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Cottonwood Heights Journal

UTA’s micro-transit services offer Uber-style transport for residents

Sep 03, 2022 12:15PM ● By Cassie Goff

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Chair Carlton Christensen presented UTA’s current ongoings and projects to the Cottonwood Heights City Council on Aug. 16. UTA routinely collects and surveys data about their ridership in order to help them make their services effective for residents.

When considering developing or changing transit services to Utah residents, UTA takes population density into account as well as rider propensity. For example, there is a higher propensity of frequent ridership from low-income households and zero-car households.

“Propensity helps us determine where our service should be,” Christensen said.

For Cottonwood Heights, ridership propensity is low. Based on 2020 data for the city area, parking at transit stations tends to be available, walkability and grid patterns is modern, diversity of use cases is moderate, relatively poverty rate is low, and zero-vehicle households is low. UTA’s overall mode share score for Cottonwood Heights is 11/25.

UTA has three main bus services within Cottonwood Heights. During the winter months, those bus services provide transit for ski season. Christensen mentioned that with a new push from the ski resorts encouraging employees to ride the busses, they saw an increase in ridership. Cottonwood Heights City Councilmember Ellen Birrell mentioned that she saw a lot of out-of-state visitors using the buses as well, more so than the residents.

In late 2019, UTA began a new micro-transit service now called UTA On Demand. Christensen explained that UTA On Demand functions like a Uber or Lyft service, where users tell an app where they would like to go. The main difference is that users may be sharing the ride with other users, so they may stop a few times to pick up or drop off other riders during their transit.

In addition, UTA On Demand is not a door-to-door service. Instead, “you may have to walk down to a corner or arterial road a short distance from your pick-up location. You may not be dropped off right in front of your destination location,” Christensen said.

UTA On Demand is limited to specific geo-coded areas. The service was initially rolled out in areas where UTA wanted to provide service but didn’t have the population densities to provide route bus service including South Salt Lake, Draper, Bluffdale and small areas of Sandy.

UTA On Demand mainly uses minivans for their micro-transit service and many are fitted with wheelchair accessible ramps. Users can request a ride through the app or phone number for $2.50. Most often, a van can be there within 15 minutes.

“It did tell us where our essential works lived because they kept working with our services,” Christensen said.

UTA is currently working on updating their five-year plan, which is a process that occurs every two years. The UTA Five-Year Service Plan outlines a plan for implementation of short-term service improvements. Christensen encouraged Cottonwood Heights and UTA to be engaged with their corresponding transportation plans.

“We are condensing a long-range transportation plan,” Christensen said. “We are part of the Regional Transportation Plan but it does not include local bus service.”

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Mike Weichers closed the meeting with Christensen with the statement, “We have the right person leading this agency.”