According to Cox in Utah’s budget, UTA’s public transit could soon be free

A legislative proposal to make UTA free for drivers was defeated during the 2022 legislature.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The FrontRunner shuttle train stops at South Jordan Station on Thursday, May 6, 2021. In his proposed fiscal year 2024 budget, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox proposed making UTA rides free for passengers.

If according to Gov. Spencer Cox, riding public transit in Utah would be a steal.

In the governor’s recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, travel with the Utah Transit Authority would be free for all drivers. The feasibility study would cost $25.5 million, according to the governor’s plan.

“We think that with this year-long pilot program, we can really see what happens,” Cox said during a news conference on Friday, “it’s a win-win — we have the money to fund it … But that’s good.” for clean air, freeing cars from our congested roads is good and we believe it will make a big difference in the long run.”

Cox’s proposal, part of his two-day budget rollout, called for UTA services — including buses, Trax light rail and the Frontrunner passenger train — to be free for a year, though it’s not immediately clear when those dates might be.

Cox said Friday the free plans could start next summer or fall. The proposal would be part of fiscal year 2024, which will run from July 1, 2023 through the following June.

In May, during a monthly news conference, Cox said he supports the idea of ​​free transit across the state, citing it as a way for Utahns to combat high gas prices. However, House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, later told The Salt Lake Tribune there was not much support for free or discounted fares for transit.

State Assemblyman Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, proposed free transit fares in a bill during the 2022 legislative session, but the bill did not pass.

Briscoe told The Tribune that he met with Cox’s staff earlier this year and discussed the possibility of making public transit free, but the governor’s office didn’t say if free transit would be part of the latest budget proposal . The Democrat said he was unaware of Cox’s proposal until he was contacted by a reporter from The Tribune.

“I love it, I think it’s a great thing,” Briscoe said. “I’m glad he puts his money where his mouth is.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said on the City Cast Salt Lake podcast that Cox would propose free transit as part of his budget recommendations.

“I was just speaking to the governor’s office yesterday, there will be a proposal… I hope I’m not breaking news here,” the Republican said on the podcast released Monday.

“I hope you are,” said Ali Vallarta, host of City Cast Salt Lake.

“There will be a proposal to make UTA free for everyone for a whole year and see what we get out of it,” Weiler said.

The governor’s proposal comes almost a year after the UTA held Free Fare February. According to a report by UTA, the action resulted in a 16% increase in weekday ridership and reduced pollution. Cox said on Friday he hopes for another Free Fare February in 2023.

Like all of the governor’s budget proposals, free fares for the UTA would have to be approved by the legislature.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2022/12/09/should-it-be-free-ride-utahs/ According to Cox in Utah’s budget, UTA’s public transit could soon be free

Justin Scacco

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