Between the Department of Workforce Services, the Utah Transit Authority and Park City Municipal, more businesses know about the bus service from Salt Lake City to Park City. The route was created more than a year ago, an effort to provide a wider job market to employers in the area, especially larger employers such as resorts and hotel properties. But ridership numbers from last year fell short from what UTA originally hoped for.
To spread the word about the bus service and to accommodate the target demographic, seasonal employees at the resorts, UTA, DWS and Park City Municipal have been reaching out to local businesses not only to spread the word that the service exists, but to inform employers of the changes this year. With partnerships built with the three resorts and organizations such as the Park City Chamber/Visitors Bureau, more employees than ever are being offered specials, rebates and discounts to encourage ridership.
"We started in July, soliciting to employers," said Darrin Nielsen, the DWS Employment Office Supervisor for Park City and Heber. "We were looking for those who knew about the bus route, those who would be willing to contribute and tell their employees about the bus route, What we discovered was that very few employers knew about the service."
"This winter season, more employers are helping employees to use the bus route. Some employers are offering 100 percent reimbursement, others are paying a $7-out-of-every-$10 ratio. It depends on the job, but more businesses are subsidizing the bus route."
Using surveys collected from riders who used the bus route last year, several changes were made to the service, including an additional bus route to serve employees living in South Salt Lake, lower prices for the one-time and monthly passes and the ability to transfer to other UTA services without having to pay for another ticket.
"Employees will make bus system work," said Park City Transit and Transportation Manager Kent Cashel. "The system is designed to serve commuters. That's the core, the group that can provide enough ridership to sustain the system."
"Our partners, in particular the ski resorts, are major players in providing support to grow ridership. But other businesses, companies such as Skullcandy, are helping to provide that strong ridership we need."
According to numbers provided by UTA, ridership in Dec. 2011 averaged to 153 riders per day. This year, data through Dec. 23 showed that the average ridership per day hit the exact same number, 153 riders. While it is too early to determine whether reaching out to businesses has had an effect on ridership, UTA Spokesperson Gerry Carpenter said the organization will be carefully monitoring January, February and March.
"We don't have a ton of comparative data yet," he said, "and that is because it is so early in the winter season.
"What happens over next three months, that will be the best indicator of the effectiveness of changes made to encourage ridership."