SALT LAKE CITY — Beginning later this summer, Utah public transit riders will be able to catch a bus or train a little more often and a little while longer on weekends.
The Utah Transit Authority announced Wednesday it will offer extended service hours and increase frequency on some designated routes starting in August.
UTA General Manager Michael Allegra said the changes would be made possible through increased efficiencies resulting in significant financial savings.
“These are all services that will increase our productivity,” Allegra said.
UTA's operating expense through March 31 was almost $6 million under budget, he said. As a result, UTA will invest some of these savings in additional service with no added cost to riders.
“We are not recommending any fare increases,” Allegra said. “We have enough in savings to be able to put some added services on the street.”
UTA officials said they're confident this can be accomplished within the approved 2015 operating budget and that future years’ expenses associated with ongoing service improvements can be supported within UTA’s five-year, long-range financial plan, he noted.
UTA implements service changes three times per year. For the planned August change day, UTA will make improvements to several rail and bus routes.
- The agency will extend TRAX light rail Sunday hours of operation to match Saturday hours, as well as extend the Sugar House S-Line streetcar hours of operation to match those of TRAX. Trains will start earlier on Sundays and run later, Allegra said.
- FrontRunner, UTA's commuter-rail service, will remain idle on Sundays.
- UTA will also increase service frequency to every 15 minutes all day on bus routes 220 (Highland Drive) and 54 (5400 South). On route 2X (200 South Express), there will be seven morning express trips added to the daily schedule.
- In the Ogden area, Saturday frequency will be increased to every 15 minutes on routes 603 (Weber State University/McKay-Dee) and 612 (Washington Boulevard), while Saturday frequency will be increased to every 30 minutes on route 470 into Salt Lake County.
Meanwhile, in an ongoing effort to boost ridership, UTA will continue two of its fare promotions, Allegra explained.
As previously announced, the “Rider's License” summer pass for youths is available again this year. In addition, the 20 percent FAREPAY discount on TRAX and FrontRunner will be extended, plus a 40 percent discount for FAREPAY will be implemented for bus riders from July 1 through Dec. 31.
UTA will also offer the group pass for $10 during that same period. The group pass is good for four people — round trip — from 8:30 a.m. to midnight and is valid on all services except for paratransit, Park City Connect and ski bus routes.
“A lot of what we’re putting back (into the system) is frequency of service, extended hours, as well as Saturday and Sunday service,” Allegra said. “These services are what (we) feel are most productive.”
The agency also wants to encourage riders to take advantage of UTA’s new summer holiday schedule, as the agency now offers service on many holidays, including Independence Day, Pioneer Day and Labor Day, he added.
Besides increasing usage of the FAREPAY card among ridership, he said another goal of the new service changes is to increase overall transit ridership.
“With all of these (changes) on an annualized basis, we’d hope to exceed a million riders,” Allegra said.
Last year, UTA reported 45 million riders on all of its bus and rail routes.
“These added features should implement our goal of a million new riders,” he said.
Allegra said the agency is also working with local policymakers to develop additional funding to provide more resources and expand service to transit riders. But that will take some time, he said.
In the meantime, the agency will continue to make improvements through efficiencies that will improve the rider experience long-term.
“(The schedule changes are) within our budget, and we’re expecting this to remain in perpetuity,” Allegra said.