No bus-service cuts in UTA’s next round of changes
The Utah Transit Authority’s next schedule change day in December — one of three each year — will be relatively small after years of constant, sweeping changes that came as the agency added new rail lines and cut bus service to afford to operate them.
No major bus cuts are coming this time — and some routes will be improved — at the same time UTA plans to open the new Sugar House Streetcar line in December, said Ryan Taylor, senior UTA marketing representative.
Near the 2100 South corridor where the new streetcar will run, “the bus service will stay the same,” Taylor said. “There may be a few timing changes” to ease transfers between the buses and streetcar, “but not any changes to the routes themselves” or reduction in frequency, Taylor said.
In contrast, UTA changed 90 percent of all bus routes in Salt Lake County in August 2011 when it opened TRAX extensions to West Valley City and South Jordan, including eliminating many routes to force riders onto the rail lines. As other rail lines opened in the past couple of years, similar sweeping changes often came with them.
UTA officials have said the agency found such change and disruption led many riders to stop using UTA. Many riders also had complained that old bus service was faster and required fewer transfers. UTA has called the rail lines an investment in the future to help handle growth reliably and take transit off crowded highways.
Ridership this year ticked up 0.9 percent through July compared to the same period last year, even though UTA added a FrontRunner extension from Salt Lake City to Provo, the new airport TRAX line and a Draper TRAX extension within the past year, according to data given to the UTA board last week.
“As we completed our big rail projects, there’s not as much integration that we need to do with the rail lines” and buses now, Taylor said. “We are seeking where we can to make our routes more efficient and improve our ridership.”
Among the few major changes for December are what UTA says are improvements to buses along Redwood Road in Salt Lake County.
It is combining three routes now serving that road — the 217, 218 and 517 — “so you will have one key Redwood Road route, the new 217, that will run Monday through Friday every 15 minutes” at peak times. The old routes ran every 30 minutes at peak times on different parts of the corridor.
“We think it will simplify things for customers. The 15-minute-all-day route typically will increase ridership,” Taylor said. The new route will run between 1700 North in Salt Lake City to 8000 South in West Jordan.
UTA is also adding a bus, the new 218, that will go from 8000 South on Redwood Road to connect the South Jordan FrontRunner station to the Sandy Civic Center TRAX station, along with the South Towne Mall and River Park Business Park.
The only other change proposed is for the F514 flex bus route operating along 11400 South in Salt Lake County. Taylor says UTA proposes to turn it into two separate routes, one operating in the west part of the county and the other in the east.