Downtown free fare zone may end for buses, not for TRAX

Published: Tuesday, March 20 2012 7:09 p.m. MDT

A Trax train moves up Main Street in front of the new City Creek Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 19, 2012. The Utah Transit Authority is considering ending the "free fare zone" for buses while maintaining the popular transit feature for light rail.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Getting around downtown on the bus may cost a little more in the not-so-distant future. The Utah Transit Authority is considering ending the "free fare zone" for buses while maintaining the popular transit feature for light rail.

UTA passengers currently ride for free when entering and exiting a fixed-route bus, paratransit vehicle or TRAX train within the designated boundaries of the free fare zone. If passengers begin their ride before entering the zone or exit after leaving the zone, they are asked to provide proof of payment.

According to UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter, the agency is in discussions to do away with the feature on buses in an effort to eliminate some of the operational challenges that come with the service, "due to the smaller amount of people that take advantage of the free fare benefit of the bus system compared to the TRAX system."

He said UTA will present the proposal to the Salt Lake City Council to get feedback on the change.

"We have an agreement with Salt Lake City and in order for anything to change, the agreement would need to be revised," Carpenter said. "At this point, it's a proposal. If they agree to it, then we would probably move fairly quickly on that change."

The free fare zone has been in existence since 1985. The agreement resulted from UTA's request to operate bus service in the downtown area, which was approved with the provision of free ridership downtown.

The popular feature has been a hit with business and convention travelers who utilize the service to move throughout the central business district, particularly on light rail.

UTA first floated the idea of changes to the free fare zone in December when the agency announced that it would investigate implementing a distance-based fare system similar to the one currently in use on FrontRunner commuter rail.

Among the chief considerations is how the changes might affect local businesses and entertainment destinations like the new City Creek Center, scheduled to open Thursday.

UTA general manager Michael Allegra said in December that the public should understand that the changes are just in the discussion phase, and more time is needed to include public input as well as more detailed analysis.

"We've received a proposal from UTA that will be considered by the council," said Art Raymond, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's office. "When it might be considered is up to the (council)."

Meanwhile, UTA announced new names for future stops along the two light rail lines that are currently under construction.

For the airport line that will run along North Temple to the Salt Lake City International Airport, new names will include: North Temple Bridge Station or North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe for the station atop the North Temple viaduct located at 490 W. North Temple; Jackson/Euclid Station would be located at 820 W. North Temple; Fairpark at 1150 W. North Temple; Power Station at 1480 W. North Temple; 1940 W. North Temple (no secondary name); an as yet unnamed future station to be located at 2200 W. North Temple; Airport Station at 700 N. Terminal Drive.

For the Draper TRAX Line, proposed stops are Crescent View Station at 361 E. 11400 South, Kimballs Lane Station at 11796 S. 700 East and Draper Town Center to be located at 1131 E. Pioneer Road (12300 South).

The names will be reviewed and voted on by the UTA board later this month.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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