SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4) — Riders on Utah Transit Authority services will be able to take advantage of free fares for two days this week to promote ridership and better air quality in Beehive State.

The zero fares will be available on all UTA services, including bus, TRAX, FrontRunner, S-Line streetcar, Paratransit, the Park City-SLC Connect, and UTA On Demand on Thursday, Aug. 17 and Friday, Aug. 18. Riders can also use a free Day Pass for the GREENbike by using promo code 8123 in the GREENbike BCycle app.

Zero fare days are decided in coordination between UTA and the Utah Division of Air Quality based on pollution level forecasts and health risks. In cases when the DAQ calls for a “Mandatory Action Day” to help bring down pollution levels, they work in tandem to with UTA to help cut back on extensive car usage.

“Riding transit is one of the best ways we can all improve air quality in Utah,” said UTA Board of Trustees Chair Carlton Christensen. “We encourage the community to take advantage of this Zero Fare promotional opportunity and take transit to your destination. Every personal vehicle we leave at home or at a UTA parking garage makes a difference for everyone, not just those who ride UTA.”

Utah Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Kim Shelley said that vehicles are the largest contributor to Utah’s air quality challenges along the Wasatch Front. She said that her department has seen people will make a choice to reduce pollution when barriers to using public transit are removed.

“Summertime ozone pollution is not something we can see like our winter inversions,” said Shelley. “But over the past few years, some of our worst air quality days have been in the summer months.”

According to IQAir, an air pollution monitoring service, Salt Lake City has consistently been in “good” levels of pollution. As cars hit the roads for peak travel time between 4 and 7 p.m., however, air quality significantly worsens to “moderate” levels of pollution.

IQAir forecasts pollution levels to rise in Salt Lake City through Monday, Aug. 21, but will still stay in green levels.

UTA says the Zero Fare for Clean Air is part of a science-driven effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. UTA said they have seen success with Zero Fare days in the past. In 2022, UTA reported 19% of their riders during their February Zero Fare days were new riders. Zero Fare days in September later that year also saw an increase of ridership of 12.7% on buses, 9% on FrontRunner and 5.9% on TRAX.

“We are thrilled to see the upcoming Zero Fare Days initiative taking shape, as it not only promotes collective action towards reducing air pollution but also sets a positive course for future state policy on accessible public transit,” said HEAL Utah Executive Director Lexi Tuddenham. “This project is a great step towards a cleaner and healthier future for all Utahns.”

Funding for the program was made possible by House Bill 353 in the 2019 General Legislative session.