Salt Lake City, Utah is well provided for in terms of mass transit, with buses and a light rail1 transport system known as TRAX. Travelling by mass transit is cheaper and more convenient than using a taxi, as taxis can only be hailed within a certain area of downtown Salt Lake – if you are outside that area, you have to call a taxi company.
So how do you use the mass transit system? Seems a straightforward question, but many people in Salt Lake don't even know how...
Before travelling, you need to know the fare rate that applies to you. There are many fare rates that change on a yearly basis.
Children (five years and under): They may ride for free, but only two children per adult; ie, if you are an adult on your own with three children under five, you will have to pay full fare for one child.
Full Fare: This is the standard rate for both the buses and TRAX. It is valid for a period of two hours from purchase on any bus or TRAX train.
Reduced Fare: This discounted rate is for the disabled and elderly, and is also valid for two hours.
Premium Fare: This rate is for those travelling to areas outside the Salt Lake Valley and applies to the intercity buses running to and from Provo/Orem, Tooele and Ogden. Again, it is valid for two hours from time of purchase.
Longer Term Passes
There are also monthly or annual passes available, which can be used on both buses and TRAX.
Adult Pass: The standard monthly pass, valid for unlimited rides on local buses and TRAX.
Reduced Fare Pass: A discounted monthly pass for the disabled and elderly. An application form must be submitted for this pass.
Eco Pass: This is a company-sponsored annual transit pass.
Minor monthly pass: This pass is for those under the age of 18.
Student: This pass is for college students only.
Summer Youth Pass: This pass is for those under the age of 18 and is valid for the months of June, July and August.
Premium Fare: This monthly pass is valid for intercity bus routes to Provo/Orem, Tooele and Ogden.
Day passes are not available at the time of writing.
How to Buy your Ticket
How you buy your ticket for the buses depends on where you are at the beginning of your journey. If you are in downtown Salt Lake when you get onto the bus, you do not pay your fare until you get off the bus. This is due to the 'Free Fare Zone' which encompasses approximately four square blocks of downtown Salt Lake City. If you are not in this area, you pay when you get on the bus. For shuttles (buses that do not go downtown) you also pay your fare when you get on the bus.
TRAX is also free within the Free Fare Zone. For journeys outside this zone, you must purchase your ticket from the kiosk at the platform prior to boarding the train. You cannot buy a ticket on the train. There are UTA2 police who check for tickets and can fine you for 'theft of services'.
Monthly or Annual Passes
Some monthly or annual passes can be purchased from Pass Sales outlets. Others must be applied for through a UTA office, colleges etc, depending on the type of pass.
UTA runs its bus and TRAX routes from about 5.30am until 7.00pm Monday to Friday. It runs approximately 50% of its routes on Saturdays from about 6.00am until 8.00pm. It also has a service on Sundays, covering approximately 20% of its routes from 10.00am until 6:00pm. After the day service ends, there are also several night routes that run from 7.00pm until midnight.
The Paratransit Service
The Paratransit service (known in the Salt Lake area as Flextrans) is a curb-to-curb bus service for people who are unable to take advantage of the fixed route bus service due to infirmity or handicap. The Paratransit buses are much smaller than the fixed route buses, and are specially equipped for the needs of their passengers. Rides can be scheduled as far in advance as a week, or as quickly as 24 hours. Special fares are built into this service, depending on the needs of the passenger.
Entering and Exiting
This might seem like overkill in terms of instructions, but there is a point to it. With some mass transit systems you enter through the front door and exit through the back door. Not so with UTA. If your journey starts in the Free Fare Zone downtown, you enter and exit through the front door because you do not pay until you get off. If your journey begins outside the Free Fare Zone (ie, you have to pay on boarding), you enter through the front door and exit through either the front or back door.
When you want to leave a bus, all you need to do is pull on the cord that is strung across the windows. This will alert the driver, who will then stop at the next designated bus stop. TRAX stops at all designated stops.
Other Useful Information
A bus stop is identified by a blue and white sign with a picture of a bus on it. If you need to know when a bus is coming by that stop, the UTA phone number is listed on the sign along with all routes that serve that stop.
UTA covers most places in the Salt Lake Valley, including all of the tourist attractions such as Lagoon Amusement Park and Temple Square.
TRAX has wheelchair access at the front of the first car.
Buses have a bicycle rack mounted to the front of the bus.
With the exception of the front car, four bicycles can be brought onto each car on TRAX, two at the front and two at the back.
Correct change is required on the buses.
Recommended BBC links
- Read the BBC profile on the USA here.