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UTA ending HAFB bus service

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The Utah Transit Authority will phase out its bus service to Hill Air Force Base, replacing the seven buses used now with van pools as soon as April.

Hill employees who are employed part time by UTA now drive the buses to and from the base and the buses remain parked during the day. Full-time UTA employees are not permitted to drive the buses on base because of security issues.

The conversion of all routes to van pools as soon as the vans are available will save 160,000 miles of service that can be reinvested in other areas, said UTA spokesman Kris McBride.

UTA's board of trustees approved the conversion from buses to vans unanimously in its meeting Wednesday.

Transit planner Ken Anson said UTA has been working with the base since last summer to find a way to utilize the buses that sit idle all day at the base. He said UTA and Hill haven't been able to come to any other agreement that works for both parties without running into security issues.

Fran Kosakowsky at Hill Air Force Base said the change from buses to vans won't affect the base. Bus ridership is low, she said. She said she doesn't think riders will be bothered by switching to vans.

Anson confirmed that ridership on the buses is low, between 40 and 50 percent of the buses' capacity. Five of the buses come from the Salt Lake Valley and two from Ogden.

Already, there are six van pools that go to the base each day, one from Logan and the others from the Salt Lake Valley. Another 10 to 12 vans would take care of the needs of those who currently ride the buses. UTA's Scott Miklos said it's possible that more vans soon will be needed at Hill. The base employs 19,000 people and 15 van pools are being used at the Tooele Army Depot, which only employs 5,000.

"It's flexible, the seating's better and it probably will cut the (travel) time in half," Miklos said.

UTA will maintain the vans and pay for gas and insurance. The cost to Hill employees will be covered by $100 a month federal employees receive to offset the cost of alternative transportation.

Miklos said at least 60 people have already expressed interest in the van pools, with more than 10 percent of them interested in driving the vans.

"I predict ridership would increase," he said. "We could probably double or triple our ridership."

Contributing: Rob Rogers

E-MAIL: lculler@desnews.com