UTA to study distanced-based fares; monthly pass-holders required to help

Apr 4 2012 - 5:25pm

OGDEN -- The Utah Transit Authority is changing its monthly pass system for the next two months in an attempt to gather data for a distance-based fare system.

For the rest of April and May, UTA will be issuing cards embedded with an electronic chip to all customers who purchase monthly passes.

The monthly pass holders will be required to "tap on" and "tap off" at electronic readers located on the doors of all UTA buses and near the entrances to all TRAX and FrontRunner platforms.

Currently, UTA charges a base fare of $2.35 on all of its buses and TRAX trains. The rate stays the same no matter how far a rider travels.

FrontRunner is the only UTA system that operates on a distance-based model, charging riders an increasing amount for each station they pass.

The tap cards are already used by those with an annual pass, which UTA issues to state universities and large employers.

UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the agency is trying to track travel patterns of its regular users.

"We're trying to find out where people are boarding, where they are exiting and where they are transferring," Carpenter said. "It's all data we can use to start putting together scenarios for the distance-based fare system."

During the two-month study, UTA transit police will have the option of issuing citations to customers who fail to tap on or off of the system.

The fine is the same as a regular fare evasion ticket -- $157 -- which is twice the cost of a monthly pass.

Carpenter said the agency will likely be lenient and won't issue many citations.

"We going to take an educational approach, not a punitive one," he said. "We realize people have already paid for their passes."

UTA officials said their fare collection system, which allows customers to pay electronically rather than with cash has been added to all UTA systems and will make the distance-based fares easy to implement.

According to a study released by UTA, the agency wants all customers to use electronic fare media by 2020. The agency also wants passenger revenue to account for more than 30 percent of operating costs in that same time period.

A move to an electronic, distance-based system will help move the agency toward that goal, officials say.

"We think it will end up being more equitable for all of our users and eventually it will increase our ridership," Carpenter said.

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