Salt Lake City Residents Give UTA Mostly Good Marks

A new UtahPolicy poll of Utah Transit Authority’s job performance shows Salt Lake City residents basically like the transit services – with residents really liking TRAX, but not so much the bus.

The poll is newsworthy because the 2015 Legislature passed a new law that allows local governments – like Salt Lake City – to call for a voter-approved sales tax hike for transportation, with some of the new money going to the UTA.

If voters really didn’t like the UTA services, that would be a drag on city officials getting the new sales tax hike approved at the ballot box.

Pollster Dan Jones & Associates found:

  • 14 percent of city voters rank UTA job performance as “excellent.”
  • 35 percent said it was “good.”
  • 32 percent said it was “fair” – which could be assumed a passing grade.
  • 13 percent said UTA was doing a “poor” job.
  • And 6 percent didn’t know.

Jones polled 366 registered voters from April 9-15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.12 percent.


The Legislature passed HB362, which is better known for its increase in the state gasoline tax. But the bill also provides a 0.25 percent local option sales tax hike, with voter approval.

The local option is to go to city and county roads. But if there is a mass transit district in the city/county boundaries, then that entity can get 0.1 percent of that 0.25 percent increase.

Over time, that rather small 0.1 percent sales tax hike will bring in millions of dollars to UTA, the state’s largest mass transit district, which runs busses along the Wasatch Front, TRAX light rail in Salt Lake County and Frontrunner heavy rail trains to Ogden and Provo.

Jones asked Salt Lake City voters their opinions on UTA bus, TRAX and Frontrunner services.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor service and 5 being excellent service, Jones wanted to know how city residents viewed the different mass transit options.

Frontrunner gets the best reviews:

  • Only 3 percent gave it a 1 or a 2, meaning an unsatisfactory score.
  • 13 percent gave it a 3, or average.
  • And 53 percent gave it a 4 or 5, a very good rating.

Now, it makes sense that most Salt Lake City residents don’t take Frontrunner a lot since they probable work and recreate in the city itself – having little need to go to Ogden and Provo.

And Jones found that 31 percent of city residents didn’t have an opinion of Frontrunner at all.

But city residents probably do take TRAX and busses.

  • 6 percent had a poor opinion of TRAX, 17 percent gave it an average rating, and an impressive 70 percent gave TRAX a good or excellent rating. Only 2 percent didn’t have an opinion on how TRAX was operating.

Taking advantage of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus packages, UTA went into a light/heavy rail building mode in recent years – greatly expanding those operations.

That has left some UTA bus users complaining about their service. And UTA officials are making a new effort in the bus area.

The bus dissatisfaction shows up in Jones’ findings.

Of the three UTA options, busses get the lowest ratings – although still not that bad.

Jones finds:

  • 19 percent give bus services a poor rating.
  • 32 percent give it an average ranking.
  • 38 percent say bus services is good to excellent. And 12 percent didn’t have an opinion on bus service.

If the average is passing, then 70 percent say UTA bus service used by city residents is passing or better.

But clearly there is work to do by UTA in the bus service areas.

Some demographic areas of note:

— Younger city residents like UTA services more than middle-age folks. Most likely that’s because younger people make less money, and so use UTA more.

And younger folks are more adaptable, and don’t mind waiting a bit for a bus or train, or traveling in poor weather.

A high percentage of University of Utah students use mass transit to get to and from campus – located on the east bench of the city.

City dwellers who rent – rather than own their home – like UTA more than do homeowners. Renters likely use mass transit more, not owning a car.

Low-income folks are more critical of UTA – especially bus service – than are wealthier city residents. Poor people probably use the bus more often, and can least afford the bus fares.