Yesterday afternoon, UTA announced proposed changes to its fare programs. Under the proposal, the cost of the agency’s fares and passes would gradually increase over the course of three years.
No one likes a fare increase – they are hard on everyone and can be difficult to understand.
These changes have been proposed to help UTA keep pace with increasing fuel costs, increased operating costs (UTA will open two new TRAX lines in August), inflation and the budget challenges associated with a weak economy.
“Our goal is to keep our fares reasonable while still asking our riders to contribute a fair share toward increased costs of operation,” UTA General Manager Mike Allegra, said.
Today, UTA’s passenger fares account for 20% of the actual cost of operating service. In contrast, the national average rests at just over 31%.
The following table highlights the proposed change in price for some of the agency’s more common fares and passes:
||Current Fare with Surcharge
|Adult Monthly Pass
For a full list of proposed fares, please see the proposed public fare table available on UTA’s public website.
Raising the Fuel Surcharge Threshold
Along with the change in regular fares and passes, UTA is seeking to adjust the fuel surcharge program. The program was established in 2008 to protect the agency’s budget and operations against volatile, unforeseen increases in fuel prices.
Fuel prices have now reached the point that they remain consistently at or near the current trigger – $3. UTA proposes setting a higher baseline fuel cost as a threshold for activation. Under the new proposal, the surcharge would be implemented when diesel fuel averages $4 a gallon over the course of a full quarter.
Low Income Solution
Although a large portion of UTA’s riders are those who choose to take transit as opposed to driving their car, and can handle the modest increase, many will question how this increase affects Utah’s low income and disabled populations.
UTA is seeking to partner with the State of Utah, along with community agencies, to expand the low income fare program.
Current Horizon cardholders with a cash credit on their card may purchase adult monthly passes at a 16 percent discount. The new program would be expanded to include many more individuals and the discount would increase to 25 percent off a regular adult monthly pass.
“We are sensitive to the impact fare changes can have on low income individuals and families,” Allegra said. “This change would make discounted fares available to approximately five times as many people as the current program.”
The agency anticipates that 100,000 low income individuals would be eligible for the discount.
UTA also proposes to maintain its current collection of discounted fares available to the public including:
- 50% discount for seniors, valid Medicare card holders and qualified disabled riders
- 33% discount for groups of four people purchasing the group day pass
- 25% discount on the student and minor monthly passes
- 10% discount on bus token 10-packs
- Free trips on all fixed route services for Freedom Access Pass paratransit riders
- Free trips for all children ages five and younger on all services
The proposal will raise paratransit fares by $.25 in May 2011 and $.50 in 2012 and 2013. The proposed increases are consistent with the plan vetted by the public and approved by the UTA board in August 2009.
UTA understands that raising fares for paratransit riders is difficult. However, the high cost of providing the service – at about $35 per trip – makes the increase necessary.
Though ADA rules allow transit agencies to charge paratransit riders double the regular adult cash fare, UTA has always sought to offer the fare at the lowest rate possible. Under the proposed increase, the agency will continue to charge paratransit riders less than the allowable fare. As outlined above, Paratransit Freedom Access Pass holders will continue to ride fixed route service for free.
The proposed increases are consistent with the plan vetted by the public and approved by the UTA board
of trustees in August 2009. UTA is fulfilling its commitment to increase paratransit fares incrementally,
and only in conjunction with system-wide fare increases.
UTA is a publicly funded entity fueled in large part by revenue from sales tax in its service area. The agency is interested in not only sharing relevant information regarding this proposal with the public, but also taking public comment.
In addition to the information provided in this article, the following documents are available online for public review:
For more information on the proposed fare changes you may attend one of seven public hearings, use the fare proposal comment form or call UTA at 801-RIDE-UTA (801-743-3882). Public comment will be accepted from Feb. 1 to Mar. 3, 2011.
In an effort to reach more people UTA will also host a Twitter chat on fares on Feb. 17 from 11 a.m. to noon with General Manager Mike Allegra and key fare staff. More information on this initiative will follow.