UTA report shows efficient operation, low ridership

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah --The Utah Transit Authority is seeing a decline in ridership even as they keep their costs down, according to their 2016 annual report.

"We're very efficient.  When you look at the numbers you'll see we're doing better than many transit agencies," said UTA's Vice President of finance, Bob Biles.

Those better results come in the agency's operating expenses broken down per mile and per hour.  By those measures, UTA spends less than most agencies in all three of it's major service categories: Bus Service, Commuter Rail, and Light Rail.

UTA's low ridership decrease is most pronounced in it's bus and commuter rail services, just one place above last for each service.

Light rail is the strong point for UTA's ridership, especially when measured by passengers per hour.  By that metric, UTA is just above average: fifth best out of ten comparable agencies.  When ridership is measured by passengers per mile, the numbers are weaker, with UTA sitting at eighth out of ten.

It's that difference that may explain UTA's struggles: the agency is mandated to provide service from the north end of Weber County to the southern tip of Utah County.  While Salt Lake has a dense urban core supporting strong light rail numbers, it's rural areas served by Frontrunner and buses is not so densely populated.

​"We're strung out as you look at our communities about 90 miles north to the south of our service territory and the populations aren't quite there yet," said Biles.

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