A few years ago UTA redesigned their entire transit system and among other
things started running "fast" buses from the suburbs to downtown in
order to generate more ridership. There was a lot of fanfare and ads depicting
how great and wonderful this was all going to be. The bus stop I have used for
20 years started out under this new design with 12 runs from two different buses
going "in" in the morning and 12 going out. Now starting this Sunday
UTA is down to 5 runs "in" and 5 runs "out". Even during a
recession and high gas prices which should generate more ridership this redesign
has obviously been a big failure. Yet, you never hear UTA admit to anything
being a flop.Here's hoping that this latest adventure will not fail
but I am not holding my breath.
NO mention here of possible plans to make commuters pay for parking in TRAX
lots. I like TRAX, but there is a limit to what I will pay to ride it. Rode
light rail in Minneapolis last week for $.50 less per ride.
"Dutchman" Your assumptions WILL be correct.UTA, due to
the overwhelming success of the first TRAX line modeled everything after on the
premise that "if you build it they will ride" concept.Frontrunner hasn't been anywhere near what was expected in terms of
ridership.The new lines probably won't either. UTA will
probably eliminate more and more bus routes to keep the trains running when they
don't pay for themselves.Consider: how many buses for how many years
COULD HAVE been on the road for 900 million $$$ (the costs of the TRAX
lines)?UTA has a good PR department.
"...The new lines would have been impossible if not for the taxpayers in
Salt Lake County who voted to increase their own taxes by a quarter cent back in
2006. That vote helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the TRAX
expansion..."."Voters" voted to raise their own
taxes?None of these "voters" could have possibly been
T-Party types.Right?"...The total cost of the
project is roughly $900 million, a mix of federal and local money...".What is the exact "mix"?Utah relying on federal
money?Utah relying on federal taxpayer money?Utah should
follow the guidance and leadership of two of our Congressmen and our two
Senators. Return all federal taxpayer money.Show the
rest of the country that Utah cannot only talk the talk, but can walk the talk
@wandrewI agree. I ride Trax daily and live within walking distance
of a station. If the lot at the station where I sometimes park was to charge,
I'd simply drive a little further up the line and park there for free. The goal of charging is to limit the number of cars at the station
because it will be shared with a private company. There must be a better way to
control this than by charging for parking. For those that deride
having a rail system, I have a task for you. Go on a trip to Seattle, Fort
Worth, Sacramento, or Indianapolis, then take a trip to Chicago, Washington,
Atlanta, Portland, or Boston. Let me know which city is more manageable.
If guys like Mike Lee and Jason Chaffetz have their way, this sort of thing will
never, ever happen in the future.
I am getting tired of those complaints from people who say "this doesn't
benefit me, so it isn't any good." I do not have a Trax line from my home
to work, but that doesn't mean I don't benefit. Trax does take cars off the
road. Careful studies have placed the bus and train routes in areas to benefit
the maximum number of riders. It is unreasonable of me to expect UTA to set up a
route for my convenience if ridership isn't going support it.
The system is pretty nice, but is it cost effective? I just did a little
math...Let's assume they really do get 14000 riders per day, every
single day, for the next 20 years (very unlikely). That $900 million dollars of
taxpayer's money translates to just over $8.80 per ride. And that just covers
the initial investment costs. It does not include any operation or maintenance
costs whatsoever.Is this really the best use of our tax money?
As others have said, the 114 years is based on no ridership increase nor fare
increase.How about this one. The original line cost approximately
300M to build. It averages approximately 45,000 per day.This gives
us:45,000 Riders * $2.25 fare * 365 days= 36,956,250 per year. Now,
the original line was built in 1999, 12 years ago. I know that ridership has
increased but these numbers put the total revenue received at $443,475,000. Even
though ridership started lower this amount is high by approximately 1/3. This
tells me that we are within 4 years of paying the cost of the original line
completely plus salaries.What will be the subsidy that the original
line receives in another 4 years? $0.00. In fact, it will start to provide a
subsidy for the other lines. Will people stop complaining about subsidies in 4
years since the cost will go down exponentially each year after across all of
the lines?In 20 to 25 years, with no other lines built, the rail
lines will be providing subsidies for all transit within the UTA area.
