I have mentioned it before but after the complaint session this past week about the service cuts and the calls for a bus riders union, I think it's time for me to go over again the problems I have with it and the problems it can cause especially since I saw some of the rhetoric coming out at the protest.
The biggest thing I see happing is a direct attack on the rail programs. By demonizing the rail programs they create an us versus them attitude which will only lead to failure on both sides. First and foremost the voters want rail and have voted for it twice. Rail construction is not taking away from bus service.
In fact by making blatant attacks on TRAX and FrontRunner they are actually doing more harm than good. If you look at what financial numbers the UTA presents (which are not that great but they are all we have to work with), there are some things that are clear:
1. That revenues have gone up over the last 10 years.
2. That revenues went up substantially when both TRAX lines opened
3. That bus ridership has gone down over the last 10 years (and it started before TRAX).
4. That TRAX gets 14 million riders per year and the bus system gets only 21 million
TOTAL and that includes they entire system.
So what the numbers say is that the two TRAX lines are carrying 2/3rds as many riders as the entire bus system.
What this says is the problem is not TRAX but the bus system and how UTA is running it. Also you have to look at our cities as a whole and why they are not attracting bus riders.
Instead of looking at TRAX as the big evil one take a look at some issues that UTA has:
1. Poor equipment utilization: Ski Buses and Fast Buses are an example.
2. Almost no bus shelters in the system: Considering are weather extremes shelters are needed. Denver is doing a much better job providing shelters. Blame UTA and the cities.
3. UTA is falling into the same transit mentality planning which says duplication is bad (only in the way UTA does it: 307 and 320 on top of each other, the old 11 and 7 on top of each other, the list goes on).
4. UTA by trying to avoid duplication actually worsens it's market penetration possibilities and decreases ridership potential.
5. The UTA has gone to a grid systems. Grid systems have proven they only work if bus service is more frequent than every 20-minutes. While that is good for their new frequent routes, all the other routes are hurting because of the grid design.
6. Where UTA has made people transfer, like on Redwood, State, crosstown routes at TRAX, they did not create time transfers. In fact in some cases the if you are traveling westbound and need to transfer to a route beyond TRAX, the bus you needs leaves 2 minutes before you get there. UTA needs to work on timed transfers.
7. The way the buses like 4500 South/4700 South, 3900 South/4100 South were cut at TRAX also shows that UTA doesn't understand marketing dynamics. Life doesn't end at the TRAX stations it is only a stopping point.
UTA has problems but attacking the rail program is not the solution but attacking the direct issues with the bus system is.