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UTA Free Fare Days Allow Commuters To Try Public Transit, Including PC-SLC Bus

Utah Transit Authority

People who commute between Park City and Salt Lake City can do so for free two days this week—if they can make the bus on time. 

The Utah Transit Authority, three local municipalities and Intermountain Health Care are sponsoring free fare days on Thursday and Friday for all UTA modes of transit, to encourage ridership and support air-quality efforts. When UTA hosted a free-fare day in 2017, it reported nearly 32,000 additional combined boardings for its Frontrunner, TRAX trains and buses. UTA says that number equates to removing more than 17,000 vehicles from roads.

The PC-SLC Connect bus is the only UTA route that services Park City, going from the Kimball Junction Transit Center to various stops in Salt Lake. One-way fare costs $4.50, and riders can buy a monthly pass for $162.

Brad Allenick lives in Summit Park and has been riding the PC-SLC Connect daily from home to work for over two years. Although his bus travel time clocks in at almost double what it would take to drive, Allenick says the extra minutes are worth it. He takes the bus for two reasons.

“Environmental, trying to minimize driving a car alone on a daily basis for that distance as well as the bus just makes the commute much more enjoyable," Allenick said. "It’s relaxing, the seats are comfortable, I can stare out the window at the mountains, or I can read, or I can sleep, listen to music.”

Allenick pays for each individual trip he takes, which he says is more cost-effective for him than buying a monthly pass. But the fare isn’t so much a concern to him as the frequency of the routes. Allenick says he’s noticed more riders over the years but not more departure times.

“I catch the 6:17 a.m. bus. There’s another one at 7:20—those are my morning options, generally, that work for me," Allenick said. "Then, in the evening, the latest one is 6:20, and if I want to stay downtown a little bit later, I don’t really have an option—I have to catch that last bus.”

Kimball Junction resident Vanessa Hartley feels similarly, except, with the way the bus is scheduled, the PC-SLC Connect isn’t even an option for her. She works very specific hours at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City and says she—and three other health care workers in her neighborhood—would love to take the bus to and from work.

“For a typical shift for me I start at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and I work until usually 8 at night or 8 in the morning," Hartley said. "So, the buses would get us there just on time, I believe, like just on time, with no time to spare, and then they leave, I want to say, an hour too early for us to catch the bus back.”

She and her neighbors have written to UTA over the years to request more service, Hartley says, but haven’t received any encouraging responses. To reduce their environmental impact, Hartley says they carpool as much as possible but would prefer to take the bus.

“It would be super convenient, especially with our shifts, if we could take the commuter, because most of us are exhausted on our way home, and it’s much safer to take the bus than driving.”

The PC-SLC Connect is jointly funded by Park City, Summit County and UTA. Park City Transportation Manager Alfred Knotts says the three parties coordinate scheduling and service planning. Knotts says more departure times were added two years ago.

"We usually don’t try to adjust too much over a one-to-two-year period because we like to see if the ridership demand builds as a result of that additional investment," Knotts said. "So, when we did increase that frequency and that service, we all agreed between all parties that we would contribute additional dollars.”

According to UTA spokesperson Carl Arky, total ridership for the PC-SLC Connect exceeded 50,000 in 2018, averaging 4,000-6,000 passengers each month. Because the bus operates outside UTA’s transit district, Arky says Park City and Summit County would have to request additional service and agree to subsidize the costs of extra buses, operators and fuel.

Commuters who want to try the PC-SLC Connect can visit rideuta.com for schedules and stop locations.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.