A world-traveling friend of mine told me that the price of gasoline in several cities in Europe is the equivalent of $10 per gallon. Given that, citizens opt to ride bikes and use mass transit. Some places have even gone the route of free public transportation funded by national or local government taxes or even private sponsorship.
Kansas City, Mo., announced last month that it was going to make bus rides free to the public in 2020. That means free all the time, saving people $1.50 per ride and $50 per month in the hopes more people will use the service, and travel to areas they might not have gone to without a car. Salt Lake City has a free-fare zone that is poorly advertised and had been used frequently by people staying in and around The Road Home shelter to get to social services and the Main Library in the winter. The zone runs from South Temple south to 500 South and 200 East west to 400 West. It also includes the Central Station on 600 West and the State Capitol. It's perfect for people who work downtown and can jump on a bus or Trax to get lunch at The Gateway or shop at City Creek, but it's the only free-fare zone in Utah that I'm aware of. UTA has previously offered free-fare days paid for by the SLC Mayor's Office, Davis County and Intermountain Healthcare to help cut down on pollution and introduce more people to the benefits of using public transportation.
The biggest complaint people have about UTA is that they can't easily get to their home to a bus stop or Trax station. Voila! UTA launched Via last November. It's UTA on-demand and operates out of the south part of Salt Lake County in Bluffdale, Draper, Herriman, Riverton and South Jordan. It's a one year experiment to enhance connectivity. You download the Via app and you are able to request a small UTA shuttle bus to the stops to catch the available transportation. It's available now from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and has wheelchair-accessible vehicles all for $2.50 per ride (seniors and reduced fare riders get a 50% discount). For more information visit ridewithvia.com.
I served on the UTA board for two years until the legislature revamped the board's governing structure. I believed all transportation options offered by UTA should be free for everyone. Obviously, I didn't get too far with my agenda, but many agreed that UTA should always be moving forward to bring better solutions to public transportation with more routes, better fares or no fares at all. Kansas City has a smaller overall system than ours, but maybe the board chair could carve out more free zones to benefit more riders as well as lighten the air we breathe.