Public Transit in Utah Isn’t Very Public

Who has access to public transportat

Just this week the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Zions Bank announced they were giving away 2,500 free, one-week passes for the month of July. July is one of the worst months for Utah’s air quality, and the free passes are a part of the “Ride Clear UTA” program. The passes went up for grabs on Monday at 11:00 a.m., and sold-out by 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon. The pass entitles holders to seven consecutive days—a $50 value—on all of the UTA modes of transportation (lightrail, buses, express buses, and the commuter train). It isn’t surprising that those passes disappeared so quickly–Utah has some of the highest public transit fares in the nation.

Is our public transportation accessible to the public?

In addition to its positive environmental impact, isn’t public transportation supposed to be used by, well, the public? Moreover, isn’t it supposed to help increase mobility of people in the working-class that may not be able to purchase a car? Speaking from experience, $63-85 is enough to make or break the budget of some families, and you’re only paying $63 per month in Utah if you already qualify for state assistance.

How much does it cost?

A one-month pass for someone who does not qualify for any discounted rates is $83.75, and that particular pass doesn’t include access to the FrontRunner (the state’s commuter rail line that connects the North and South ends of the valley). You want access to the amazing service the FrontRunner has to offer? That will be $198 per month.

In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, it’s important to recognize the myriad of discount passes available, including:

  1. Student
  2. Senior (65+)
  3. Reduced (valid Medicare card holders and persons with disabilities who have been pre-qualified by UTA.)
  4. Low Income Discount/ Horizon Pass

Those discounts are great, and fortunately, there are more free passes in the works from Ride Clear UTA, but it isn’t enough. UTA needs to find a sustainable way to increase access for all, because if all of the public can’t get reasonable access to public transportation, who is it really for?

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