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Poor, disabled object, but UTA hikes fares
S.L. County mayor: He wants UTA to study the feasibility of a no-fare or low-fare plan for the poor
By Matt Canham
The Salt Lake Tribune
Published March 24, 2005 1:31 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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Over the objections of a group of disabled and low-income advocates, the Utah Transit Authority's board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to raise fares for bus and light-rail service.

UTA General Manager John Inglish also dismissed a request by Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon to study the feasibility of a no-fare system or reduced-fare rides during off-peak hours to help the poor.

"UTA is not a social service agency," Inglish said. "We are not in the business of identifying what people's incomes are."

But the transit agency has agreed to hold a "summit" involving interest groups representing the poor and disabled to search for ways to make public transportation more affordable. The summit will take place sometime in the next two to three months, Inglish said.

Trustees turned down Inglish's fare increase proposal last month because of protests over a proposed 25-cent bump in paratransit fares. Those increases were scaled back in the plan approved Wednesday.

The fare hikes will raise $1 million to offset an operating shortfall caused by the increased cost of diesel fuel and the need to replace some aging buses, Inglish said.

"The hard-core reality is that we need a fare increase to not restrict our current level of service," board member Necia Christensen said.

But Bill Germundson of the Anti-Hunger Action Committee complained that transit riders pay twice because the majority of UTA's funds comes from sales taxes. He also claimed that UTA "mismanages" taxpayer funds.

Christensen countered by saying only one-half of one percent of the sales tax is earmarked for UTA, which is not enough to fund a no-fare system. Cutting out fares would leave UTA with a $20 million budget hole.

Germundson echoed Corroon's request, asking for a "freeze" on all fare increases until a feasibility study on a no-fare system is finished.

Corroon said the issue came to his attention through meetings with low-income aid and advocacy agencies such as the Crossroads Urban Center and Utah Issues.

"While they are considering a rate hike, what better time is there to have a study on how it affects people, where their riders live and the income of their riders?" Corroon asked. "Especially on low-income people, who fare increases have the most impact on their lives."

Inglish promised to meet with Corroon to discuss his concerns, though he said voters have historically opposed no-fare systems because they want those who ride transit to help pay its bills.

Corroon agrees with that sentiment: "Everybody should pay something, it is just how much."

mcanham@sltrib.com



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