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The FrontRunner commuter train arrives at Ogden Station on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

OGDEN — The Utah Transit Authority is offering a free ride to anyone making a COVID-19 vaccination trip.

On Wednesday, the UTA Board of Trustees approved a plan that provides free fares for Utahns traveling to or from COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Megan Waters, community engagement manager at UTA, said the program would help ease certain logistical challenges associated with some vaccination sites, including parking and mobility, and would help increase local vaccination rates.

“This is a cool program that has ... some potential to increase access for our communities along the Wasatch Front,” Waters said. “By providing transportation access to more people for free, we are helping eliminate those ... barriers for people who may not have other modes of transportation to get themselves to their vaccination appointments.”

Waters said the program will run through June 30 and is valid on all UTA modes, including TRAX, FrontRunner, S-Line, bus, ski bus, paratransit and UTA’s On Demand service. UTA officials say they want the program to run long enough to ensure everyone who wants a vaccine can get it. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said he expects vaccine eligibility will be open to all adults by April 1, which means people would have three months to use UTA’s program.

To get the free fare, riders with vaccination appointments must show their appointment confirmation as proof of fare when they board. Waters said the confirmation can be printed or shown on a mobile device, including emails or a text confirmation. UTA will also accept the vaccination card with the appointment date as proof of fare.

The free fare is valid on the date of the appointment shown on the confirmation.

Waters said several other transit agencies across the United States have implemented similar programs.

Kensey Kunkle, UTA’s business development manager, said depending on participation, the program could cost UTA anywhere between about $190,000 and $750,000. UTA Executive Director Carolyn Gonot said the agency’s current system has the capacity for the program and the plan won’t require any additional service.

“This is more or less the fare we’re not charging,” Gonot said.

UTA has seen historic drops in ridership since the pandemic began over a year ago. Agency officials say numbers are slowly increasing, a trend that the free fare program will likely help move forward.

“The more people that are vaccinated, the safer our communities are going to be,” said UTA Trustee Jeff Acerson. “And they’ll be more inclined to come back to transit, which is exactly what we need.”

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