Downtown is the place to be during the Olympics, and throngs of people have been getting there most of them via public transportation.
The Utah Transit Authority has been telling spectators from the get-go that TRAX quickly will fill to capacity, encouraging them instead to use one of the park-and-ride lots. UTA officials say those lots are getting used, but there's still room for more cars.
"We're glad that people are doing what they're doing," said UTA spokesman Kris McBride. "But TRAX does fill up quickly."
It's easy to see that TRAX is the preferred public transportation method for most spectators. The TRAX station parking lot at 1300 South was filled to capacity last Sunday evening, but the park-and-ride lot just two blocks west had fewer than 100 cars parked in its 1,300 spaces.
TRAX lots have been at least 90 percent full since the Games started, with many of them filling to capacity. The park-and-ride lots are seeing between 40 and 70 percent of their spaces occupied at peak times. Early last Sunday, most of the park-and-ride lots were only at 10 to 15 percent of their capacity. That's been the trend most days, with the lots reaching their highest capacity in the evening hours on weekdays and early afternoons on Saturdays.
McBride said the LDS Conference Center lot, which has 1,000 spaces available, has filled to capacity each night it has been open. Overflow from that lot is diverted to the Eaglecrest and Warm Springs lots, which have 1,875 and 1,687 spaces, respectively.
McBride said TRAX can handle more passengers than there are spaces to park at TRAX stations, so even those who want to take TRAX should have a park-and-ride lot in mind in case the TRAX station lot is full. There was no waiting to get on TRAX trains most days, he said. But the past two Saturdays, many TRAX riders had to wait as filled trains passed them by. McBride said TRAX had exceptionally high ridership those days.
Because of high demand, UTA has decided to expand its park-and-ride system for Saturday service. Shuttle bus service began at 11 a.m. Saturday and will start at the same time this coming Saturday. McBride said people were out there using the service right when it started.
"We saw people going out there and using it at 11, and we've been steady all day," McBride said Saturday evening.
McBride said UTA has seen ridership patterns develop and has made adjustments based on those patterns. "We'll continue to make adjustments to that system," he said. "It's going to get better every day as patterns develop."
UTA has plenty of equipment to accommodate those adjustments, McBride said. If people at TRAX stations are waiting, he said UTA can put buses in service to transport those not able to get on the trains.
The shuttle system from park-and-ride lots is a continuous system, based on ridership demand. McBride said UTA has employees throughout the system keeping an eye on the lots.
"Some lots fill up more quickly than others," he said. "We keep a lot more buses concentrated there."
McBride said the big influx of people to the park-and-ride lots usually happens around 5 p.m. and that it definitely depends on what's going on downtown. UTA employees meet daily to look at the downtown schedule and see whether more buses will be needed in certain areas.
Overall, UTA is happy with the way the shuttle system is working. "Everything seemed to go really well," McBride said. "The system handled it. People listened and took the shuttle buses."
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