Salt Lake Express announced late last year it would begin twice-daily runs between Salt Lake City and Moab, Monticello and Blanding. Officials of the Salt Lake City-based firm said the service would operate 365 days a year beginning last month.
However, a company spokeswoman said the additional routes are not being added because the funding has been withheld. Salt Lake Express won a federal grant for $1.5 million over three years to help establish new ridership on the route, company representative Kathy Pope told Moab City Council members during a January meeting.
Kevin Kitchen of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) confirmed the new service is not happening, at least for now.
“That’s been put on hold,” he said. “The company could not meet ADA requirements, and that’s part of the requirements for the federal transit dollars.”
The federal money was to be funneled through UDOT to the bus company. Salt Lake Express won the contract, and the grant, after UDOT released a request for proposals (RFP).
However, Kitchen told The Times-Independent this week that the original RFP did not require every bus in the fleet to be ADA compliant. After the RFP was issued, he said, federal officials made that mandatory to get funding.
“A host of ADA regulations are interpreted differently by different folks,” Kitchen said, adding that UDOT will have to issue a revised RFP. “We hope to have a provider in place by the end of the summer.”
Pope said Salt Lake Express offered to provide wheelchair-equipped buses for trips on which passengers requested them. She said there are approximately two wheelchair requests per month on the company’s existing routes, and six of the firm’s 65 vehicles are ADA compliant.
But the Federal Transit Authority, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said that wasn’t good enough, according to Pope.
“They wouldn’t allow it and there were no exclusions,” she said. “It is a shame. If I had several wheelchair requests a week it would be different, but I don’t.”
Despite the fact that the new ADA interpretation will increase costs, Pope said Salt Lake Express plans to equip all of its buses with necessary equipment and respond to the new RFP, which has just been released.
“I counted on having busy-season income,” she said. “Now we are probably going to be into July or August until the award is made.”
The routes Pope described to Moab City Council members included a stop at Salt Lake International Airport. She said the price for a one-way ticket between Moab and Salt Lake City would be $38, with an additional $5 fee to reach the airport.
Salt Lake Express had planned to use a 16-passenger van, although 45-passenger vehicles were available if more passengers made reservations, Pope told the city council. All of the company’s buses are equipped to pull a trailer to carry bicycles or other items, she said.
Salt Lake Express has its primary routes in northern Utah and southern Idaho. Pope told the council it has been in business for 14 years and transported 156,000 passengers during 2011.