UTA has published its proposed changes for the August 2023 Change Day and we want to provide our review of the changes. To learn more, and to provide public comment on the changes, click here to be taken to UTA’s Change Day page.
Salt Lake County Changes
Changes to F202 and F570
F570 will no longer serve Midvale Fort Union Blue-Line Station; instead, it will originate at Midvale Center Blue-Line Station. The route will then continue its current route starting at Bigham Junction Red-Line Station out to Jordan Landing.
Opinion: We are supportive of the change as riders will now be gaining service along 700 West/Main Street in Midvale.
We are neutral on the removal of the connection between Sandy Civic Center Station along F202 (as this route would still be serviced by 201, 218, and F514); on the negative side, Blue-Line riders will have to travel further to connect with the route if coming from the South, however, the overall increase in coverage is worth the trade. Similarly, we disapprove of the removal of service from Bingham Junction Station as the change could result in riders having to travel to Fashion Place West in order to connect with the route along the Red Line, thereby reducing the odds that individuals will use this route along that section. We encourage UTA to reconnect the route to Bingham Junction, potentially by taking the route discontinued by Route F570, in order to reduce wait times while still providing a sustained connection to the Red Line.
Possible increases in frequency for Routes 39, 201, and 218
Opinion: Though we welcome frequency increases to existing routes, UTRU remains frustrated that the updates to 39, 201, and 218 service frequency (and, indeed, updates to service frequencies to pre-COVID levels in general) are “contingent upon resources.”
Put simply, the “resources” UTA is referring to are drivers.
UTA was struggling to find drivers even before the pandemic and UTA has assured us that it is doing everything it can to attract drivers – yet all of their attempts seem to fail. The reason for this is that it appears that UTA seems to be willing to try everything except to attract talent expect for the two things that are most likely to work: increasing driver pay to remain competitive in the market and improving work conditions so that drivers are less likely to be upset and quit their jobs after UTA has sunk money into training them.
It isn’t that ideas such as retention bonuses, paid CDL-Training, improved benefits, and floated ideas such as offering English classes to potential drivers are bad, it is just that a starting wage of $20.00/hour in training ($41,600 annually), $21.44/hour after training ($44,600 annually), and six-month bonuses that top off at $25.19/after five years ($52,400 annually) is not an attractive offer when a quick search of local CDL driver jobs in Salt Lake County start at anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 a year.
With roughly 900 operators, bumping up wages isn’t cheap – a $1/hour increase system-wide would cost $1.9 million before you consider things such as benefits and taxes, but we can’t imagine that the current solution of offering time and a half is cheaper either. But we are also of the opinion that UTA failed to respond to warnings that a shortage was on the horizon back in 2018-19 and received a respite from the drumbeat only because of COVID-19. But demand has consistently risen the bill has come due and the pound of cure that they now have to pay for was largely their own doing.
It is imperative that UTA solve the driver shortage sooner rather than later to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of current and future transit riders.
Salt Lake and Summit Counties
Discontinuation of Routes 901 and 902. Introduction of High Valley Transit 107
Opinion: We have very mixed opinions on this particular change. On the positive side, Park City will now have a direct connection with the University of Utah and FrontRunner – A welcome connection that will benefit riders of both transit networks. In addition, we are pleased that service will now be 7 days a week instead of being limited to just weekday service. Finally, we are encouraged by the cross-coordination and cooperation between UTA and High Valley Transit and look forward to future collaborations.
On the negative side, service frequency will drop from 10 total trips on weekdays to 5. Though weekend service is fantastic, this will result in a 30% decrease in overall service.
In all, we do feel this is an overall net improvement to both systems and hope this route gains in popularity in the future, driving increased frequency demand.
Weber County Changes
Reduction of Service for Route 602. Removal of Routes 603, and 650. Introduction of OGX
The Reduction of route 602 is a logical decision as OGX will almost perfectly mirror the route that exclusively services the Weber State Campus. With increased odds of users catching one route or the other, this is an acceptable change. That being said, we would encourage UTA to extend Route 602 to connect with Edvalson Street and 36th Street.
The discontinuation of route 603 is logical for similar reasons. Though there are slightly different routes between 603 and OGX in downtown Ogden and on the north end of the Weber State campus the difference is nominal for those wishing to access downtown Ogden or FrontRunner.
Route 650 existed pre-Covid and has not been reactivated since those service reductions/eliminations took place. This was an express route that served as a connection between Ogden Station and Weber State that traveled south along Wall Avenue before heading east to connect with Weber State and 36th Street. With OGX having the same starting and ending points, just taking a northern route instead of a southern, and with the route not in service since 2020, there is no particular reason to resurrect the route.
Local service mirroring Route 650 should be considered, as residents in this section have no direct access to downtown Ogden, instead having to take 640 and either transferring to 470, 612, or F618. A potential route that runs east/west along 36th Street and north/south along Wall should be considered.
FrontRunner, TRAX, and The S-Line
Opinion: We are pleased with planned improvements to increase Saturday frequency to 15-minute headways along TRAX and the S-Line as UTA is listening to service demands. Similarly, adjustments that improve reliability and turnaround time for FrontRunner trains is always a welcome addition as well to August Change Day.