Ridership at all levels is increasing but has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The Utah Transit Authority’s smallest form of public transportation has made big gains in ridership.
Just under 15,000 people used microtransit services from January to April 2021; while 48,181 rode it from January to April this year, an increase of 224%.
Microtransit options are small-scale, on-demand transit services that can offer fixed routes and schedules, as well as on-demand schedules.
They are often a hybrid between public transport companies, such as Uber and Lyft, and traditional buses and public transport.
Utah’s program is called UTA On Demand, and it can be accessed through an app or by calling 385-217-8191.
Riders are paired with passengers going in the same direction and are picked up near their starting point.
The most recent data from UTA, shared with the public and the UTA board on Wednesday, shows that monthly microtransit ridership has increased each month: 8,173 trips in January, 11,021 in February, 14,121 in March and 14,866 in April.
Jaron Robertson, director of UTA’s innovative mobility solutions office, told the Salt Lake Tribune that UTA On Demand launched in late 2019 and met the agency’s ridership goals (224 in December 2019 to 392 in February 2020) and reached 505 passengers in March 2020. before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and ridership plummeted.
UTA officials also shared demographics, including runners’ ethnicities and income levels.
In UTA transit, minorities make up 25.9% of all riders and 31% are low-income riders.
Minorities also represent 27.4% of fixed line bus users, 30.3% of TRAX users and 16.9% of commuter train users.
In addition, low-income riders represent 48.1% of fixed line bus riders, 35.6% of TRAX riders and 26.3% of commuter train riders.
According to 2020 census data, Salt Lake County is 87.1% white; 18.8% Hispanic or Latino; 4.6% Asian; 2.2% Black; 1.8% Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders; and 1.4% Native American or Alaska Native.
UTA also concluded, based on its data, that routes serving minority areas have more frequent service than routes in non-minority areas.
For example, the average time between buses is 37.3 minutes. In comparison, the average time on minority routes is 34.6 minutes and on non-minority routes it is 39.9.
UTA also found that a higher percentage of minority populations have access to public transport services than everyone else in its service area. Its service area includes 2,464,647 people. Of this number, 1,182,293 (or 48%) are within walking distance of services.
Of the same 2,464,647 total people, 585,217 (or 23.7%) are minorities. About 350,000, or 60.4%, live within walking distance of public transport.
UTA also shared the total number of riders before and after the pandemic.
Year-over-year ridership from January to April shows a rebound in 2022:
UTA’s “Free Fare February” has resulted in a 16% increase in weekday ridership this year and a 58% jump on Saturdays.
Governor Spencer Cox recently said he favors making public transport cheaper or free.
Additionally, UTA data shows that some ridership numbers for the different modes of transport have fluctuated with the pandemic.
For example, bus ridership from January to April 2019 was 5,581,233; in the same months in 2021 was 3,746,929; and during the period from January to April 2022 was 5,045,911.
The numbers are in line with other data showing how UTA ridership dropped during COVID-19 and grew, although it has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels.