Greater Salt Lake City: Your Choices for Transit Service

Photo credit: Garrett, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has launched Service Choices, a public conversation about the future of bus service in the big “Wasatch Front” metro area that includes Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, and everything around and between them.  We worked with UTA to develop the survey, and we’ll be helping them figure out how to develop a new vision for the bus network based on what they year.  Salt Lake Tribune covers the kickoff here.

The big question, of course, is the ridership-coverage trade-off.  Utah Transit Authority covers a huge area, with many suburban cities at a range of densities.  Spreading bus service over all of that area (to meet a coverage goal) would spread the service very thin, meaning poor frequencies and thus a service that not many people would find useful.  Concentrating service in high-density places, so that you can run high frequency there, is the key to a ridership goal, but that means no service to vast low-density areas.  We explain it in detail here.

As in the concurrent Cleveland study, we’re also asking about how coverage service should be deployed.  Given that UTA is going to run a certain amount of predictably low-ridership service for non-ridership reasons, should the priority for that service be:

  • addressing severe needs and equity?  This would focus coverage service on places of low income, high senior population or other indicator of need.
  • serving new horizontal development?  This would put service into newly developing area while they are still under construction.
  • providing a little service to everyone?  This would spread the service thinnest of all, but responds to the “we pay taxes too” argument for service.

The online survey is the most powerful way for lots of people to give us feedback, but there will also be putlic meetings and other outreach events, which will be posted here.

Please encourage everyone you know in the greater Wasatch Front area to engage with this study.  This outreach is not just for bus riders!  UTA works for every resident, every business, and every taxpayer, so everyone’s opinion counts.


3 Responses to Greater Salt Lake City: Your Choices for Transit Service

  1. Michael Gilroy March 10, 2019 at 1:05 pm #

    Well, I think UTA should look towards Lynx in Orlando. They operate in similar circumstances. What I notice about Lynx is that they have a Neighbor Link service which operates in a larger, sparser area but connects to full service routes

  2. MB March 14, 2019 at 7:28 pm #

    I really wish, Jarret, that you would answer why your never recommend to transit agencies and politicians that there is another way that does not involve ridership vs coverage. And that is voting in good minimum service level and coverage policies like you see in Canada and other countries.

    Maybe the residents don’t have to choose if the politicians were provided better advice on how a public transit agency can provide good public transit to all built up areas of a region (with of course adequate funding).

    Public transit in Salt Lake City and other American cities that continue to make these trade offs is never going to succeed and become a viable travel option, when you are cutting specific areas out of good public transit.
    This will continue to keep transit low on the radar for funding and political support, and ensure that public transit continues to carry a very small minority of trips in places like Salt Lake City.

    The only places we have seen pushback to these ideas is in Canadian cities where you have presented. Because residents in these cities know that a transit agency can provide good quality transit to all areas, because they already have it.

    • Scott Albrecht March 18, 2019 at 3:49 pm #

      Jarrett has been pretty clear that the ridership/coverage trade-off is based on a fixed level of resources, and that it is not his role as an outside consultant to advocate for increased funding. It would be nice if elected officials engaging someone like Jarrett would ask him to sketch out scenarios based on certain funding levels (i.e. this is what 50/50 or 75/25 ridership/coverage options look like at current funding, but if we increase funding by 10/25/50%, those options could look like so).