One Utah Transit Authority bus route now is carrying about as many people — or more on some days — as the Green Line TRAX trains.
The Utah Valley Express (UVX), a bus rapid transit line in Orem and Provo that serves both Utah Valley and Brigham Young universities, now averages about 14,600 boardings daily. On some days, like the football game between BYU and the University of Utah, it had more than 16,000.
In comparison, ridership on the Green Line TRAX averaged about 15,400 boardings a day in August. Its lowest monthly average so far this year was in May, with 13,284, according to UTA data.
Light-rail lines such as TRAX — which offer service every 15 minutes on trains with many long cars — usually carry far more passengers than bus routes. UTA funnels most of its bus lines to trains because of their capacity for more people and swifter travel.
But the UVX is not a typical bus line. Officials have called it a sort of TRAX on rubber wheels.
It offers service every six minutes at peak times, and every 10 minutes off-peak. About half its 10.5-mile route is in exclusive travel lanes for buses not shared with other vehicles. Buses have extra doors and limited stops. Buses are longer than normal — 60 feet instead of 40.
But Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, regional manager for UTA, sees an even bigger reason for high ridership on UVX.
“It’s the free fares,” she says.
UTA received a federal grant to allow free ridership on UVX for three years, and two years are left.
The agency also struck a deal with BYU and UVU to provide transit passes for unlimited transit on buses and trains to their students, faculty and staff — and, in some cases, their family members. The agreement costs each school $1 million a year for 10 years and is expected to provide up to 100,000 passes annually.
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