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UTA changes include some surprises

Published October 11, 2012 11:03 am

Transit • TRAX will see decreases in weekend service; Green Line won't extend as far.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Transit Authority unveiled some surprises Wednesday as it finalized schedule changes that take effect on Dec. 9 — including reducing weekend TRAX service because of budget constraints, and shortening how far the TRAX green line will run from West Valley City every day.

Also, FrontRunner riders who travel in the opposite direction than most peak-time commuters soon will find less-frequent service. And one FrontRunner train a day is being restored to the Pleasant View station north of Ogden, service that had been totally cut recently.

Meanwhile as expected and previously proposed, UTA will begin FrontRunner service on Dec. 10 between Salt Lake City and Provo — which will eliminate current express buses between Utah County and Salt Lake City and reconfigure many local routes in both counties to better connect to FrontRunner.

All that comes as UTA board members also unveiled the agency's proposed 2013 budget. It recommends flat funding for bus service, but it increases funding for rail operations by a hefty 27 percent with the expanded FrontRunner and expected completion of TRAX expansions to the Salt Lake City International Airport next spring and Draper next summer and the new Sugarhouse streetcar next fall.

The new budget projects that with all the changes, ridership will increase by 4 percent next year.

UTA General Manager Michael Allegra said UTA expects much of that increase from the newly expanded Provo-to-Ogden FrontRunner.

"There is a large market going from south of here past Salt Lake up to Hill Air Force Base. There are a lot of people in Davis County that are going to BYU," he said. "Those are the markets we are expecting big numbers from."

UTA projects overall revenue next year to increase by 5 percent — from $290.8 million to $305.6 million — thanks to greater fare, sales tax and federal grant revenue.

Even amid rail expansions, UTA said budget constraints are forcing it to cut back weekend TRAX service beginning Dec. 9. Saturday TRAX service will begin about an hour later at about 6 a.m. Sunday TRAX service will have an earlier end time, with last trips of the day departing between 8 and 9 p.m.

UTA will also then end green line service at the arena station instead of three stations farther west at the Salt Lake Central Station. That's because the green line will eventually continue to the airport from the arena, and UTA plans to use green line trains over the next few months to start testing the new track.

"Passengers will get off at the arena station, and the trains will continue on to test the track to the airport," Allegra said. He added that is needed to certify the track before its hoped-for April opening.

He noted that many Salt Lake County bus routes also are being changed now in anticipation of the later opening of that airport TRAX line, including starting to route many near a new TRAX/FrontRunner station that will be on and below the North Temple viaduct.

FrontRunner riders who go opposite directions from most commuters — such as from Salt Lake City to Ogden or Provo in the morning, and the opposite in the evening — also will find less frequent service. It will be up to every 60 minutes instead of every 30. UTA said that is to provide 30-minute frequency during peak hours for most other commuters.

The new FrontRunner service between Salt Lake City and Provo will end express buses from Utah County to Salt Lake City, and replace it with more local service in Utah County, often designed to connect to FrontRunner.

"It actually gives local Utah County people a lot more access to their community. It has a lot more local service, which is what they want," Allegra said.

Details about changes on individual routes are available online at rideuta.com.