The first time that University of Utah football tickets were also good all day for free transit fare, ridership on the Utah Transit Authority's TRAX system was up by 27 percent compared to other days this week.
TRAX had 84,109 boardings on Thursday, the day of the football opener between the U. and Utah State University at Rice-Eccles Stadium, said UTA spokeswoman Erika Shubin.
With the help of extra trains and buses after the game, "we were able to clear the rail platform at the stadium in 43 minutes," she said.
"In addition to regular service, prior to the game we ran five trains from Draper to Stadium Station, with four buses to assist with overloaded trains," she said. "After the game, we had five additional four-car trains staged, along with eight buses."
She added, "We are continuing to refine and improve the operations for the next home game, which will take place on a Saturday. In addition to additional TRAX service, we will increase FrontRunner service to accommodate games taking place that day for the U. and BYU. We will announce the service plan as game day draws closer."
The University of Utah paid UTA $300,000 to let its sports tickets serve as free fare on game days for football, gymnastics, basketball, soccer and volleyball games and for high school football and basketball tournaments held at the university during the 2013-14 academic year.
The tickets are good for fare all day on game days for TRAX, FrontRunner and regular buses.
Alma Allred, director of commuter services at the university, said the move was designed to decrease the demand for parking during athletic events and "to enhance the university's commitment to sustainability."
With the help of extra TRAX trains at football games last year, 4,500 fans were moved off campus within a half hour after the games. The U. hopes that up to 10,000 people may use transit for each football game this year.
The University of Utah already has been one of the larger purchasers of UTA passes and fares. An analysis by The Tribune last year showed that the university spent $3.3 million then for UTA passes for students and staff, providing by itself 8.3 percent of all UTA fare revenue that year.