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Would-be mass-transit riders who want to take advantage of Salt Lake City's Hive Pass that offers UTA train and bus service for $360 a year instead of the normal $1,005 have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to sign up.
Otherwise, say goodbye for now to Hive, a joint city/UTA program launched March 1 to much fanfare aimed at getting more Salt Lake City residents out of their polluting automobiles.
Although officials said they were hopeful they could sell 6,000 of the passes, only about 3,000 were purchased.
A statement from the office of Mayor Ralph Becker on Monday afternoon called Hive a "pilot" program that would now move into an "analysis" phase. UTA officials said Monday that the Hive program was for six-months of sales only. The passes already purchased will continue to be honored.
"The Hive Pass pilot program, an innovative and experimental transit pass idea the first of its kind in the country will conclude the initial phase of study and sales Sept. 30 and move into an analysis and evaluation period," the mayor's statement said.
Whether that will lead to other discount programs down the road remains unclear.
Salt Lake City Council Chairman Charlie Luke said Monday that he was "quite disappointed" that Hive Pass sales were being terminated.
In order to succeed, mass transit must be accessible and affordable, Luke said. The Hive Pass addressed one of those issues.
"Now we're back to square one," he said.
Luke said UTA bemoaned the fact that Hive sales were robbing the agency of revenue from riders who previously paid more for transit. Salt Lake City offered to make up the deficit.
"We expressed our intent to do that," he said. "But UTA still said, 'No.' That's concerning."
Jerry Benson, UTA chief operating officer, said UTA is merely doing what it originally agreed to do.
"We set this up to sell passes for six months, and then to take four to six months to analyze the program," he said. "I would remind people that's what we agreed to do up front. The fact that people are clamoring to continue, that's a good thing."
Benson said UTA has lost money on the program. That's because the Hive pass was most popular with people who had been buying more expensive monthly passes or who were regular cash-fare riders, while the program was much slower to attract new riders.
"The mayor requested that the program be extended. UTA General Manager Michael Allegra agreed to extend it one month," Benson said. "There was talk about extending it further on some arrangement where the city would cover UTA's losses, but the parties were never able to come to terms on what that number was."
Most of the Hive Passes were sold in City Council District 4 where there are more bus and light-rail routes available to residents.
Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall, who also is the policy director for Breathe Utah, a non-profit air-quality advocacy group, said that it is unfortunate that more Salt Lake City residents didn't take advantage of the Hive Pass.
"As a community, we talk about more affordable mass transit," she said. "But that is only half the pie. The whole pie is we need a convenient system."
According to the statement from Becker's office: "The Hive Pass program also sought to provide better transit access to lower-income residents by making a monthly payment plan available and by initiating a voucher program to invite broader participation from a variety of organizations who could donate the passes to the needy."
The statement noted survey results that show over 90 percent of Hive Pass users were satisfied with their purchase. (A complete copy of the survey results can be found at http://www.ridewithhive.com/survey.pdf).
Benson said UTA also found that people who bought the Hive pass rode transit more than they did previously. "So that's a positive," he said.
Salt Lake City and UTA will work together to process all of the information collected during the pilot and make recommendations about how to apply what's been learned from the experiment.
While regular Hive Passes will not be available during this evaluation, the voucher program will continue.
Benson said he hopes UTA and the city can find ways to continue to offer discounts. "It might be very different" than the current Hive pass, he said. "It might be something similar," he added, depending on what the analysis shows.
Benson said UTA is not disappointed at selling 3,000 Hive passes, instead of the hoped-for 6,000.
"I think 3,000 is a good number. That's a lot of passes, and I can say we've had an impact with this pilot" toward increasing ridership, he said.