@Makid: Very interesting numbers, and I sincerely hope you are right and that
these systems can be self-supporting. But what about operation and
maintenance costs? How much does the UTA spend every year just to keep these
systems running? Those numbers do not appear to be in your calculations. The rail systems can only subsidize other transit if their generated
revenue exceeds their continuing operational costs. Does the existing system
really do that? (I've never seen evidence that it does.)
"Makid" You forgot to include daily operating costs. Mechanics,
conductors, rail maintenance, etc., is a substantial cost.Also, NOT
ALL rail riders pay the $2.25 per ride. Almost all have some sort of
"reduced fare" pass. Some don't pay at all and just run the risk of
being asked to show a ticket.My point is: rail lines make for great
"P.R." but aren't anywhere near as efficient of "people
movers" as buses.AND, when UTA begins to run into financial
difficulty (inevitable)they will eliminate more and more bus routes in order to
keep their "shiny, fantastic, state of the art" rail lines going back
and forth. While at the same time attempting to raise fares.
The yearly cost for the rail lines is between 5 and 10 million dollars from the
UTA numbers. This cost includes electricity for the lines, support staff,
breakdowns, repairs and the like. That is why I stated 20 to 25 years for all
lines to be profitable. With the expected growth rate of the SLC
valley, it is likely that we will need to add more lines to handle further
growth. This will increase expenses but will also increase revenue.Since each 4 car train can handle 200 people for only 1 driver, we would see a
greater savings by building more rail and further cutting long distance bus
service.The cars are 30 year cars so won't need replacement for a
while yet.Plus with the construction costs being on average 20% less
than expected, that means that the true recovery cost timeframe is also 20%
less.Rail is cheaper to support than buses. They last longer and as
shown above, they can operate at a profit.
Fitness Freak,Support is between 5 and 10 million a year for rail.
It is over 25 million a year for just the bus support. How is bus a better deal
for the money? $300,000,000 every 10 years for replacement buses but the
technology upgrades, fuel costs and limited passanger carrying capacity. Only BRT comes close to the cost effective nature of rail transport.
But BRT is limited to 75 passangers for every 1 driver. That is still 3 drivers
to move the same number of people that 1 rail driver moves.At lower
capacity levels, rail is even more efficient.Buses are the PR aspect
of a transit agency. Rail is the real working horse of transit since it
supports the rest of the system once the initial construction costs have been
A lot of citizens here in the Tampa Bay region would give their eye teeth for
what some of you are bad-mouthing .... are the city planners in San Diego,
Portland, Dallas, Phoenix, St. Louis, Charlotte (et al) literally all on the
"wrong track"? Check what your neighbors over the hills in Denver are
moving forward with in terms of modern 21st-century rail transit. It's all about
(or should be all about) efficient and pleasant mobility and livability.
"Profit" should not be worshiped as the sole aim of human endeavor (by
the way, Norfolk (VA) will debut their new light-rail system this weekend).
@Makid:Thanks for the additional info. But I wonder how much the
cars cost. You say we don't need to worry about them yet, but their amortized
replacement costs are an integral part of this whole equation, and must be
included to accurately assess the system's true performance.@Ray:I'm not 'worshipping' profit, and I'm not opposed to public subsidies of
worthwhile things. The problem is that there are not unlimited resources, so we
simply can't afford everything that might be nice to have. It is prudent to
make sure we are using the resources we do have wisely.
JACC,The cars cost on average 3 million per. In 4 years when the
original line is operating at or near a profit, they can start replacing 5 cars
a year, cover all operating expenses for Trax and provide construction subsidies
for the other lines without needing to increase the fees.Once the
University line and the extention to the Intermoble hub are paid for in another
7 and 9 years respectively, they are also able to provide support for the
lines.The most expensive part of Rail construction is they initial
construction and car purchase. Once the initial cost is done, each fare pays
down the amount spent until the line is making a profit. The more
riders that take Trax, the faster that the costs are covered and the faster the
lines operate at a profit.
