OGDEN — As the Utah Transit Authority moves to reimplement much of the service that was lost during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials there say ridership has already increased significantly from an April low point.
Ridership is still down agencywide from pre-COVID-19 levels, according to UTA board documents, but Chief Operations Officer Eddy Cummins said there are some signs of improvement.
“If you really dig into it, we are making some progress,” he said.
Since its low point, which was realized on April 7, Cummins said ridership on the FrontRunner commuter rail has increased by 75%, jumping from 2,408 to 4,202 average weekday riders. Since April 7, the transit agency’s average weekday ridership on fixed bus routes has increased by 34%, Cummins said, jumping from 21,865 to 29,203 people. Significant increases have also been seen in paratransit, light rail and micro transit services, Cummins said.
Overall, total ridership is up 32% from the low point in April, which is a good sign for later this month, Cummins said, when UTA brings back 91% percent of the service that was cut due to the pandemic.
“Obviously, we still have a long way to go,” he said. “But overall, ridership is up when compared to our April 7 low. I’m excited because as we look toward (service restoration), we’re going to see another bump in ridership.”
On April 5, in part as a response to what were already significant declines in ridership, UTA began scaling back service systemwide, but with universities planning to reopen in the fall and other activities gradually reopening, UTA staff developed the new service plan, which will go into effect on Aug. 23.
As part of the restoration plan, Ogden bus routes like the 603, which runs between the Ogden downtown transit center, Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital, will be fully restored to pre-COVID-19 levels. FrontRunner service will be restored partially, making all of its normal stops, but with slightly lower frequency. The same goes for Route 612, bus service along Washington Boulevard.
Some routes continue with current levels of reduced service, while some will remain suspended indefinitely, like the northern Weber County FrontRunner shuttle bus.
For a full list of route information, visit rideuta.com.
According to UTA Board of Trustees documents, the restoration plans are estimated to cost approximately $129 million over the course of the next year. UTA Executive Director Carolyn Gonot said that while the agency will continue to track data, noting which routes are seeing high ridership, an emphasis will be put on sustainability of individual routes.