UTA announced today that it will keep the free fare zone in downtown Salt Lake City. The actual experience of using the zone will be altered, but people will still be able to ride the bus without paying in downtown Salt Lake City.
The announcement concludes an evaluation that began earlier this year when UTA considered eliminating the free fare zone. Though the proposal was attacked, UTA cited “minimal” financial costs of as much as $200,000 per year, as well as operational inefficiencies, as contributing reasons to get rid of the zone.
Tuesday’s announcement seems to strike the right balance by correcting the inefficiencies of the system while preserving a useful amenity.
The point is that while a free fare zone may cost taxpayers a little bit up front, there are an array of benefits to bolstering and capitalizing on the existing system. That’s also true of larger public transit systems which may not always be immediately profitable but offer an economically advantageous amenity for cities.