December means once again the Utah Transit Authority has started up its ski bus service that runs from Downtown, a couple of TRAX stations, Park N' Ride lots up to the ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.
While the effort to get people up to the ski resorts in a safe way is great, at what cost is the current ski bus service being provided?
While the yearly reports from the UTA do mention the sales tax revenues for the ski resort areas, they do not show the route by route cost of the service or they do not mention the cost of lost opportunities.
A perfect example of the waste is the ski buses themselves. Most of the ski buses have sat since the bus service ended around April. That means for 8 months the buses sat being unused and not turning a revenue mile. The UTA does alternate the ski buses on the twice daily trips to the canyons during the summer but that is still means they sit way too much.
In many ways UTA (and other transit agencies) have way too much in common with Amtrak. Amtrak is one of the biggest waster of assets around. One of its biggest problems is that its trainsets spend way too much time sitting.
Can you imagine Southwest Airlines or any other airline for that matter having a major asset sitting three quarters of the year???
This once again shows how the management of transit systems including UTA are disconnected from reality. One of the causes of this is that UTA only pays a small fraction of the cost of the buses and gets free money for the rest. If UTA had to pay all of the cost of its buses do you think they would be sitting for eight months?
The high priced MCI Commuter Cruisers are no different. While some of them may see all day service, a majority of them make one trip from their location to Downtown Salt Lake City, sit all day and then return in the evening. Here you have the most expensive buses in the UTA fleet and they are not earning their keep.
UTA needs to put its assets to better use. The Ski service should be examined and see that it is worth the cost.