Salt Lake Express was chosen Nov. 5 for a five-year federal grant to operate bus service between Blanding and Salt Lake City, said UDOT spokesman Kevin Kitchen.
Kathy Pope of Salt Lake Express said the company hopes to begin the new route April 1.
“They have the vehicles in place and are excited about serving this area,” said Amy Peters of the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments. “It is needed here.”
There is currently no regular bus service linking Moab and the region’s largest city. Salt Lake Express now operates in Utah and Idaho.
The company’s proposed itinerary includes a stop at Salt Lake City International Airport.
Pope said the company wants to market its new route to international tourists as well as Utah residents. She said China has relaxed its travel restrictions, allowing all citizens to leave the country for trips, and West Yellowstone, Mont., received a large number of Chinese tourists last winter.
“They are going to be coming to Utah in droves,” Pope said.
Kitchen said the grant will be administered through UDOT. Salt Lake Express was chosen from a number of applicants and contract negotiations began last week, he said.
Pope anticipates the contract being signed before Christmas. The company will hold a series of community meetings in early January to hear residents’ suggestions for such things as arrival and departure times, and bus station locations.
Pope added that the goal is to coordinate Salt Lake Express’s schedule so travelers can connect with Greyhound bus departures to other destinations.
Although Peters cautioned that the schedule is tentative, Salt Lake Express’s grant proposal suggests the following timetable:
–Leaving Moab at 5 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., arriving at Salt Lake International Airport at 10 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
–Leaving Salt Lake International Airport at 6:40 a.m. and 6:40 p.m., arriving in Moab at 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m.
Stops also will be made at Green River, Price, Provo, the Salt Lake City Greyhound terminal and downtown Salt Lake City.
The service will extend as far south as Blanding, with additional stops at Monticello. According to the proposal, the service will operate seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“This is a really neat thing they are doing,” Grand County Council member Audrey Graham said. “I am very excited to have public transportation down here again.”
The company did not include prices in its proposal, but charges about $38 one way from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Boise, Idaho – a distance of 130 miles. Moab is 235 miles from Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake Express uses 16-passenger Dodge Sprinter vans. They are equipped with a hitch and a 5-foot by 8-foot trailer for luggage, bikes and package express.
A 29-passenger vehicle is on standby for occasions when reservations exceed 16 passengers, according to the company’s proposal.
Salt Lake Express’s proposal noted that past ridership has grown 20 percent annually.
“We feel that the potential ridership on these projects will grow at an average of 20 percent each year until it is self-sustaining and no longer requires subsidy from UDOT,” the proposal stated.
“Over the next four months or so, Salt Lake Express will be working with the communities and the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council to solidify stops, times, places of pick-ups and partnerships,” Peters said.