Special UTA buses for legislative session averaged 5 passengers per trip last year, but are offered again

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Capitol Connector, Route 500, picks up passengers at the Utah state Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 30,2019. UTA is providing stepped-up bus service to the Capitol again during the Legislature even though last year this service logged only five passengers per trip.

They only attracted an average of five riders per trip last year. But the Utah Transit Authority is again offering free, once-every-15-minute buses to the Utah state Capitol during this year’s 45-day session of the Legislature.

“We know the Capitol is a busy place this time of year and we know air quality is a big concern,” said UTA Interim Executive Director Steve Meyer. “This is a great service providing those traveling to the Capitol during the legislative session a chance to join our riders in the effort to improve air quality.”

Parking at the Capitol during the Legislature is notoriously difficult, with many visitors forced to park blocks away up the hillside — and then walk on sometimes icy roads.

During the Legislature, UTA increases the frequency of its Route 500 buses, and calls them the “Capitol Connector.” It operates in the downtown Free Fare Zone, and connects to all TRAX lines at the Courthouse station and to FrontRunner at the North Temple station.

UTA started offering the Capitol Connector in 2016. Of course, that also came as legislators were discussing reforming the scandal-tainted agency in recent years, and ordered vast restructuring last year.

After last year’s session, The Salt Lake Tribune requested UTA data about ridership on the Capitol Connector. It found each bus averaged only 5 riders. Since buses had between 35 and 37 seats each, the few passengers using them had plenty of room.

“We’ll continue working with our communities and our elected officials to find opportunities to enhance service and encourage more people to use transit,” Meyer said in a press release.

“We recognize the need for more service and access to public transit and our organization is committed to working with community leaders to find ways to meet these demands and maintain our region’s high quality of life,” he said.