Study maps out potential expansion of SunTran service

ST. GEORGE – A new study commissioned by the Dixie Metropolitan Planning Organization shows how SunTran could grow to serve up to five times more customers and expand to surrounding cities – based on public support.

SunTran provided 65,935 rides in 2003. That number grew to over 442,000 rides in 2011 – an average annual increase of more than 20 percent. The growth in transit popularity, increasing fuel costs, and public comments at last year’s Dixie Transportation Expo supported the MPO’s interest in commissioning the Regional Transit Study.

The Study indicates that expanding transit services would depend heavily on positive public support and public financing, but short-term, mid-term, and long term growth initiatives are outlined in the Study.

“Initially it is recommended that SunTran retain operation . . . and expand service through inter-local agreements,” the study stated. The study also recommends using more local revenue from cities like Ivins, Santa Clara, Washington, and Hurricane to leverage federal grants currently available to SunTran. That move, coupled with inter-local agreements to expand services into those cities would constitute a good initial step toward a more robust transit service.

In future years, depending on public support, a full service regional transit system could ultimately provide bus service to thousands more riders. By comparison, similarly sized communities examined in the study provide 11 to 24 annual rides per capita compared to SunTran’s 5.46 annual rides per capita. The difference is in the number of buses, routes, frequency of service, and a 0.3 percent sales tax approved by local voters in the other areas.

The study looks at six communities with populations similar to southern Washington County. Each of these communities started out with a transit system much like SunTran, and grew into systems that serve two to five times more riders per capita.

Deep in the details of Chapter 6, the Study gives an example of how a commuter bus route could be established from the SunTran transfer station in St. George to either Ivins or through Washington City to the Purgatory Business Park in Hurricane for $27,000 per year after an initial investment of $122,000. That contribution of local funds could leverage over $600,000 in federal funds to expand local transit services.

The chapter also outlines the cost of a fixed route system, and indicates that establishing fixed and commuter routes though inter-local agreements could lay the foundation for the necessary public education and outreach needed for the eventual creation of a public transit district.

The Study is available on the web at http://dixiempo.wordpress.com/plans-reports-studies/.

For more information, please contact Myron Lee at the Five County Association of Governments at mlee@fivecounty.utah.gov, or call 435-673-3548 x124.

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7 Comments

  • George Waterman March 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    The web link for the study/plans is incorrect. Use

    http://dixiempo.wordpress.com/plans-reports-studies/

  • Big Bob March 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    It’s about time we see Suntran in the news about expanding. It’s without a doubt much needed. I would be nearly a regular rider if it had routes covering the south side of the valley like Bloomington/Sunriver/Little Valley. It’s overdue for the metro area to step up and get transit area wide from Ivins to Washington, annd hopefully even Hurricane. With those ridership numbers jumping so much, I can’t believe it hasn’t been expanded yet!

  • Tyler March 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I support this, PLEASE expand mass transit like soon!!

  • Thom March 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I think the area is big enough now that the suburbs of Santa Clara, Washington and Ivins should no longer have a choice whether or not they want to participate in expanding SunTran into their areas. We, like any other similar sized community need a metro-wide bus link. It would further boost the local economy as people who don’t have the option to drive, could ride the bus to major shopping destinations as well as hospitals, libraries and other local points of interest from all parts of the area. You’d have have all people from all walks of life able to freely access all areas of the valley in a safe, reliable mode of transportation. I thought the federal goverment helped fund metro areas’ public transportation. So in our case here, SunTran should’ve already been funded to cover the entire area, not just sections of St. George proper, I presumed.

  • Matty Jacobson March 9, 2012 at 2:50 am

    I’ve always wondered why UTA isn’t involved with southern Utah. I mean, it’s the Utah Transit Authority, right? Not the Salt Lake City Transit Authority. I would be in favor of TRAX system that ran from Santa Clara to Hurricane, with SUNTran depots along the way. I bet that would not only fix the problems we’re having on Bluff Street, but it would also help clean the air and stop all this reliance on gas. I would stop driving and ride a train if we had one.

  • Tyler March 10, 2012 at 2:35 am

    I agree, Matty. UTA should serve all urbanized areas requiring mass transit within the state, not just along the Wasatch Front. We are part of the urban Utah Commuter Trafficlink as we have the cameras and equipment monitoring area intersections and showing up in a data- base up north, so why not affiliate UTA down here?

  • Tyler March 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I would pretty much do away with my gas guzzling car if the bus covered all of the area from Washington to Bloomington to Ivins.

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