FAIRBANKS (AP) -- People can ride Fairbanks borough buses for free for the next few months in an effort to boost ridership and improve air quality.
Borough assembly members passed an ordinance Thursday providing the free service from Nov. 1 to the end of March.
''The whole idea of this was to give drivers an alternative and this is an alternative,'' explained Max Lyons, director of the borough's transportation department.
Lyons said the idea, which was implemented in Anchorage last winter, increased ridership in that borough by 35 percent. After the program ended in March, the Anchorage bus system still retained a 15 percent increase in ridership.
Fairbanks borough residents now pay $1.50 to ride one of seven buses on five different routes, according to Lyons. He said the buses carry about 20,000 people a month and about 260,000 a year.
The state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities made available $175,000 of federal highway funds for the purpose of reducing carbon monoxide emissions, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
The funds are available to the borough each year for up to three years, but the borough must apply for them annually.
The ordinance, introduced by former Mayor Hank Hove two weeks ago, states that vehicles produce 80 percent of the borough's carbon monoxide emissions and cause emissions to exceed federal levels.
Vehicle emissions are the main cause of poor air quality in the local area, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the borough's carbon monoxide.
Borough officials have stated that emissions could be reduced by plugging in vehicles when the temperature is 20 degrees above zero or lower and cutting down on the number of vehicle trips.
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