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    Date submitted
  • 05-Jun-2018

LinkUtah

Abstract

LinkUtah is an initiative by the Utah Rail Passengers Association to encourage the establishment of state-sponsored Amtrak service that would connect the Wasatch Front north to Logan, southeast through Price and Green River to Grand Junction, and southwest through Delta and Milford to Cedar City. Motor coaches would connect Cedar City to Saint George as there are no railroad tracks connecting to Washington County. The proposal would make use of existing Union Pacific tracks in order to keep capital costs low. Frequencies are envisioned to be a minimum of three round-trips per day on each leg.

Additional Questions

Who is your customer?

In 2017, the American Automobile Association estimated the average annual cost of automobile ownership at $8,469 per vehicle. Therefore, an increase in public transportation options allowing a household to own one fewer vehicle would increase that household’s net income by more than 10 percent. While increasing public transportation options such that households could reduce vehicle ownership would benefit a variety of households in Utah, households with college students are a particular target community that would benefit greatly from reducing the burden of automobile ownership. As education levels play a critical roll in facilitating upward mobility for households, expenses incurred during the college years can be a major detriment to the financial success of a household.

What problem does this idea/product solve or what market need does it serve?

Virtually 100 percent of the 3 million residents of the state of Utah live within a quarter-mile of a road. In contrast in the six metropolitan counties served by the Utah Transit Authority, only an estimated 64 percent of the population of more than 2.5 million live within a quarter-mile of a transit stop. Metaphorically speaking, Utah’s transportation policy has put all its eggs in one basket—also known as a car. Transportation is key to unlocking opportunity—and with it, quality of life, social mobility, self-sufficiency, and peace of mind. By prioritizing private transportation, Utah has left far too many in the dust.

What attributes will make this idea/product successful? Why do you believe that those features will create success?

Many people cannot drive. Our youth and many of our aging population don’t qualify for drivers’ licenses. Physical or developmental disabilities add to the rolls of those not able to drive. Even with a drivers’ license, many households strain to afford a car. In 2017, the American Automobile Association estimated the average annual cost of automobile ownership at $8,469 per vehicle—well beyond the comfort zone for many Utah households. Even if we could make private car ownership more widespread, the toll more cars would exact upon our environment, health, and communities.

Explain how you (your team) will execute to make this idea/product successful? What gives you (your team) an advantage over others already in the market or new to this market?

Before part one of LinkUtah can be implemented, an extensive study will need to be performed by the State of Utah in partnership with Amtrak and Union Pacific. In order to garner funding for the study, public support for LinkUtah needs to be established. It is the intent of the Utah Rail Passengers Association during 2019 to travel throughout the state educating citizens and policymakers about LinkUtah with the goal of seeking legislation enacted by the Utah Legislature during the 2020 General Session that would fund the aforementioned study and further the LinkUtah proposal. While the study will be necessary in order to determine a comprehensive implementation timeline, it is estimated that service could be running by 2025, if there is support from the public and policymakers.