Thursday, June 4, 2009

UTA Paratransit Fare Increase

William Bowen

I have done a very quick calculation indicating an alternative way for UTA to raise the $3.2 million that they propose to get by means of the Paratransit fare increase.

Here is the background. Mike Packard has pointed out that a large portion of UTA’s ridership is disproportionately subsidized from taxpayer resources. For example, consider the case of a federal employee who lives in Ogden but works in Salt Lake City and who uses Front Runner for his/her daily commute to and from SLC and Trax to get to his office.

That person, using a monthly pass, would be subsidized in an amount ranging between a high of about $46.70 and a low of about $43.80 per trip, or $87.60 to $90.40 per day by taxes paid into UTA by Utah taxpayers in particular and US taxpayers in general for the costs of building, operating and maintaining Front Runner and Trax. The yearly subsidy for this person’s transit would be between $24,800 and $26,500. Furthermore, that person’s monthly pass would be paid for by the agency where he/she works. The federal employee rider pays ZERO. Their transportation is 100% paid by taxpayer sources. The situation is similar for University of Utah students and others who get extremely cheap transit both through UTA and their sponsoring employers.

This creates a situation that is very unfair to Paratransit users who impose far lower costs on the UTA budgets. Some very well paid riders ride for free while UTA plans to increase fares for Paratransit substantially.

I believe that the public in Utah is more fair-minded than UTA management and the UTA board. I believe the public would support an alternative fare adjustment that specifies two things:

  1. Everyone must pay something out of their own pocket to use Front Runner and Trax. There should be no completely free rides; and there certainly should not be free rides provided by taxpayers to well-paid government employees.
  2. In order to cover the deficit UTA has with Paratransit, I would propose a $0.25 surcharge on all Trax and Front Runner trips. The surcharge would be required to be paid at the ticket machines. For monthly pass riders they would be required to show evidence that they paid the surcharge as well as their monthly pass.

There are about 4,500 Front Runner riders per day. 4,500 riders X $0.25 per ride = $1,125 per day in new surcharge revenue from Front Runner riders that would be dedicated to Paratransit.

There are about 40,000 Trax riders per day. 40,000 riders X $0.25 per ride = 10,000 per day in new surcharge revenue from Trax Riders that would be dedicated to Paratransit.

The $11,125 per day in total new surcharge revenue would cover the $3,200,000 Paratransit deficit in 287 days.

I am confident that the public would support this kind of a solution.


William Bowen

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