UTA prepares for almost anything

SALT LAKE CITY — If you ride mass transit regularly, you typically won’t notice any problems unless you’re affected directly — that is, your bus or train is running more than a few minutes off schedule.

But it takes a great deal of planning for issues big and small by the Utah Transit Authority to keep the trains (and buses) running on time.

Last month, morning commuters on UTS’s TRAX light rail system experienced major delays due to an equipment issue that affected travel on all three lines, making some riders over an hour late. Among the riders impacted that Jan. 17 morning was Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, who was making his daily commute to his full-time job as director of the Utah Office of Health Care Statistics.

Since FrontRunner launched its south extension to Provo in 2012, he has used the commuter rail line and the TRAX Green Line to get back and forth to work at his agency’s offices near West North Temple, he said. And while this most recent disruption caused him to be about 45 minutes late, he said the system usually is very reliable.

“As a general rule, things run on time or within an acceptable tolerance,” he said. “Realistically for me, if I make the connection, the Green Line is never more than a couple of minutes late.”

Thurston noted that over the years, he has experienced delays from time to time, but seldom anything that would cause a significant inconvenience and nothing close to the headache of rush hour traffic on the freeway.

“My typical experience is that delays are uncommon and they are not typically as bad as you would experience in a traffic jam,” he said.

Todd Provost, vice president of operations, capital and asset management for UTA, said the agency has spent a great deal of time developing response strategies in the event of virtually any kind of service disruption.

“It depends on the severity of the issue, but we have a service recovery plan that helps (us decide) which approach to take,” he said. “We’ll even activate our emergency operations center to coordinate (response) activities in (major disruption) scenarios.”

He said the agency works 24 hours to keep the system running as smoothly as possible, but there is no way to avoid every circumstance. Delays can be caused by passenger medical issues, people trespassing on agency property or equipment failure — which is what caused the most recent big delay, explained Lucas Ewing, assistant manager of TRAX operations

Provost said the main goal each day is to provide safe service to passengers in a timely fashion on every transit mode they operate.

“We are trying to be the safest we can be,” he said. “(We want) to make sure people can rely on us the best that they can.”

Across its entire system, UTA monitors and maintains 133 miles of rail track, with a 70-car fleet of commuter rail vehicles, 117 light rail cars, not to mention more than 400 buses, said UTA spokesman Carl Arky. UTA operates in seven counties …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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