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The Utah Transit Authority announced Wednesday it is beginning a yearlong experiment to allow free long-term parking at most of its TRAX and FrontRunner stations —┬ámaking it easier for airline passengers to leave their cars and use the new airport TRAX line.

"Many riders have expressed the desire for an affordable solution that would allow them to park their cars, get on a train and head straight to the airport," said UTA General Manager Michael Allegra. "Free extended parking will make it easier for riders to utilize our system as they travel out of town."

However, UTA is excluding seven parking lots that are often full or where zoning agreements ban overnight parking.

They include: Central Pointe, 2100 S. 221 West, Salt Lake City; Daybreak Parkway, 11405 S. Grandville Ave., South Jordan; Decker Lake 3070 S. 2200 West, West Valley City; Fashion Place West, 222 W. Winchester St., Murray; Millcreek, 3300 S. 210 West; Salt Lake Central Station, 325 S. 600 West; and the 11400 South Station on the Draper TRAX extension that will open in August.

UTA is also temporarily eliminating the current parking fees it charges at its Jordan Valley and Draper stations. Few people have paid for parking there anyway, and UTA officials recently said only 16-20 people per day pay at the Jordan Valley station — which has 1,200 parking spots in multimillion-dollar garages that UTA says were built mostly for future demand.

UTA said that during the next year, it will study parking lot usage, costs, maintenance requirements, impacts to snow removal and security issues before determining if the program will be extended.

UTA also said it will continue current security measures, which include patrols by UTA Police and video surveillance. It says it is not responsible for damage or theft and encourages people to practice common-sense precautions such as locking vehicles and making sure that valuables are not visible inside cars.

UTA also stresses that parking in its lots is allowed for transportation purposes only — and not for nearby stores or sporting events. Cars that have been abandoned or are being sold in the lots will be towed.

In considering the move to long-term parking, UTA said it evaluated rider feedback as well as parking practices at transit agencies around the nation. Agencies in many cities allow 24-hour free parking but charge for long-term parking, while others provide free extended parking.

Until now, UTA had banned parking for more than 24 hours in all but two parking lots, where it had charged for parking.

The new yearlong experiment comes after UTA board member Charles Henderson complained about that policy as the airport TRAX extension opened in April, saying airline travelers almost always will be away for more than 24 hours — and urged that the parking policy be reviewed.

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