“We want to advocate for a system that is better for not only today, but for the next 20 to 40 years,” says Alex Cragun, who serves as treasurer of UTRU.
Cragun explained that the group is not against UTA. “We’re both in favor of the exact same thing, which is better public service, when it comes to consistent and reliable and affordable system. However, we disagree on how things are brought about.”
Chief among their proposals is an increase of the portion of the sales tax that goes to transit. UTRU is calling for the sales tax that goes towards UTA to be raised to 1 cent per dollar, which would be a 45 percent increase. The additional taxes would be contingent upon UTA providing increased service to riders. Ideally, the group would like everyone to be within one mile of a transit stop.
Also proposed is the creation of a community oversight committee, which would monitor the way UTA spends and allocates their money. The committee would be staffed by advocates and consumers. “Currently, their board of directors does have relationships with those people. However, I think having something integral into their structure would be also advantageous,” Cragun said. The group is also in favor of having two dedicated positions on UTA’s board – one would be for a transit rider, the other for a UTA employee who does not serve in an administrative capacity.
Christopher Stout, president of UTRU, stressed the importance of getting average citizens engaged in the process. “We’re stakeholders. Riders are stakeholders. This is one thing that we really want to push, that we get ordinary people on the board. And that that brings that customer focus back into focus.”
David Kallas, who serves as a senior advisor to UTA, says that UTA would love to increase all bus stop frequencies to every 15 minutes, rather than every 30 or 60 minutes. “What prevents us from doing that is cost. You have to have more buses. You have to have more operators, and then you have to have mechanics in the room to keep all that maintained.”
Formed earlier this year, UTRU is a nonprofit advocacy group. According to their mission statement, they hope to foster the development of a “transit-affirming culture” in Utah.
Editor’s Note: Alex Cragun is a writer for Utah Political Capitol.