It's hard to get excited about more trains. As the trains have been implemented
the bus service gets thinner. Had the UTA remained a bus transit provider
instead of a railroad wannabe, many people would still have viable bus
service.If all the people are paying for transit shouldn't all the
people be served? Trax (the R is silent) is designed to benefit certain
destinations rather than the people who pay for it. It goes to prove Robert
Heinlein quote: "Taxes are not collected for the benefit of the
taxed".Rail transit is built to generate income for select
individuals. It is old technology, even with the modern electronic elements, and
has limitations that buses do not have. And the UTA trains tend to kill more
people than UTA buses.Sorry, I won't be coming to this party.
The way I see it the money we give to trax isn't that different from money we
give to our road projects. The amount of taxes we pay every time we fill up our
tank of gas could be represented as the fare you pay every time you get on a
train. Both get us from point A to point B, but if we all used trax the yearly
inversion we all love so much wouldn't be nearly as bad. I can't
wait untill they finish the trax station by my house!
Can't we see this for what it really is? Take from the general population (car
owners) and give to the ticket buyers(a new special interest group). It's just
another form of redistribution by our elected public officials and their
appointees who always seem to get rich by feeding from the public trough.Remember this economic truth: Public enterprise helps those in power
and their entourage at the expense of the consumer. Real Capitalism helps the
consumer by delivering what they want at the lowest price.
"Can't we see this for what it really is? Take from the general population
(car owners) and give to the ticket buyers(a new special interest
group)"Oh please. Roads don't pay for themselves. Travel around the US where TRAX-like systems exist. You will see private
investment and vitality near every station, where no economic activity existed
Don't forget that highways for cars and buses cost a LOT of money. The Federal
funds supporting both roads (especially interstate highways) and rail systems
all come from the excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels. Highways get
"subsidies" as well as light rail lines. To the extent light rail
takes cars off the road, it decreases wear and tear on highways that eventually
translates into cost savings there, as well. When most cars transport a single
person, a train that carries 50 people is removing, say, 40 cars from the
highways, reducing congestion and accidents. Salt Lake's highways
are reaching critical saturation. It is reaching the point where eliminating
trains would produce gridlock, as it would in Tokyo, Washington, DC, and the San
Francisco Bay Area, all places where I have lived and ridden trains to work.
More money out of my pocket for more choo choo trains that a very small
percentage of the county's population will ever use.
As mentionee, one does not have to ride transit to benefit from it. Transit
provides transportation options for the general public and reduces the number of
vehicles on the road. I don't know what the daily boardings on the trax system
are, but I am confident that more people use transit today than they did when
the transit system consisted of only buses. Without the trax system, there would
be more vehicles on the roads, speeding down your street, congesting major
intersections, and slowing you down on the interstate. The community has a
whole benefits from this and it is a big enough benefit to warrant the expense.
I wonder how happy the taxpayers would be in other States to know that they
funded MILLIONS of dollars to Trax. Utahans should be ashamed of themselves.
ski targhee. What exactly do people want. More and more cars and more roads.
More gridlock and traffic congestion. I drive for UTA. The federal gov't pays
for capital projects. They purchase the buses, trains, etc. The feds don't pay
a dime of day to day operating expenses. The rest comes from sales tax revenue
and of course fares. My observation is that most transit riders are low
income, minors, seniors, students, disabled and commuters. Most people in this
category are not in a position to own and operate automobiles. Commuters free
up downtown parking. Overall UTA provides a great service to the community.
Communities with good public transportation have an overall better quality of
life. Mass transit reduces traffic, air pollution, and provides transportation
alternatives. Overall UTA does a good job. Projects come in ahead of schedule
and under budget. There will always be naysayers who can't see the whole
$900 million really??? When I read this I thought it had to be a typo! If that's
true, then each of those 14,000 riders would have to pay over $176 EACH every
day FOR A YEAR just to pay equal the cost of this expansion. Don't get me wrong
I WISH Utah had a train system as efficient as Switzerland's, but this seems
like a lot of money for so few riders.