Skip to main content

Draper Journal

Vans can get you where you need to go, even a free ride to be vaccinated

Apr 19, 2021 09:54AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Vans like these make up UTA’s On-Demand micro-transit service, a rideshare that can connect to and from mass transit or for other errands within their service area. (Courtesy Utah Transit Authority)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Need a ride to a doctor appointment, the grocery store, FrontRunner or TRAX, but don’t want to pay for Uber or Lyft? That’s what those silver and blue vans you’ve seen driving around town can do—take you on an errand or connect you to mass transit for a small fee. Better yet, UTA has just announced they’ll offer free rides to and from Covid-19 vaccine appointments on all their forms of transit, including these “micro-transit” vans. 

“In our service area, we have five TRAX stations and two FrontRunner stations. This dynamic On-Demand service is for people to use within the service area to connect into and out of UTA’s rail network. That’s the idea of ‘first and last mile,’ so you can make a complete trip using public transit. I would also like to be clear there’s not a requirement to connect into the rail system. You can use it to go anywhere you want to go within the service area,” said Jaron Robertson, director of Innovative Mobility Solutions for UTA.

It’s a public-private partnership with a company called Via that provides this service across the globe. “We really partnered with a great company,” Robertson said. It’s different from other rideshare services in that you can only use it within the service area and you are required to walk a short distance to meet the vehicle (unless you’re in a wheelchair or mobility device, in which case they’ll go door to door within the service area). It’s less expensive than other rideshare services and it’s also different from other rideshares because they generally try to match rides with other people (there are currently restrictions on that because of the pandemic). 

They have a fleet of 17 vans, five of which are wheelchair accessible. Their top locations for first and last mile service have been the Draper FrontRunner station and the Daybreak TRAX station. During the pandemic, they’ve seen less trips to rail stations and more trips such as a grocery store, a doctor appointment, or a visit to someone who also lives in the service area. 

The pilot program launched in November 2019 with the intention of running for one year to measure success and ridership of the service. “We had really high adoption in use of the service up to literally when everything shut down, then it was a sharp decrease,” Robertson said. “It’s no different than how we saw ridership decline in our other modes.”  

The service saw its highest single day ridership, just over 500 passengers, in March 2020. Ridership was 7,000 passengers in January 2020 and 6,000 in March 2020. Then the pandemic hit and it’s been closer to 2,000 passengers per month. But ridership is on the rise again and UTA’s board decided to continue the pilot through August 2021. “We wanted to continue the pilot given the impact Covid had on it,” Robertson said. Beyond August 2021, he expects the pilot will continue or the service may become permanent. “Those decisions have not been made yet, but that’s the direction we’re likely to go.”

Safety procedures have been put in place to keep the service going despite the pandemic, and those safety protocols are still being followed. “From the beginning, we quickly implemented cleaning procedures. We really stepped up the daily cleaning of the vehicles as we did with the whole system (FrontRunner and TRAX). We continue to require face coverings, we put barriers between the driver and the passengers, we use automatic door opening and closing, and we limit the number to a maximum of three passengers in addition to the driver,” Robertson said. 

The fare is the same as it is for UTA’s TRAX and bus services, $2.50/ride for a one-way trip. “You can use your fare payments to transfer to other modes or vice versa (such as Via to TRAX or vice versa) with no additional fee. We accept all UTA pass products and we also have the Fare-pay card, a reloadable card that you can put money on using the Via app. We accept credit and debit cards within the Via app. You can call into customer service and have the trip booked if you don’t have a smart phone and you can pay for that trip as part of the process with a credit, debit or Fare-pay card, or even an Electronic Fare Card (EFC). The service is designed to use a smart phone application, but we made it available to people who might not have a smart phone,” Robertson said. Customers who want to take advantage of four free trips (two trips to and two trips from two-dose vaccinations) will be provided with a promotion code.

More information can be found through the following: