UTA Considers Distance Based Fares

UTA Considers Distance Based Fares

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Transit Authority is considering basing its fares on the distance traveled.

UTA officials say the expansion of the system may make the current flat-rate fares less viable.

They cite the new TRAX extension to the University of Utah Medical Center and plans for light rail lines to West Valley City and the West Jordan and commuter rail.

"People can use their passes more and, additionally, transfers are up," said UTA financial analyst Jan Maynard. "I think we want to make intelligent decisions on how we market our product."

A ridership survey conducted by UTA in February found 71 percent of the passengers used some form of UTA pass and about 42 percent of UTA passengers transferred at least once.

UTA fare revenue is expected to increase from $18.8 million in 2003 to $19.3 million in 2004.

Maynard said that is less than what UTA had anticipated in its budget for 2004, resulting in a budgetary shortfall.

Maynard said what UTA officials want to find out is if they are doing enough to attract potential passengers. Part of that effort may involve going to a distance-based fare system.

"There's some leaning toward that," Maynard said.

Instead of paying a flat fare, currently $1.35 for one adult, or $2.50 for express buses, customers would pay more, or less, according to their destination. A distance-based fare system is used by transit systems in some cities.

UTA spokesman Justin Jones said it would be two years before UTA implements such a change and the public will have an opportunity to comment before a decision is made.

He said it's all in the interest of being fair and attracting more riders.

With commuter rail, it would not be fair for someone traveling from Woods Cross to Salt Lake City to pay the same fare as someone coming from Ogden, Jones said.

Jones said officials are also interested in making fare collection easier. As part of the fare study, UTA also will look at "smart" technology that may allow passengers to simply hop on board a bus or TRAX train, get off, and be charged automatically.

Many transit systems use some form of electronic pass system. Some technologies sense the pass on a person, allowing passengers to board a bus or train without having to stop and show their pass.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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