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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Short Hop Transit

Is it possible to do distance based pricing for Trax? Currently, a pass runs $2.25 and allows 2.5 hours of riding. Which is, depending on trip length, enough to run a short errand, like dropping something off and then returning home. The standard price is great for the longer distances along the Sandy-Salt Lake line.

But paying $2.25 for a trip between any two downtown stations is blatantly ridiculous. None are more than two blocks apart, and most are closer. Fortunately, most of the area is covered by the Free Fare Zone, rendering the question largely moot.


But along 4th South, for the University line, east of the library station, the question is not. Library is 2.5 blocks from Trolley, and Trolley 3 blocks from 9th east. With Salt Lake's 1/8 mile blocks, the distances are not insignificant. But the distance is hardly worth the money--$2.25 is a steep price to save three blocks of walking. I have to imagine fare evasion is rampant.

The obvious option is to expand the free-fare zone to the east, until it reaches 900 E. That would do a great deal to tie downtown to the Transit Oriented Development along 400 S. But the 'free fare zone' isn't free--UTA suffers considerable lost revenue from it. Expanding the zone would entail further loss of revenue.

This suggests a 'Cheap Fare Zone', running along the University Corridor, where a ticket is much cheaper ($1 or so) and only lasts an hour. But I'm extremely leery of the zone model of transit pricing--I'm an 'expert' in transit, and I still find deciphering them to be deeply confusing. It's a memory issue-- 'free-fair-zone' vs. 'not-free-fair-zone' is a binary dichotomy, and simple to remember. Adding another option is twice as difficult to understand or remember--the 'decision tree' of memory has to make two operations.

There has been some discussion of a Salt Lake Streetcar running from the Intermodal Center on 600 W. along  400 S, and reversing on the cross-over at about 500 E., but the Downtown Streetcar Study hasn't been published yet. Time will tell.