Utah Transit Authority proposes 2012 budget plan

Published: Friday, Oct. 14 2011 4:12 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority released its proposed budget for 2012, which included a 4 percent increase in revenue and expenses, anticipating more commuters using public transportation next year.

The agency is forecasting a 13 percent hike in overall ridership on light rail, commuter rail and buses.

For 2012, UTA forecasts operating revenues of $283.8 million compared to projected revenues of $270.6 million for 2011.

UTA projected sales tax revenues to increase in 2012 in addition to increases in farebox revenue due to increased ridership and a fare increase scheduled in May 2012.

Currently, a regular one-way fare on bus or TRAX is $2.25. That amount will rise slightly in April to $2.35 one-way — and eventually to $2.50 by April 2013.

The forecast revenue increases are due to an expected rise in TRAX ridership — and fare hikes — following the completion this summer of two highly anticipated light rail projects.

This year, UTA completed construction of the Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines, which began operation in August.

The agency has also progressed with construction of another route that will take passengers to Salt Lake City International Airport via North Temple. The Airport TRAX line is scheduled for completion in 2013.

The $350 million extension is one of three rail projects UTA currently has on its agenda. The others include the proposed $212 million Draper TRAX extension and the $850 million FrontRunner commuter-rail line that will run from downtown Salt Lake City to Provo.

TRAX ridership increased nearly 9 percent so far this year over 2010, according to UTA data. Overall, UTA ridership is up 7 percent.

Since the two newest light rail lines have commenced operation, ridership has climbed significantly, said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. The number of riders jumped 35 percent in August 2011 compared to August 2010, and last month the number of riders rose 22 percent from the same month last year, he added.

Light rail boardings are at 10.7 million this year to date, compared to 9.8 million at the same time in 2010. There have been 30.5 million boardings system-wide year-to-date in 2011, compared to 28.6 million boardings at this time last year.

Carpenter said the projected ridership for the year is expected to be almost 39.7 million, with 44.8 million projected for next year.

The budget numbers could change over the next couple of months, Carpenter explained, as the proposal is reviewed by the agency and the public — who will have a chance to comment at the Nov. 16 UTA board meeting. A vote for approval is expected at the December meeting, he said.

He noted that while the projected increase in revenues are modest, the agency was confident the amount will be sufficient to allow UTA to operate effectively in 2012.

"We don't anticipate any reductions in service," Carpenter said. "We believe we'll be able to maintain the same high level of service … our ridership numbers are very strong (and) we're expecting it to continue to grow."

Email: jlee@desnews.com

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