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Stories you missed during the election: FrontRunner ridership drops

Stories you missed during the election: FrontRunner ridership drops



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The presidential election took months and has dominated the headlines. Now that we know who will lead the country, KSL Newsradio is taking a look at the stories you might have missed.

When FrontRunner kicked off, the crowds flocked to ride the new commuter train. But ridership now is slipping due to a new way to drive and cheaper gas prices.

Students like Eli Ribble are in no hurry to get home. That's why he's all right with using FrontRunner.

"It's comfortable. It takes longer, but, I can work while I'm there so that's an important thing," he said.

Ribble has used the train system for about two months and admits he rides it during off-peak times, so he's never seen it jam-packed with riders.

"I'd say a good 60 percent of the seats are filled. That's about as full as I've seen it," he said.

But even UTA officials say the trains are not as full as they used to be.

Utah Transit Authority spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware said, "We peaked our numbers in August when we were seeing about 8,700 riders per average weekday. Then in September, it looks like it kind of leveled to about 8,200 riders."

Bohnsack-Ware says there could be a few reasons for the drop in ridership. It may be due to falling gas prices making people feel more comfortable using their own cars, or it could be the fact that the Legacy Parkway has opened.

"There's the possibility that I-15 is a much faster commute [than it used to be]. So, instead of taking FrontRunner and stopping at all the cities along the way, people are taking the Express Bus service again," she said.

She says Express Bus Service is getting more use than it has recently. So, even though FrontRunner has lost about 500 riders per day, the drop in ridership isn't enough to be concerning to UTA.

"We're still seeing 2,000 people more than we thought we would [in planning]. So, yeah, it's still a good number," she said.

Some riders might be asking, "Why is UTA still charging a fuel surcharge when gas prices have dropped like a rock in recent months?"

Bohnsack-Ware said, "When gas prices first started to increase so substantially, there was not a fuel surcharge, and so we're just trying to make up that money that we lost."

She says they're basing the surcharge on the average cost from back in the spring. But, if fuel prices remain low, they could remove the surcharge altogether.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

Paul Nelson

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