After its first month of charging across-the-board fare hikes, the Utah Transit Authority reaped a 22-percent increase in passenger revenue during March, compared with the same month last year.
The increase in fares and monthly passes actually accounted for 13 percent of the revenue increase, and new ridership contributed 9 percent of last month's revenue, UTA assistant general manager John Inglish said.UTA recorded more than 62,000 new passengers after the fare increase took effect March 1, shooting holes in the threat opponents held over UTA during public hearings: Raise the price of a bus ride and people will stop riding.
"There is a theory that says when you increase fares a certain percentage ridership drops. But our fares are still not in that area yet," Inglish said.
UTA hadn't raised fares for 10 years, and the previous 50-cent fare was one of the lowest in the country. The 65-cent price is still two cents below the national average.
The increase in the daily adult fare to 65 cents and monthly passes to $24 came after UTA's fuel bill soared late last year. Hostilities in the Persian Gulf caused a price increase in diesel fuel, but diesel prices have plummeted since the first of the year to pre-Persian Gulf crisis levels.
With its diesel bill less than expected, however, UTA officials are quick to note that the fare increase wasn't just for fuel. Inglish said at the same time UTA deliberated over how to keep bus tanks full, a series of public meetings indicated a need for more service. And that is where the apparent windfall will go.
Inglish said the latest round of schedule changes in April included $200,000 in new service. UTA is also planning an expensive revamp in service in west Salt Lake County by the end of the year.