Whatever’s fare

How about zero? Does zero work for you?

Salt Lake City may soon become the first major American city with free public transit, as voters and mayoral candidates get behind the idea 0f eliminating fares as a way of attacking rampant air pollution.

A new poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and the University of Utah found that almost three-quarters — 71 percent — of local voters said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support eliminating fares as a way to stimulate transit ridership and reduce air pollution from private vehicles.

Meanwhile, at least two candidates of the eight candidates in the city’s August 12 nonpartisan primary election have pledged to eliminate transit fares, while others have said they would consider the idea.

Air pollution is the top concern for Salt Lake City residents, according to a recent poll, ahead of homelessness and affordable housing. Built in a natural basin, Salt Lake City suffers frequent “inversions,” a weather condition that traps fine-particle pollution close to the ground. The city’s inversions cause many health problems among the elderly and people with asthma or heart conditions.

Given the concern, a “majority or plurality support across all age, education, religious and gender groups in the city” support fare-free transit in order to remedy the situation, the Tribune’s Lee Davison writes of the survey, with 85 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of independents approving the idea. Republicans, who are a minority in Salt Lake City, do not tend to support the proposal.

With the possible exception of Ernest Istook, former 5th District Representative from Oklahoma, of whom local rail fan Tom Elmore once complained:

While he was talking down rail development using a wealth of existing assets in Oklahoma — he was using Oklahoma-derived tax dollars to fund extensive light rail and commuter rail development in the home of his “spiritual brethren,” Salt Lake City, Utah.

Simultaneously, he funded ODOT’s needless destruction of OKC Union Station’s rail yard, last then-unused, grand, capital-city rail passenger hub in the West with all its original train-handling space intact and center of Oklahoma’s 900-mile state-owned railway network.

And where is Istook now? Last I heard, he was teaching poli-sci stuff at Utah Valley University.


  1. Roger O Green »

    11 August 2019 · 1:42 pm

    I had never considered that. I’m intrigued.

  2. CGHill »

    11 August 2019 · 1:44 pm

    Well, if the fare is two bucks and the transit system loses $1.75 a trip, what’s another quarter?

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