For $1 and a chance to win a virtual tour of Scipio, answer this: What’s losing money faster than a restaurant, bar, theater, or concert venue? UTA (the Utah Transit Authority)! Why? Because COVID-19 has changed the way people move around from home to work, work to pleasure, from here to there. Ridership this year is down almost 60% compared to before the virus came raging through our state. UTA itself did a survey as to why people weren’t getting on the bus/light rail/commuter trains and guess again what they found out? No big stretch for an answer-55% of those polled said they are working out of their homes now. I can say as a real estate broker that this same fact is one of the reasons real estate sales are smoking hot. Folks are working, and will be working, at home and want space in their homes to have an office separate from typing on their laptop in bed and who want to stop renting and buy a first home or a bigger home/condo than where they are living now. The other big ish for people is safety-is public transportation safe to ride during a pandemic? My friends in my homes state of New York are very reluctant to hop on a subway there just as riders here aren’t sure buses are clean. I did serve for two years on the UTA Board and had the opportunity to go behind the scenes where they clean the buses and trains and even got to drive a TRAX train in their training lot. Every vehicle is cleaned and sanitized every night anyway, but they’ve added additional disinfecting measures to keep riders safe, including disinfecting all vehicles, stations, and facilities daily, implementing in-app wellness checks for riders and drivers on the ‘On Demand by Via’ (kinda their UBER-like program for riders), and periodically testing vehicle surfaces using ATP monitoring to verify the effectiveness of the disinfecting on the vehicles. Also, on buses there is a plexiglass operator barrier installed on all buses to protect the drivers as well as riders, signs on buses to ask riders to board from the back, riders must wear masks and drivers are all wearing masks. On TRAX and FrontRunner there are ropes or signs to designate separation between operators and the riders to promote social distancing at the stations. The UTA cops that ride along won’t physically touch tickets/passes to see if passengers aren’t ripping off the system (although the ‘free fare zone’ downtown SLC is still free). UTA drivers provide complimentary face masks on most buses and trains and some vehicles have hand sanitizers on board. Safety isn’t just for your sake, it’s for the great people who drive us around every day at UTA. I’ve met many of their employees and know the paratransit buses who help those differently abled/handicapped patrons get on and off vehicles, drive designated or requested routes are the jewels of the crown of service in our public transportation fleet. Not to worry, UTA will get through this pandemic because they know how to adapt to rapid changes in demand and will continue to keep reaching further north and south from the Capitol City to expand services for more riders as our population grows and grows.
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