UTA offers free rides on Dec. 21-22 as part of clean air program

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(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – On Dec. 21-22, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) will have two Free Fare for Clean Air days. The program is a partnership with the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ), the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR), and the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah).

The fare will be free on all UTA bus and rail services, as well as the Ski Bus, paratransit service, the Park City-SLC Connect, and UTA On Demand.

GREENBike will also offer a promo code during the free fare days that will provide 24 hours of free service.

Funding for the free fare days was made possible by House Bill 353 (HB353), sponsored by Representative Joel Briscoe during the 2019 Legislative Session. The bill authorizes a three-year pilot program where all UTA services will be free on certain days and will provide $500,000 to fund several Free Fare for Clean Air days.

The Free Fare for Clean Air program is part of an effort to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front by encouraging more people to consider using public transit as an alternative to driving.

Bryce Bird, air quality director for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, says, “During cold winter inversion days when pollution starts to build along the Wasatch Front, it is important that we all take actions to reduce our individual emissions. Keeping cars off the road and taking public transit is a great way to reduce these emissions and protect human health.”

The UDEQ’s Division of Air Quality continuously monitors Utah’s air shed to identify when levels of ozone and particulate matter, or particle pollution (a complex mixture of small solid particles and liquid droplets in the air), are unhealthy.

Particulate matter (PM) can be large enough to see, as well as fine enough to only be seen through a microscope. Things like soot, smoke, dust, or dirt are examples of large particulate matter. This type of particulate matter (known as primary PM) often comes from construction sites, wildfires, wood burning, gravel pits, agricultural activities, and dusty roads.

The finer, microscopic type of particulate matter (known as secondary PM) is formed in the atmosphere through complex chemical reactions. Things like nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulfur dioxides (SO2), and ammonia contribute to the formation of secondary particulate matter. These compounds are released from power plants, industry, vehicles, small businesses, buildings, and homes.

The division calls a Mandatory Action Day whenever unhealthy pollutions levels are seen, and encourages the avoidance of activities such as wood burning, operation of gas-powered yard equipment, and extensive use of automobiles.

The UTA and the Division of Air Quality communicate regularly to find the best time frames to schedule free fare days. When air quality is projected to be unhealthy (red or orange on the DAQ index), the UTA and DAQ will announce one or more free fare days.

In order to take advantage of the program, download the Transit app here.

If you want to plan a trip, here is a list of maps and schedules.

The UTA will still require masks in compliance with the current federal order from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Children under 2 years of age as well as those who have a medical condition preventing them from being able to wear a mask are exempt from the mask requirement.

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