The free fare zone area covers 600 West to 200 East and from North Temple to 500 South in Salt Lake City. The change would affect students attending the Library Square campus as well as the SLCC Community Writing Center.
“Part of the problem with it is that the price of the subsidized passes has gone up recently,” said Sean Carmack, a SLCC staff member at Library Square Campus.
The UTA blog cites that many of the free fare zones for buses are within walking distance of TRAX stations. TRAX will remain free within this zone, so riders should not be affected.
In exchange for the Salt Lake City’s rights of way for TRAX, UTA agreed in 1996 to provide free bus and light rail service in the downtown area for 100 years. UTA now proposes paying the city $100,000 to stop the free service. They report they are losing about $200,000 every year in revenue from the service.
UTA said during the Twitter chat that this issue was not solely about revenue but it was also a security and safety issue. They responded saying that “20% of the people riding were using the system for purposes other than transit” referring to drug dealing taking place on the buses and that they have had “numerous incidents of criminal behavior.”
Part of the concern of those who oppose the elimination of the free fare zone is the effects on the lower income and homeless population who take advantage of the free public transportation to get around the downtown area.
“The city library is one of the last few public spaces open to everyone,” said Andrea Malouf, director of the SLCC Community Writing Center. “People who are low income have a hard enough time getting here because of the meter prices have all changed, and the parking down below is really expensive.”
Malouf expressed her concern about how the change would hurt their work with many people throughout the community. She said that it can be hard for people from lower incomes to get to the library without the free fare zones.
UTA posted on their blog about new low-income programs they have instituted in the last year and of providers that they offer discounted fares to. Students can purchase an Ed-Pass that provides discounted fares.
The change to the downtown service would not take in effect until August of this year after negotiations are worked out through the city.
UTA will hold a public hearing regarding the bus free fare zone on Thursday, June 21, 2012 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the UTA FrontLines Headquarters at 669 W. 200 S. in Salt Lake City.