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A state senator joined by councils in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Taylorsville and Kearns told the Utah Transit Authority Board on Wednesday that it has neglected neighborhood bus service in their areas.
"Buses in residential neighborhoods are sorely lacking," says the letter written by Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City, a former UTA Board member.
An aide read the letter at a UTA Board meeting Wednesday and said the other councils and several legislators also signed on to Mayne's call for improved bus service.
While she praised recent expansion of rail service, Mayne said UTA ignored how important getting buses into neighborhoods is to its overall system.
"People are not going to walk miles to catch a bus on a main artery. They will just get into their cars and drive, and that's defeating the goal of fewer cars on the road," she wrote.
"Speaking for the communities further away from downtown and the I-15 corridor, our blocks are long and the service hours and low-frequency routes do not match the working hours and transit needs of many people who would otherwise be customers," the letter said.
"I recommend a retooling and re-examination of neighborhood routes and bus stops," it concluded.
UTA Board Chairman H. David Burton responded, "We'll be considering this as resources are available."
UTA also later released a letter from Burton to Mayne that said, "We are currently working on a comprehensive bus system redesign" and "are striving to find the right balance of service within the resources available to us."
Before the vote on Proposition 1 to raise sales taxes for transportation, Burton said money from that ballot proposal would be used primarily to improve bus routes, rather than train service. However, Prop 1 failed in Salt Lake, Utah and Box Elder counties within the UTA district, but passed in Davis, Weber and Tooele counties.
The UTA Board reported Wednesday that it has been meeting with mayors and other leaders in Davis, Weber and Tooele counties to plan how to spend the extra money that Prop 1 will make available there.
Interim UTA President and CEO Jerry Benson said officials will have firm proposals on how to spend that money by about May before UTA starts receiving Prop 1 money in June and will seek to amend the agency's 2016 budget then.
Meanwhile, the UTA plans to show the public two types of new, smaller buses that it is considering for service expansion in Weber and Davis a 35-foot Gillig trolley replica that seats 32 passengers, and a 29-foot Gillig bus that seats 26 passengers.
UTA said it is exploring the use of smaller buses that would meet rider demand while saving fuel and emissions. The buses will be available for the public to see from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday in the east parking lot of the Davis County Chamber of Commerce, 450 Simmons Way, Kaysville.
UTA officials said they expect about $4 million in extra money annually from Prop 1 for Davis County, and an $3.4 million in Weber.
UTA announces lowering fines for offenses
The Utah Transit Authority Board on Wednesday approved an extensive rewriting of its ordinances, saying it sought to simplify them. The biggest change for most passengers is that the cost of fines will now drop.
"They will all be reduced," said Dave Goeres, UTA chief safety officer. He said it is a sign that UTA is seeking to be more friendly, and focus more on education than punishment in its system.
For example, he said a fine for not paying a fare has been $167, but now will be $100.
Fines had varied greatly according to offense. Now they all will cost $100, $75 or $50.
Some of the now-$50 fines previously cost up to $350 (or four times the cost of a monthly pass); the now-$75 fines had cost up to $150; and the $100 fines previously cost up to $250.
Some other types of penalties of up to $1,500 were completely eliminated. Goeres said instead of using UTA fines to handle serious problems, UTA Police instead will use state or local law to file criminal charges against violators and use those court systems.