How did UTA’s Free Fare February play out?

Apr 6, 2022, 4:58 PM

A train at a stop during Free Fare February....

UTA Trax train stops at the North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe Station in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority released its final report on Free Fare February on Wednesday. Free Fare February was an effort by UTA and Salt Lake City to improve air quality and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Results from Free Fare February

UTA reported it saw a bump in ridership during Free Fare February, especially during weekends, compared with January ridership.

Chairman of the Board of the UTA Carlton Christensen spoke to Jeff Caplan’s Afternoon News about the bump in ridership.

“Overall on weekdays we saw just a little over 16% [increased] ridership but on the weekends we had 58% increase on Saturdays and 32% on Sundays. And on Sundays, we don’t run FrontRunner service so that’s pretty telling,” Christensen said.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the month proved that people are more likely to use public transit when barriers like cost are removed.

For its report, UTA surveyed riders during the month of February. Over half of the riders surveyed said they rode in February because the fare was free.

Mendenhall originally suggested the idea of Free Fare February.

Christensen said that February’s increased ridership also stood out because of the negative impact the pandemic had on the transportation industry.

“Transit was hit pretty hard when people quit going to work and school and it’s slowly been coming back. But this was a nice bump over the prior month and certainly over the last two years.”

UTA going forward

UTA thinks more people will turn to public transit after testing it out for free, according to Christensen. UTA’s report noted that 21.8% of riders surveyed in February were new to riding transit.

Christensen said there could be more free riding opportunities in the future for extended periods. He said those opportunities might come particularly during times of poor air quality. 

Free Fare February was a success, according to Christensen, highlighting the focus on transit from both local officials and the public.

Related: UTA gives safety tips after FrontRunner car crash

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How did UTA’s Free Fare February play out?