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PROVO — The way passengers pay for mass transit could change based on how much and how far they ride, Utah Transit Authority officials said.
UTA has launched a new initiative aimed at figuring out the best method of fare payment and collection across the agency's multi-modal transit system and has begun testing of a distance-based fare structure as part of the Fare Policy Analysis Project.
The agency, in partnership with Brigham Young University, has begun a test on three routes in Utah County. This test allows students, faculty and staff to ride Routes 830, 832 and 835 for 50 cents per mile with the use of a special FAREPAY card. Routes 832 and 835 connect many of the apartment complexes in the area with the BYU campus, and Route 830 provides a connection to downtown Provo and FrontRunner, explained Hugh Johnson, UTA regional general manager.
Johnson said the BYU campus offered a unique environment in which large numbers of commuters travel relatively short distances — exactly the situation that the program is attempting to survey.
"This provides students an opportunity to go from housing to campus, or from housing to downtown Provo or housing to shopping and entertainment," Johnson said. "It was a market niche that allowed us to take a look at distance-based fares and how it would work in a concentrated market."
Anytime you have a concentrated group of individuals who take short trips, (this system) would lend itself well to that kind of situation. If it works well, there are multiple areas throughout the UTA system where it would function.
–Hugh Johnson, UTA regional general manager
Under the pilot program, trips are calculated using a distance-based fare. Participants use a specially coded FAREPAY card with a cost of 50 cents per mile up to a maximum $2.50 per two-hour trip. Each trip has a one-mile minimum and calculations are rounded up to the next mile for partial mileage.
Johnson said the reception for the newly launched fare program as been mostly enthusiastic.
"The students have been pretty excited about it so far," he said.
The testing phase will last for at least three months and then reviewed.
"It remains to be seen how well it's accepted by the students," he said. Depending upon the success of the program, Johnson said similar testing to could also be implemented in downtown areas of some local town and cities where large groups of people might travel shorter distances for lunch or between businesses.
"Anytime you have a concentrated group of individuals who take short trips, (this system) would lend itself well to that kind of situation," Johnson said. "If it works well, there are multiple areas throughout the UTA system where it would function."