UTA to reduce, discontinue bus routes due to staffing shortages, shift in ridership
OGDEN — Recovering from staffing reductions in response to COVID-19 has left the Utah Transit Authority shorthanded and questioning better transit options in the wake of the pandemic.
Starting in August 2021, one year after UTA ramped up service after coronavirus-induced reductions, staffing challenges began to be compounded by Utah’s growing economy and unemployment, UTA Senior Media Relations Specialist Carl Arky said.
“UTA is not unlike a multitude of other U.S. companies and industries working diligently in today’s unpredictable economy to remain staffed,” Arky said.
A total of 34,000 Utahns and 6 million Americans were unemployed as of May, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Arky said UTA is actively recruiting as they had been prior to the pandemic, offering a competitive pay scale for operators and benefits including health care, pension and retirement savings programs.
While the transit authority has been working to add and restore service when possible, 11 routes throughout Weber and Davis counties are being permanently reduced and seven others permanently discontinued.
Staffing shortages throughout the state are not the only factor in bus routes being reduced or discontinued, according to UTA Manager of Service Planning Eric Callison.
“Even if we did have the drivers to bring routes back, ridership is changing,” Callison said.
According to Callison, ridership has evolved into “one big hump” throughout the day, whereas before COVID data showed peak travel times during rush hour in the morning and evening.
With limited operators and a shift in how people are using public transportation, Callison said UTA is focused on providing services to areas where it will be most beneficial.
Under the federal umbrella as a transit authority, UTA is trying to keep service in areas where the highest number of people have the greatest level of need, such as low-income communities, near hospitals and other areas where people work nontraditional hours.
UTA, however, will be implementing new services in areas where bus routes will not be returning. UTA On Demand is expected to replace terminated bus routes in southern Davis County such as Nos. 460 in Woods Cross, 462 in North Salt Lake, 471 in Centerville and others.
UTA On Demand connects riders with other transit services and local destinations within communities in service areas. The app-based technology matches multiple riders heading in a similar direction for efficient trips without lengthy detours or fixed routes.
The shared transit service is currently only being offered in Salt Lake City’s west side and southern Salt Lake County. Riders must download the UTA On Demand app to book trips that will start and end within the designated service area.
An adult one-way fare is $2.50; however, for trying the new service, UTA is currently offering riders their first 10 rides for free.
For a full list of route changes, visit rideuta.com/Rider-Info/Change-Day.