Eagle Mountain is about 45 miles from Salt Lake City. It is very much a bedroom community, with most people living in EM and commuting to work in either SLC or the Provo area to the southeast. It is such a new area that roads are often overcrowded, as supply has not kept up with demand.
So in comes the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to provide express bus services to Eagle Mountain and its neighbor, Saratoga Springs. It will cost an additional quarter-cent in sales tax as well as a $200,000 a year federal grant for the first three years of the new route. After that 3 year period is up, UTA says FrontRunner will be at Thanksgiving Point, "boosting the service". At that point, the route would likely change from going to Salt Lake to just going to the FrontRunner stop.
UTA claims that the bus service would get 25% of commuter traffic, reducing congestion. Lehi, which has seen its city streets explode with traffic as EM and SS grew, would see a 15% drop in traffic, according to the UTA. However, some have expressed deep skepticism in those numbers, citing historical data showing traffic capture of only 1-2%. The heavy commuting nature of Eagle Mountain would likely mean higher commuter-transit usage than other areas, but wouldn't push the numbers quite that significantly.
Cost for this bus line includes:
-$600,000 in federal money
-sales tax money, which the city estimates would have been $10,000 in'07-'08
-the regular $4 per ride, $160 a month bus fare.
Once the two cities approve the bus lines and are annexed into the UTA taxing district, they are guaranteed to pay the tax, but are not guaranteed the bus service. That is up to the UTA commissioners to decide, though it's very unlikely that the service would be removed.
My question is, is UTA necessary? Currently it costs me $160 a month to drive to work in Salt Lake City, and it takes me about an hour. With my carpool partner, the cost is cut in half to $80 a month, and driving in the carpool lane saves time. Now, that doesn't include the cost of buying or maintaining the car. But I would own it even if I didn't commute to work. Maintenance costs obviously are increased because of the increased mileage, but I do it myself and it isn't substantial. With even one more carpool partner, the effective maintenance costs would be decreased further.
Is there a more targeted, more efficient way to provide for mass transit than UTA? I know and understand the benefits of mass transit. What I don't understand is how two passengers in a vehicle costs less than a bus full of people. Also, in addition to my own monthly fare cost, plus the increased sales tax, why must people in Arkansas or South Dakota foot the $600,000 bill to subsidize my commute?
Eagle Mountain residents will vote on the issue in November, and the question I'd like answered by then is, is there an alternative to UTA-directed mass transit?