The 15 board members of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) were asked to take the #7dayUTA challenge—to use only UTA buses and TRAX trains for their daily commutes, shopping, and recreation. Of those 15, 12 refused or failed to participate, and #7dayUTA organizer Alex Cragun says that’s “disappointing.”
Cragun issued the challenge, along with a petition for expanded late-night UTA service with 3,300 signatures, two weeks ago, but only three board members were willing to use their own services for a week. “I’m grateful for those who have participated,” Cragun says. “They’ve shown a willingness to listen to transit riders and walk in their shoes.”
For two members of the UTA board, Cragun’s statement was a literal.
Greg Hughes, Chairman of the UTA board and Republican representative from Draper, posted on Facebook that rubber soled shoes were a better way to handle the “walk-a-thon” he experienced over the past two days. Similarly, UTA board member Necia Christensen confessed in an interview to KSTU that she had developed blisters after the first day.
UTA board member Keith Bartholomew, also participated in the challenge.
The remaining 12 board members have either refused to take the challenge or have not responded to Cragun’s call to participate.
“They’re sending the wrong message to their riders,” Cragun continued, “It’s as if the other board members are either too good for their own services, or they just don’t care.”
According to Cragun, board members who refused to participate in the challenge cited the difficulty it would place on them as they attempt to go to and from their jobs, or that their professions make automobile ownership a near necessity.
“They are missing the point,” Cragun noted. “A transit system that isn’t robust affects riders’ ability to obtain employment, their ability to carry out every-day tasks. [By refusing to participate] it seems that they are too good for their own system, which is an insult to everyone who desperately needs to reliable public transportation system.”
During the challenge, Hughes would lament missing trains, confusing schedules, and long walks, while enjoying meetings that were conveniently located next to TRAX stations. Christensen noted that she used the opportunity to speak to regular users of the system to have a better feel for those that depend on the system.
Hughes’ Democratic opponent, Kyle Waters, also took up the challenge, and noted service delays on TRAX, planning around weather, and the necessity to catch a final bus which stopped service after 7 PM.
Board members still have 16 days to attempt Cragun’s challenge, but he says he’s surprised more board members didn’t participate initially.
*Editor’s Note: Alex Cragun is a writer for Utah Political Capitol. His actions have been independent of any UPC responsibilities, and UPC has no formal position on the petition or #7dayUTA challenge.