About 100 employees each day are signing up for Utah Transit Authority bus passes at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Hospital officials say the program is a hit.

So far, about 500 people have requested bus passes since the hospital began offering them free to employees as a benefit, hospital spokesman Anton Garrity said. The hospital is the first large company in the state to participate in such a program, aimed at reducing vehicle pollution and parking congestion as well as saving employees money."The biggest benefit to (employees) is your employer has provided you with more discretionary income," said Doug Bruno, UTA program sales coordinator.

The hospital hopes that at least one-fourth of its 2,300 employees will opt to go UTA. "Anything over 400 is more than we had anticipated," Garrity said.

Ken Walker, human resources director, is now traveling by bus from his home in Springville to the hospital.

"I come to work much more relaxed," Walker said.

For Walker, riding the bus means leaving home 45 minutes earlier in the morning; some of that time is spent walking to the nearest bus stop.

"You have to be willing to make some adjustments," he said. "But for me, it's worth it."

Since announcing the program, hospital officials have received calls from officials at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley Community College wanting to know more about it, Walker said.

And, UTA representatives on Monday met with Geneva Steel officials, who contacted them after hearing about the hospital program, to discuss alternate-transportation programs.

This week UTA officials are meeting with hospital employees to acquaint them with bus service and schedules.

Additional 20-minute seminars, to be held in the same location, are scheduled for:

- Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

- Thursday at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

- Friday at 7 and 10 a.m.

Some employees at Monday's meeting asked UTA to consider instituting more early morning runs and to add more routes. Alona Roach, UTA ride-share coordinator, said employees can petition UTA to make such changes.

Roach also said UTA has other programs that might work for employees unable to ride the bus. "Utah Lift" is a computerized ride-sharing program that matches drivers to riders in an area with similar driving and work patterns.

UTA also has a "commuter vanpool program," through which an individual with seven or more guaranteed riders can buy a van with a no-interest loan sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. The van must be used for the commute to work, but otherwise it is considered a personal vehicle.