Salt Lake residents have some new incentives to use mass transit this summer. The region is experiencing a summer inversion with high ozone pollution accompanying the high temperatures. And in time for the inversion, prices have dropped on fares on Utah Transit Authority’s buses and trains.
On July 1, transit riders paying with the FAREPAY card, a prepaid card valid on all UTA buses and trains, will pay just $1.50 for a one-way trip on any local bus. TRAX and S-Line riders using the card will continue to pay $2.00. On the same day, group passes will drop from $15 to $10. Group passes include round trip travel for four passengers on FrontRunner, TRAX and buses. Group passes are only valid on the day of purchase.
State air quality monitors project that current high levels of ozone pollution will continue to rise. Air monitors in Salt Lake recorded nine days in June in which the City’s ozone levels exceeded the federal standard. With temperatures expected to stay sunny and warm well into July, the number of days exceeded the federal standard should grow.
Ozone pollution, or smog, is caused when chemical emissions from vehicles tailpipes and smokestacks mix with the prolonged summer sunlight and heat.
High ozone pollution can have serious health Seth Arens, an environmental scientist with the Department of Air Quality, told the Salt Lake Tribune that high ozone pollution, “essentially sunburns your lungs and causes inflammation.”
July’s fare reductions will be followed by expanded service hours in August. Beginning August 16, Sunday TRAX hours will be extended to match Saturday’s schedule, with the last trains leaving Downtown around 11:30 p.m. The S-Line streetcar will run two hours later to match TRAX hours. Currently the last train leaves Fairmont Station at 9:20 p.m. on weekdays. UTA will expand service hours to select bus routes with Routes 55 and 220 becoming high frequency routes, running every 15 minutes.
UTA could be making significant enhancements to its transit service next year if a proposed transportation sales tax makes it the 2015 election ballot. The local option sales tax would fund municipal transportation projects, with 40 percent going toward UTA, 40 percent to the city and 20 percent to the county.
In a June 16 Council meeting, the Salt Lake City Council adopted a resolution supporting placing the transportation sales tax on November’s ballot.