By Bianca Pahl
Clean air was an important factor in Wednesday night’s vote against charging a fare for public transportation, Cache Valley Transit District board members and officials said.
According to the transit district, about 40 percent of riders have access to a vehicle but choose to ride the bus. If ridership decreased because of a fare, district general manager Todd Beutler said, more residents would have been driving individual vehicles.
The transit district has reported that its busses emit the same amount of pollution on an average day as a single car.
“We want to help keep cars off the road and help our air quality,” said Joy Reyes, a member of the board from Logan.
The transit district has operated a no-fare system since it started in April of 1992.
Other factors leading to the unanimous decision to continue the free bus rides — one of only about 20 such programs in the country — included the local economy, the district’s budget and the needs of residents.
Board member Shaun Bushman of Hyrum, who presented a cost analysis of charging a fare, said the district would have to charge at least $1.25 per rider in order to make a profit of just $43,000.
“There is no benefit of service by charging a fare,” he said. “We lose money and we lose riders if we charge a fare right now.”
The board agreed to revisit the possibility of charging a fare for public transportation every three to five years.
“As the population grows there may come a time when it is appropriate to charge a fare,” said Ronald Natali, a board member from Richmond.