Brief Summary of Performance Audit of UTA to the Utah State Legislature - January 2008

With Website Comments in Red - Comments Made 6/28/2008

For the purposes of this website, this audit can serve as a baseline audit of UTA rail operations. Of course, much has occurred since this audit was issued, including soaring oil prices. These oil price increases make UTA's mission all the more critical.

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) was incorporated in 1970 for the purpose of providing mass transit to the Utah citizens of the Wasatch Front. UTA offers a range of transit services, i.e. light rail (TRAX), bus, paratransit, vanpool, and most recently commuter rail (Frontrunner North).

Most recent plans include a proposal to build five projects that will add 70 miles of new TRAX and Frontrunner track during the next seven years. Included will be Frontrunner South (Salt Lake City to Utah County), and four new TRAX lines in Salt Lake County, including the airport line from the Intermodal Hub.

2006 Data by Type of Service (note: Frontrunner was not in operation in 2006)

Transit Mode Reported Boardings Estimated Trips Passenger Miles
Bus
21,598,392
12,279,000
148,984,636
Trax
15,203,660
9,880,000
86,039,042
Vanpool
1,316,599
1,316,599
58,598,969
Paratransit
476,039
476,039
5,665,436

As of the audit passenger count data was not considered sufficiently reliable. The auditors saw this as the most urgent data need. Trax ridership has been overstated, but by how much is uncertain. Bus passenger mile data has been inaccurate, but by how much is uncertain.

Growth in UTA transit use is attributed to gains in TRAX ridership entirely. TRAX has attracted new riders to UTA. Bus ridership has declined. Transit growth is outpacing population growth by a wide margin.

UTA transit funding is shifting from Federal grants to sales tax increases. Today the sales tax is UTA's main source of revenue. The fare box only covers a small part of transit costs. Social cost savings in the form of emission reductions and less congestion will increasingly cover UTA's costs. However, buses are significant polluters and detract from environmental improvements provided by TRAX and Frontrunner. Whenever possible rail should be favored over bus. In terms of total cost per passenger mile, TRAX outperforms bus 12 cents per passenger mile (TRAX - $0.62, bus - $0.74)

Over the last ten years UTA's total annual expenses increased from $77 million to $201 million.

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