It has been just over a year since the Utah Transit Authority opened the bus rapid transit Utah Valley Express Route through Provo and Orem. For Jenna Kim, that means she can see her sister once a week.
Kim, a Brigham Young University student, rides the UVX from BYU to the Provo FrontRunner station every Thursday after class and rides free to Salt Lake City where her sister lives. She spends the night and on Friday morning rides the FrontRunner and UVX to Provo and BYU.
“It wouldn’t be as easy to visit my sister without UVX,” Kim said. “It’s important to visit family. I love it.”
On Thursday, UTA and UVX held a customer appreciation day, giving out cookies and handing out spring toys in honor of the articulated buses that are hinged in the middle.
The first year results are staggering, according to Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, area manager.
The first year numbers doubled what they anticipated for their first two years, De La Mare-Schaefer said.
In August of 2018, UVX’s average weekday boardings were 5,866. For August of 2019, the average weekday boardings were 9,288.
“Looking at the first two weeks that Utah Valley University was in school this year (Aug. 29-31) the average weekday boardings were 12,101,” De La Mare- Schaefer said.
When Brigham Young University started school, the average weekday boardings increased to 14,598.
UTA’s projection was 11,000 boardings on weekdays two years out, according to De La Mare-Schaefer.
“Our highest ridership to date was on Aug. 29 when the U of U played BYU. We hit just over 16,000 that day,” De La Mare-Schaefer said.
Carolyn Gonot, the new executive director of UTA, was on hand at the Provo inter-modal hub to thank the riders.
“I’m very impressed with the service in general,” Gonot said. “On my second interview for the job I asked if I could ride the UVX.”
Gonot started her new position on Aug. 19. Before UTA she worked 23 years with the Valley Transportation Authority in Silicon Valley in California.
How UTA is handling the population growth and transportation needs is similar to what Silicon Valley did years ago. Gonot said the advantage for her is the level of technology.
“We are very excited about this years increased ridership,” said Kent Millington, board trustee. “This is a very positive success.”
Millington said the best part is there are 5,000 fewer cars driving around Provo and Orem every day.
UVX had a rough start with several naysayers wanting a different route or none at all. A group of residents even sued Provo and Orem for not allowing the item to be voted on by the people. The State Supreme Court agreed with the cities.
Now the numbers are showing those who were skeptical that UVX has been embraced by Provo and Orem, as well as Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University students, faculty and staff. But more importantly, according to Millington, the community is riding and support the UVX route.