Free UTA passes disappear quickly – again

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A second round of free weekly Utah Transit Authority passes for July disappeared in 24 hours — just like the first round.

UTA and Zions Bank on Wednesday offered 1,500 free passes good for any seven consecutive days in July on buses, TRAX and FrontRunner — a $50 value — to people who registered at uta­ The passes had been snapped up by about 10 a.m. on Thursday. Last week, it also took a day to give away 2,500 passes.

"We're happy and excited about the response," said UTA spokesman Remi Barron. "It is something we can do to help clear the air" in a month when pollution typically is bad.

He said UTA is talking about giving away even more, if a sponsor will fund it. "We haven't made any decisions yet, but we may do more," Barron said.

The giveaways come as UTA has been struggling to increase ridership. Even though it added $1.2 billion in new rail lines in the past year, its ridership during the first four months of this year was essentially flat or down a bit from the same period a year earlier. UTA also had a fare increase in that time.

Earlier this year, Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, asked the Legislature to spend $9 million to allow everyone to ride UTA for free in July and January. He said that would allow collecting data on how free fares would increase ridership and help reduce air pollution during two of the worst months for air pollution. But budget writers did not act on his request.