UTA ridership spikes during ‘Free Fare February’

Apr 6, 2022, 3:35 PM
FILE (Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)...
FILE (Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)
(Photo: Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Utahns could not resist the pull of a free ride on UTA trains and busses during the “Free Fare February” experiment, according to a just-completed report.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall proposed the idea in December as a way to cut pollution during what is typically one of the poorest air quality months along the Wasatch Front.

The UTA Board of Trustees approved the month of free fares on January 26, 2022.


“The success of Free Fare February proves that people are far more likely to ride public transit when barriers like cost are removed and I can’t wait to work with our partners to find more opportunities to expand free transit,” said Mendenhall.


A news release said UTA services increased in February were up by large margins compared to January.

UTA said it saw ridership averages grow significantly on all services. Ridership on weekdays increased 16%, FrontRunner grew 35.7% for the month, and UTA On Demand saw a 23% increase.

Saturdays saw the biggest increases with Frontrunner up a whopping 202%, 74.5% for Trax, and overall ridership up 58%.  Average ridership on Sundays increased 32.5% overall, 144% on UTA On Demand alone.

Mendenhall said, “UTA and all of our partners have been tremendous for buying into this idea and making an air quality advocate’s dream come true.”

UTA said 5,000 riders responded to a survey that showed more than half of them used UTA services in February because it was free and 87% said they were likely to keep riding on UTA if services were free.

An analysis by UTA found the air quality benefit increased as much as 67% according to the news release.

“We’re proud to work with our state, regional, and local partners for cleaner air in Utah,” said UTA Board of Trustees Chair Carlton Christensen. “Free Fare February was a success. Transit is part of a healthier, vibrant quality of life in Utah. We encourage everyone to ride UTA instead of driving, you can help counter the negative effects of harmful pollution and reduce congestion on our roads and highways.”

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UTA ridership spikes during ‘Free Fare February’