The Free Fare Zone Survives in SLC

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.

As Kaid Benfield pointed out in July, public transit often has numerous “hidden” economic benefits. Richard Florida further noted that families living in transit-friendly areas also benefit.

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.

UTA recently decided that the benefits of a free fare zone in Salt Lake City outweigh the costs. Provo — where this picture was taken — doesn’t have a free fare zone, but the same lesson holds true with public transit generally.

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2 Comments

Filed under commuting, economics, utah

2 responses to “The Free Fare Zone Survives in SLC

  1. Rebecca

    This makes me super happy. I recently visited my brother in Portland and they are eliminating their free zone, which seems unfortunate. I think being able to have this really encourages public transportation in general and is a great benefit.

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