Crossroads Urban Center surveyed 272 food pantry clients between May 1 and May 10, 2013. Among other things, we asked the people we interviewed questions about their use of public transportation. We were pleased to learn that the majority of our clients use the public transportation services provided by the Utah Transit Authority. 56.2 percent of the people we surveyed had ridden the bus or Trax within the past 7 days and another 15.8 percent reported having ridden within the past 30 days.
Our food pantry is based in downtown Salt Lake City, which has one of the best public transportation systems in the country, and so it is not surprising that low income people are using public transportation. That being said, it appears that the low income people who come to our food pantry for help with food are over seven times more likely to use public transportation than the general population. According to the Census Bureau, 5.8 percent of Salt Lake City residents use public transportation to get to work. In contrast, 41.8 percent of the people we interviewed said they used public transportation at least 4 times per week.
The importance of public transportation to low income people may help to explain why so many more people use public transportation in Salt Lake City than in the rest of the County. Census data shows that Salt Lake City residents are 75 percent more likely to use public transportation to get to work than are the general residents of Salt Lake County. City residents are also 61 percent more likely to be living in poverty.
The fact that so many low income people in Salt Lake City are using public transportation does not mean that UTA can afford to take their continued ridership for granted. 29 percent of the low income people we interviewed had not ridden on a bus or TRAX at all during the past month.
It appears that price is a significant factor when people decide to not use public transportation. 58.6 percent of the people we interviewed told us that during the past month they had chosen to not ride public transportation on at least one occasion because of the price for the service. The most popular alternatives to using public transportation were walking, for 39.8 percent of the people we interviewed, and using a family car, for 28.6 percent.