For $1 and a chance to win a virtual tour of Scipio, answer this: What's losing money faster than a restaurant, bar, theater or concert venue? The answer: Utah Transit Authority! Why? Because COVID-19 has changed the way people move around. Ridership this year is down almost 60% compared to times before the virus came raging through our state.
UTA conducted a survey as to why people weren't riding the bus/light rail/commuter trains. No big stretch for the reason why: Fifty-five percent of those polled said they are working out of their homes now. As a real estate broker, I can say that this is one of the reasons that real estate sales are smoking hot. Folks working at home want space for a home office separate from typing on their laptops in bed. Others want to stop renting and buy their first home or buy a bigger dwelling than where they are living now.
Another reason people aren't riding UTA is safety: They wonder if it's safe to ride public transportation during a pandemic. Friends in my home state of New York are just as reluctant to take public tranist there as we are here—they aren't sure vehicles are clean. I served two years on the UTA Board where I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes to see how the buses and trains were cleaned. I even got to drive a TRAX train in their training lot. Vehicles are cleaned and sanitized every night, but they've added additional measures to keep riders safe, including disinfecting all vehicles, stations and facilities daily, implementing in-app wellness checks for riders and drivers on the "On Demand by Via" (which is UTA's UBER-like program for riders), and periodically testing vehicle surfaces using ATP monitoring to verify the effectiveness of the disinfecting on the vehicles.
UTA has installed a plexiglass operator barrier on all buses to protect drivers as well as riders, and there are signs on buses asking riders to board from the back. And drivers, of course, wear masks; riders must wear them as well.
To promote social distancing at TRAX and FrontRunner stations, there are designated area for operators and riders separated by ropes or signs. The UTA cops who ride along don't physically touch tickets/passes when they conduct fare checks (although the free-fare zone downtown is still free).
UTA drivers provide complimentary face masks on most buses and trains, and some vehicles have hand sanitizers on board. Safety isn't just for your sake—it's for the great people who drive us around every day at UTA. I've met many UTA employees and was especially impressed by those who drive the paratransit buses that help the differently abled/handicapped patrons get on and off vehicles. They are the crown jewels of service in our public transportation fleet.
Not to worry, UTA will get through this pandemic because they know how to adapt to rapid changes in demand and, as our population grows, they will continue to keep reaching further north and south from the Capital City to expand services for more riders.