The Utah Transit Authority is all about travel, but this is ridiculous. The transit agency spent $610,840 on out-of-state travel in the past year and a half.
A goodly chunk of that traveling money $79,625 went to trips for now-retired CEO John Inglish and General Manager Mike Allegra.
Over the past 2½ years, Inglish visited Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, China, Hong Kong, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates on the UTA dime. In the United States, he traveled to Spokane, Eugene, Napa Valley, Oakland/San Francisco, Ranchos Palos Verde, San Diego, Las Vegas, Reno, Denver, Colorado Springs, San Antonio, Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando, New York City and Washington, D.C.
During the final two years of his UTA career, Inglish filled a CEO position that was created for him, at a salary of $364,406. But he wasn't running the agency day-to-day. That was Allegra's job. Inglish was more involved in shmoozing with his fellow wizards from the public transit industry, talking policy and all that. It was quite a victory lap for Inglish, who retired in April.
It also was far removed from the everyday life of people who ride UTA buses or trains to work. Their view was more pedestrian than Inglish's from 30,000 feet. Did we mention that their fares also increased substantially while the UTA was pleading poverty due to higher fuel costs and reduced income from sales taxes?
But they were little people. You know, the ones who pay taxes. Or fares. Make that both.
No piker himself, Allegra visited Australia, Cuba, Switzerland, Vancouver and several unidentified Asian countries, according to data obtained by The Tribune through open-records requests. He only gets paid $319,360 a year.
The UTA also pays to send board members and local leaders on trips to visit other transit systems. Its whole board transited to Portland, Ore., for a meeting.
The UTA defends all this travel as a good investment. It is important for policy makers to see other transit systems in order to envision what is possible in Utah, to quiz their counterparts elsewhere about what has worked and what hasn't, and to lobby the federal government for funds. That is undoubtedly true.
But the argument that the Europeans are the leaders in mass transit, so that's the place to go, is a stretch.
How about this criterion for UTA travel: If you can't get there on a bus or train, you shouldn't go.