The Hive program may get another chance. During Tuesday’s Salt Lake City Council work session, Robin Hutcheson, the director of the Transportation Planning Division, briefed the council on revised pans to relaunch the Hive program tentatively called the Hive Co-op.
The pilot program for the Hive Pass, a transit pass subsidized by Salt Lake City and the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), was prematurely canceled last fall after the number of passes purchased was significantly under the city’s projections.
“It wasn’t the greatest marketing done, but the impact (of the Hive Pass) was significant” said city council member Erin Mendenhall.
When Salt Lake launched the Hive Pass pilot program in March of 2014, residents were slow to sign up. The city of over 190,000 people sold just 3,200 passes during the seven month run of the program. According to the city, the initial tepid public response was due to the year-long financial commitment of the pass as well as the requirement to apply in person at the City and County building.
While the amount of passes sold was far under projections, the Hive Pass did prove to attract new riders. Of the 3,200 passes sold, 300 passes were bought by first-time transit users.
A survey of 233 Hive users found that most users rode transit more frequently after purchasing the pass. Nearly three out of four survey respondents said they used mass transit three or more times a week. Respondents were highly satisfied with the Hive Pass, with 90 percent saying they would purchase the pass again.
UTA data shows that 160,000 new boardings between March and November were attributed to Hive users.
The original Hive Pass was good for travel on all rail and regular bus routes. At $350 a year (or $360 if you pay in 12 monthly installments of $30), the program made public transit significantly more affordable for Salt Lake residents.
“Salt Lake residents make shorter trips than the regional average,” said Hutcheson.
According to Hutcheson the Hive Pass addresses the equity gap in regional transit, through subsidizing the cost to city residents. Under UTA’s current fare structure, a 20 mile trip has the same cost as a one mile trip.
The standard one-way fare on UTA buses and trains is $2.50, or $5.00 for round-trips. The price for a standard adult monthly pass is $83.75.
Under the new proposal, Hive Passes would be available on a month-to-month basis for $42 per month with unlimited access to all UTA TRAX and regular commuter bus service. The price of the new pass is $12 more per month than the original Hive Pass, but the new pass is still half the price of standard UTA monthly pass.
Unlike with the original program, unlimited access to Frontrunner service won’t be included in the new proposal. According to the Mayor’s office, Frontrunner was utilized by less than 10 percent of users during the pilot program as shown by UTA automated passenger count data.
The Hive Voucher program, where providers of services to low income residents purchase annual passes for their clients, would stay the same under the revised program.
If council approves the new proposal, the city would contribute 30 percent of the cost of each pass with UTA contributing 20 percent. Current Hive Passes will still be valid for a year from the time the pass was purchased.