UTA tweaks schedules on Sunday, launches new fare structure on Tuesday

(Utah Transit Authority | Courtesy photo) This 2014 file photo shows a UTA fare enforcement surge. UTA is launching a new fare system on Tuesday, and on Sunday is tweaking the schedule of many of its bus and train routes.

Sunday is one of the three times a year that the Utah Transit Authority modifies its schedules — and it is making just a few tweaks now amid the pandemic. But that will be followed on Tuesday with the launch of a new fare structure, with some rates going up and others down.

UTA says that with the upcoming schedule changes, its bus and train service will continue to operate at 91% of pre-COVID-19 levels — which It has said it plans to continue through next year.

On Sunday, ski bus service begins to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood canyons. Service begins to Snowbasin and Powder Mountain on Dec. 12 and to Sundance on Dec. 19.

Ski buses will run a full schedule amid the pandemic, but will limit ridership to 20 people per bus, require face masks and will open a front and back window — and use filters — to improve and clean air circulation. Old buses that were to be retired are being retained for extra service when scheduled buses hit the new capacity.

UTA on Sunday will launch improved service on several “flex routes” in Salt Lake County, buses that run on a fixed route and schedule but where passengers can request a deviation for a special stop up to three-quarters of a mile from the regular route.

It is improving service frequency to every 30 minutes on routes F556 (on 5600 West), F570 (7000 South), F578 (7800 South), and F590 (on 9000 South on the west side of the valley).

It is also adding Saturday evening service on F94 (on 9000/9400 South in Sandy), F556, and F578.

UTA is also adding two early morning trains to its Red Line TRAX line. It is adding a 4:46 a.m. departure northbound from the Daybreak Parkway station to the end of the line, plus a 4:42 a.m. train departing from Central Pointe to Daybreak.

UTA is making several other small tweaks to bus schedules to improve reliability. A list of schedule changes is available at www.rideuta.com.

On Tuesday, a new fare structure launches that which will keep the current base fare of $2.50 per ride, but it make several changes to discounts, passes and charges for premium and express services in what it calls a simplification of its fare structure.

For example, it is proposing that all premium services will cost $5 a ride (or twice the base fare). That will boost the cost of ski bus and Park City Express buses from $4.50 to $5. But it will drop the cost of express bus routes from $5.50 to $5.

Also, the cost of a regular day pass for TRAX and bus will decrease from $6.25 to $5 (or twice the base fare). A regular monthly pass for bus and TRAX will increase from $83.75 to $85 (or 34 times the base fare). And a premium bus pass covering bus, TRAX and FrontRunner service will decrease from $198 to $170 (or 34 times the premium fare).

Some current discounts for buses will decrease by half. A current 40% discount on bus fare for those who used electronic FAREPAY cards (providing a $1.50 fare) will instead become a 20% discount (or $2 a ride).

UTA will boost a 25% discount on monthly passes for youth and Horizon cardholders for low-income people to 50% to align them with discounts for seniors.

UTA also will eliminate its use of bus tokens — saying minting and processing them costs too much. It will also do away with a 30-day Park City bus pass, saying few people used them and the cost of offering and processing them was too high.

It also will end sales of monthly passes on ticket vending machines, and instead will offer them online, through the agency’s phone app or at customer service centers.