Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Passengers board a UTA bus in Salt Lake City.
Council gets an earful from residents on free fare buses
SLC Council » Fans of bus service say you can’t put value on it. UTA says it can: $194K a year.
First Published Jun 12 2012 10:24 pm • Last Updated Jun 12 2012 11:23 pm

What’s the value of free bus service in downtown’s free-fare zone?

That’s the question in the wake of the Utah Transit Authority’s request to eliminate the service 15 years into a 100-year contract with Salt Lake City.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Tuesday evening, two dozen residents gave the Salt Lake City Council an earful on why dumping the free bus downtown is a bad idea. Doing so would punish the homeless, the poor, the disabled and those on fixed incomes, according to residents who spoke at a public hearing.

According to a UTA report to the City Council, the service is worth $194,000 a year.

The free-fare zone is between North Temple and 500 South, and between 200 East and 600 West.

But resident George Chapman told the council that the service was worth more like a million dollars a year. And he urged the council not to eliminate the service before UTA agreed to a replacement service.

"If the City Council doesn’t get UTA to agree to something up-front, it will end up like the Sugar Hole," he said referring to a stalled development in Sugar House.

According to City Attorney Ed Rutan, the council cannot relinquish the service without getting something of equal value in return. What that might be remains to be defined.

But resident Laine Gardinier told the council that eliminating free bus service in the free-fare zone and charging those riders at UTA’s standard fare of $2.35 would be a hardship on low-income workers.

"There are people out here who make $6.50 an hour," she said. "How are they going to get around?"


story continues below
story continues below

Disabled veteran Jesse Riddle told the council that he and other veterans depend on the free bus for transportation.

"I need the bus to access services for disabled veterans," he said. "It would be a detriment to the veteran community."

Downtown resident Bob Burns said he is retired and living on Social Security and depends on the bus and TRAX light rail to get around.

"Eliminating the free fare on buses is a slippery slope," he said. "I’m afraid they’ll eliminate TRAX [in the free-fare zone] next."

Steve Erickson urged the council not to act until it had conducted a public-benefits study that would more accurately reflect the value of the service and what the city should seek if it agreed to eliminate it.

"We believe the city should take a go-slow approach on this," he said. "We anticipate there would be a severe impact on low-income folks downtown."

UTA’s offer of $194,000 a year to give up the free-fare bus service is a "nonstarter," said Councilman Kyle LaMalfa. "To give up 85 years of service for this tiny amount of money is unacceptable."

Councilman Luke Garrott chided UTA for its lack of vision attracting ridership. Citing air pollution and traffic congestion, he said the transit authority should "get serious" about attracting riders.

"I think UTA is going the wrong direction on this. Only 11 percent of their revenue comes from the fare box," he said. "A free transit system will go a long way toward attracting ridership."

The council determined it would seek a public-benefits study before acting on UTA’s request. The publication of such a finding would require another public hearing.

csmart@sltrib.com



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.