Today the UTA board is meeting to discuss the possibilities of raising fares and decreasing service due to the increase in fuel prices and increased ridership.
OK, they are getting more riders, which should be increasing revenues, and since they are not increasing service by that much, why is it that they have to increase fares?
Instead fares will be raised and bus service cut for the people who could least afford to have the cuts made. Meanwhile Rep. John Dougall says that it is great because people should pay more of the cost and taxpayers less which is the same stuff that comes out of many right wingers but ignores that taxes going to roads especially local roads.
If UTA is going to raise fares it should do so on the most expensive routes to run the commuter runs. Routes from Utah and Weber counties that run to Salt Lake in the morning and back in the evening are some of the most expensive the UTA has. This is because there is a big capital expense in the luxury commuter buses on those routes that spend 75% of their day sitting and not earning money. Because these routes use special buses and are all expresses, rates should be raised on them so that it balances out for the distance traveled and the express service.
Here is a radical concept of the UTA which comes from the business world. On the local routes how but lowering fares? That's right do something that might bring even more people to the buses and increase revenues that way. Or even do what some other cities have done and charge more for traveling during peak periods and give a discounted fare for traveling during off peak periods when more people are needed on transit.
These are some pretty radical ideas that will probably not make it. The way the philosophy works at transit agencies (unfortunately UTA is no different from most) is that they can't lower fares because they will loose money. What they are saying basically is that no one new will be attracted to riding the buses so they will loose money. So in other words, people prefer to ride rail not the buses which is common knowledge.
Of course one the problems making this situation truer on UTA is the fact that bus service is not good outside the immediate downtown area. Some buses make there last trips at 5pm (11 Inbound) while nightride starts too early at 7:00PM. If UTA is going to improve bus ridership it needs to look at some of these situations.
Next year UTA is going to ask for a tax increase to speed up construction of TRAX lines. While I support this because TRAX does attract choice riders, it makes it hard for UTA to justify increase taxes when it is cutting bus service and increasing fares. Part of the last increase was supposed to increase bus service but the only real increases has been limited Sunday service.
If UTA is going to cut service and raise fares, UTA needs to make changes from within. There needs to be more focus on customers at UTA to increase ridership and revenue.