Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Faux Trolleys in Ogden: Where Will the Funding Come From?

An invitation to put on your thinking caps

Chirpy editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, adding new information on the privately operated trolley buses which were sighted shuttling passengers during last week's Ogden Pioneer Days celebration. Contrary to our earlier speculation, the editorial reports, (to our considerable relief,) that the mayor's administration does not intend to divert funds from Ogden City's ongoing combined alternatives analysis and environmental impact study, but instead seeks other funding sources to assist this private venture in operating its four bus shuttle fleet. From the editorial:
John Patterson, Ogden’s chief administrative officer, says the city does not have access to any transit funds right now, but is on the hunt for money to help the entrepreneurs succeed. He said specifically Ogden would not cannibalize a previously announced “combined alternatives analysis and environmental impact study” for mass transit in Ogden. (That money will fund a corridor study to determine the best routes and methods for mass-transit upgrades in Ogden.
We'll tentatively join with the Std-Ex in recognizing this new private venture as a welcome solution to the logistical problem of shuttling visitors from the FrontRunner station to various downtown and outlying destinations. We'll withhold our full approval however until we find out where the actual funding will be coming from. The "devil's in the details," after all, and our attitude will surely sour if this supposedly private venture turns to the city council for substantial city taxpayer funding.

In an earlier article, one of our readers suggested that downtown business owners who would benefit from this shuttle service might be voluntarily tapped to provide some of the money to keep these faux trolleys on the road. This seemed like a sensible idea to us. So in closing we'll pose the question: What other ideas do our readers have for funding this much needed public transportation solution? Should business along the shuttle route be assessed involuntary contributions to be expended toward this venture? Is it possible that the UTA might cut the red tape and enter into its own contract with this private company, which will surely add value to the presently existing FrontRunner service?

Our gentle readers are always full of good ideas. Let the brilliant suggestions flow forth.

4 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

Comment bumped to the top shelf.

dan s. said...

The editorial is pretty misleading when it implies that there was no previous "free and convenient" method for riders disembarking the FrontRunner to get to other parts of downtown Ogden. In fact, a FrontRunner ticket is good as a free transfer to any UTA bus route, and those routes provide convenient transportation to many other destinations. The 603 route, for instance, runs every 15 minutes (on weekdays) to 25th Street and beyond.

I remain concerned that this new service could end up competing with UTA, to the detriment of both. Any grant money that the city can obtain for transit should be used to leverage better UTA service--not to subsidize a competitor. In the short term, UTA service could be improved by creating a free fare zone downtown, so that everyone--not just FrontRunner riders--can get about more easily. Helping UTA buy some new buses powered by natural gas might also be feasible.

If, for some reason, UTA were not open to these kinds of changes, then I suppose the competing service could help teach them a lesson. But I've never heard that UTA was so uncooperative, at least when they're being offered money.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

On those Frontrunner tix providing free rides on buses [operating as transfers, for two hours after purchase]... well, not all of them. If you buy a round trip ticket on Frontrunner, it is NOT valid for bus transit at all. [Says so right on the back.] Apparently, if you buy a one way ticket on Frontrunner, you can use it on TRAX or the bus system, as a transfer, for two hours from time of purchase.

As for UTA's views on the free bus/trolley shuttle: the UTA guy I asked about that, some weeks ago, said he did not think it would much compete with UTA and that UTA so far as he knew had no objection to it, looking on it as a supplementary service, not a competing one. But it was just a casual conversation.

Several months ago, I proposed here a "free ride zone" downtown, much like SLC's free ride zone downtown, and I agree with you that that would be a good idea [running from the Library on 25th Street to Frontrunner Station, and say five blocks south on Wall and Washington, and to the Ogden River Crossing north on Wall and Washington. But absent that, a free downtown shuttle not funded by the rate payers, and not funneling transit funds [federal] from other options locally might be a workable solution. For a time.

I did note in the SE editorial that the Mayor has stated explicitly now that no funds would come from the UTA/grant funds earmarked for the alternatives analysis. That's good news, at least.

dan s. said...

Curm:

Thanks for that information about round-trip FrontRunner tickets. I believe you, but it doesn't make sense. A $5 one-way ticket is good for a transfer, but a $10 round-trip ticket isn't? In that case, why wouldn't someone just buy two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip ticket? The only benefit to the latter would be less time fiddling with the ticket machine.

If your UTA guy can explain the rationale behind this policy, I'll be grateful!

Meanwhile, this is all the more reason why Ogden and UTA should work together to establish a free-fare zone downtown.

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