After several false starts, passenger bus service between southeastern Utah and Salt Lake City is set to begin this weekend.
Elevated Transit CEO Steven Fuller announced this week that his company plans to launch once-daily service from Blanding and Moab to the Salt Lake City International Airport on Saturday, Aug. 16.
Free test runs started on Wednesday, Aug. 13 and will continue through Friday, Aug. 15.
“We feel like we need to run in real time to make sure everything works before we start charging for the service,” Fuller said.
Passengers will not need reservations or tickets to ride the buses during the three-day trial period, but free seating will only be available on a first-come, first-served basis, he said.
On the first day of service, at least, there were plenty of seats to choose from.
The first northbound coach set off from Blanding early Wednesday morning, and when it pulled into its first stop in Moab less than a minute behind schedule, only one passenger was on board.
That first bus — along with two other Glaval Synergy coaches — was made in the U.S. at manufacturing plants in Indiana and North Carolina.
Elevated Transit initially hoped to begin its service in late April. But the company later pushed its tentative starting date back to early June, and then postponed it again, as it waited for its custom-ordered fleet to arrive in Utah.
The 35-passenger buses are compliant with federal Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, and their emissions are soot-free, according to Ryan Fuller, CEO of parent company Wasatch Transportation.
“They say — and I’m not suggesting that you do this — that you can lay under the tail pipe and there’s no danger,” he said.
Each bus is also designed with passenger comfort in mind: They come equipped with live satellite televisions, wi-fi Internet service, armrest plug-ins for cell phones, plush seats and lavatories.
“There are just some really cool things that should make it pretty comfortable for people,” he said.
The company is also planning for the possibility that people who travel to and from Moab will want to bring their bicycles along with them.
“We will have the ability to tow a bike trailer behind the bus,” Steven Fuller said. “It’s kind of a supply and demand thing … If the customers demand it, then we’ll make sure it happens.”
Final ticket prices had not been announced as of press time Wednesday, but they will be “reasonable,” according to Ryan Fuller.
“Unless you have a Prius, it’s going to be cheaper than gas,” he said.
The service will also be convenient for area residents who may not have access to other forms of transportation, according to Ryan Fuller: He said he heard from one Moab-area man who told him it will be much easier now to get to his doctor’s appointments in Price.
“I think it’s just awesome for this area,” he said. “It takes off a lot of limitations.”
The service is ultimately designed to tie into transit systems along the route, and passengers will be able to make cross-country connections through Greyhound Bus Lines, he said.
Elevated Transit’s daily northbound bus is scheduled to leave Utah State University-Eastern’s Blanding campus at 7:24 a.m. each morning. After a quick stop in Monticello, the bus is due to arrive at the Moab 7-11 on South Main Street at 8:50 a.m. A stop at the Lions Park Transit Hub just north of town will follow at 8:57 a.m.
The southbound bus is scheduled to leave Salt Lake City International Airport at 8:04 a.m. each day. It is set to arrive at the Lions Park Transit Hub at 12:55 p.m., and is due in at the 7-11 on South Main Street at 1:02 p.m. each afternoon.
Other stops along the route include Green River, Price, Spanish Fork, Provo and downtown Salt Lake City.
For more information, contact Elevated Transit at: 888-353-8283. Additional details, including ticket prices, will be posted on the company’s website at: www.elevatedtransit.com by the end of the week, according to Steven Fuller.
ByBy Rudy Herndon