The plan also includes adding more hours to TRAX service and more miles to bus service, the latter having been cut in recent years to help fund the former. The agency is also putting money into plans for a distance-based fare system, one that will charge riders based on how far they travel, instead of the current $2.50 flat rate for riding two blocks or 22 miles.
Next year will be the first full year for the system's airport and Draper TRAX extensions, as well as the soon-to-open Sugar House streetcar. If ridership turns out the way the agency's prognosticators predict, those lines will bring in enough money to not only keep the system running without a fare hike but also boost bus service, buy more natural gas-powered buses and pay off the system's TRAX debt faster.
Also on the UTA wish list: more use of a method called "bus rapid transit," starting, perhaps, in the Provo-Orem service area. That's kind of a hybrid of rail and bus, using vehicles with engines and rubber tires, which are a lot cheaper than rail miles, but which have dedicated lanes and even control over traffic lights so as to speed their way from point A to point B.
Innovations such as these are necessary if the UTA is to dig its way out of debt and fulfill its taxpayer-supported mission of both easing travel and lessening air pollution.
Trains are the Buck Rogers part of public transit. People like to ride them if they are going to the right place at the right time. Buses, on the other hand, are the workhorses. Their use, and their utility to users of all neighborhoods and income groups, must be enhanced.
In the near future, UTA should stop measuring its success in rail stations opened and start measuring it in passengers satisfied.