SALT LAKE CITY — Riverton resident Judd King has been regularly riding the bus and TRAX for years. He said he's happy with the service but has experienced his share of glitches.
"It only happens rarely," King said. "I understand how complex their situation is. Ninety-nine percent of the time they're on time."
Still, during in the 1 percent of the time when things go wrong, King said it can be difficult getting answers as he and other commuters stand stranded on the platform or street corner wondering where their ride is.
"Eventually, you find out one way or another," King said.
As the Utah Transit Authority prepares to open two new TRAX lines, planners are hoping to improve the way passengers are alerted to occasional hiccups in the system. UTA spokesman Brandon Bott said updated electronic signs are being installed at all TRAX stations and are expected to be operating when the West Valley and Mid-Jordan lines open for business on August 7.
"We'll be able to tell passengers what the next approaching train is and how many minutes until it arrives," Bott said. "Ultimately, we'll be able to include some sort of advisory."
That advisory, he said, would inform passengers of potential delays, alternate routes and suspended service, something that many riders feel would be beneficial.
Nativia Solano of Rose Park has been frustrated by TRAX delays. She recalled one incident where a train was reportedly experiencing brake issues. She and her fellow passengers waited while multiple trains passed in the opposite direction and even tried speaking to a conductor to find out what was going on.
"Even when the train got here nobody knew what was going on," she said. "I was like an hour late for work."
Bott said for smaller-scale incidents, train operators will make announcements for the waiting passengers. Those announcements, however, are not always clear.
On Saturday, some passengers waited 45 minutes for a train in Sandy. At one point, a train arrived and its operator announced it was a shuttle train to the Midvale Fort Union station, but didn't explain why. That announcement was mostly ignored by the waiting passengers who were heading downtown, according to a Deseret News employee.
That train was intended to take passengers to Fort Union where they would then transfer onto a downtown train. Bott said one of the two Sandy lines had experienced an overhead power line malfunction, forcing operators to consolidate on a single line.
Bott said there are other forms of mitigation for more serious incidents, including buses being used as a bridge between TRAX stations. UTA's Twitter feed — @RideUTA — and customer service lines are also available.
"Our Twitter feed is usually pretty good with that," Bott said.
Bott said Saturday's malfunction didn't appear to be a major inconvenience for most people. He said UTA's customer service received fewer calls than average on Saturday — 2,900, compared with the typical 3200 – and no tweets were received about the Sandy delays. Still, reliable service is a priority and Bott said he hopes the electronic signs will help avoid problems in the future.
"Having the new signs will help us to give riders to-the-minute information," Bott said.
With the opening of the new lines, Bott said the electronic signs will also help passengers differentiate between the various destinations of the arriving trains.
"Up until now they've only had two choices and this will give them a third option they will need to know about," Bott said.