluate future inversion seasons.

“We must always seek the highest and best use of tax dollars when determining what expenditures will do the most good for the most people,” Snelgrove said. “Improving air quality is something that will clearly benefit us all.”

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‘No Fare February’ being proposed for UTA to help clean the air