Recently, UTA announced its Long-Range Transit Plan (LTRP): UTA Moves 2050.
UTRU has reviewed the plan and has responded. We are releasing our thoughts on the plan based on geographic area over the course of this week – but if you just can’t wait, you can view the full response now by clicking here.
Our release schedule is:
Monday: Introduction to UTRU, UTRU’s opinion of the plan, and an Executive Summary
Today: System Wide Review
Wednesday: Salt Lake County Review
Thursday: Utah County Review
Friday: Davis and Weber Counties Review
Saturday: Tooele, Box Elder, and Summit Counties Review
This response was approved by UTRU’s Board of Directors on October 17, 2023, and presented to UTA on October 30, 2023.
- As a general statement, UTRU will always be supportive of increased service frequencies overall. That is why we were excited to see that this was a specific priority in the LRTP. Similar to this, we were happy to see that the service frequencies also included increased service start and end times on weekends as well as offering more 15-minute service on these routes. These are much-needed improvements to the system as the needs of transit and how people who use the system have evolved away from simply using transit for commuting to and from work and are, instead, using the system as a way to get around in their day-to-day lives.
- Though Double-tracking FrontRunner is currently in the works as-is, we are nonetheless happy to see that having more frequent FrontRunner service was also a specific priority in the LRTP.
- As a selling point, the LRTP states that there are “Up to 25 new bus routes or Innovative Mobility Solutions Zones.” It is UTRU’s opinion that this statement is intentionally deceptive and designed to downplay the fact that there will not be many “more” routes for people under the LRTP.Currently, there are four Innovative Mobility Solutions Zones (IMSZ) in UTA’s system: Southern Davis County, North West Salt Lake City, Southern Salt Lake County, and Tooele County. The new plan appears to add up to 20 new IMSZ’s, depending on how things are ultimately cut.An IMSZ is, at its core, a rideshare service not dissimilar to a taxi or Uber, and UTRU does not inherently think that IMSZs are a bad thing, but we do feel that they are inferior to fixed routes in most situations.
The single biggest issue with an IMSZ is that they are not reliable when compared to a fixed route. Depending on demand, you may receive a ride in 3 seconds, 3 minutes, or over 30 minutes – with a bus or train, your ride will generally arrive within a window of plus or minus only a minute or two. With this confidence, a rider can plan for transfers and make appointments around these schedules whereas the uncertainty of an IMSZ at the start, middle, or end of a trip makes the use of them less appealing and, therefore, less likely to be used.
In addition, by design, IMSZs work in a limited service area, so they are unable to compete with rideshare services, taxis, and (most importantly of all) personal auto usage which either have much larger boundaries, or no boundaries at all.
It is UTRU’s opinion that IMSZs should only be deployed in areas when two specific conditions are met: first, residential and commercial development is so sparse that it cannot reasonably support a fixed route line, and second, the IMSZ is anchored by, at minimum, one 15-minute fixed route line that has a catchment area of 1 to 2 miles. It is UTRU’s opinion that using IMSZs in this way makes it a supplement to transit routes and not a replacement for them. Under such a system, a person could make local trips using the IMSZ or be funneled onto the larger network by connecting with a high-frequency route with relative ease.
- If UTA intends to expand IMSZs so drastically, the rules about traveling between zones will need to be made abundantly clear to riders in order to avoid confusion while also being fair to the communities that have these services.Though we understand that UTA doesn’t want to set up a system where someone could ride from North Ogden to Farmington or the western reaches of Eagle Mountain to Provo on a single trip just because their zones happen to touch, other theoretical “zone hopping” trips seem logical, probable, and fair for the communities UTA serves; Lehi, for example, is divided into 3 IMSZs under the current LRTP.Riders will be turned off if they have to wait for multiple rides, pay for multiple trips, and leapfrog from car to car just to travel between zones.
- Over the past 18 months, the operator shortage came to a head, with UTA being forced to cancel individual trips and, ultimately, entire routes because routes could not be staffed. In many ways, the pandemic just delayed the inevitable when it came to operator shortages, but operators had been complaining about poor conditions, low pay, and difficult working conditions for some time, and it has made retention and recruitment difficult.For this reason, we are happy to see that investments in the workforce were specifically noted in the LRTP, and we strongly encourage UTA to not wait to implement these changes.
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