This week a group of Utah physicians demanded a moratorium on mass transit fares for the remainder of the winter season, joining thousands of Utah residents who continually point to Utah Transit Authority as the key to the regions poor air quality. But UTA says the only way to realize increased ridership is to expand service, which can’t be done in the face of lost revenue.
Utah Transit Authority Spokesman Gerry Carpenter says it would cost UTA between 130 to 150 thousand dollars a day to offer free service. With an average of 50 to 60 red air days a year, that’s anywhere from 6 to 12 million dollars in revenue lost over the course of a year. Carpenter says that could cost UTA TRAX line.
“We need to make transit more available to people and not less available," Carpenter says. "And if we were to have a big hit to our budget by giving away all of our fare revenue, ultimately that would result in less transit, which would contribute to the problem.”
Jason Mathis is Executive Director of the Downtown Alliance. The organization recently partnered with Utah Kennecott Copper to give away 2500 UTA day passes in January to use on red air quality days. Mathis says the downtown alliance is looking for ways to expand the program.
"We’re going to talk to political leaders," Mathis says. "We’re going to talk to other corporations. But we think that this has some legs and even if people just do it when they have the free pass that’s a good thing. But obviously our big goal is to get people to do it all the time.”
A spokesperson for Kennecott says they bought the tickets at face value which cost them about $14,000. The free passes that were distributed are good through the end of March. That’s when UTA will determine if they saw an increase in ridership.