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It's been seven years since South Jordan explored a plan to create its own bus line. But mayoral candidate Rich Cunningham says the Utah Transit Authority has done little to address the city's transportation needs since 2010, so he's bringing the proposal back to the table.
In his recent phone survey of South Jordan residents, Cunningham said 57 percent of respondents expressed support for plans to take the city's transportation into its own hands.
"We have had a real challenge working with UTA to get them to do what we need them to do," he said. "The city has been trying to work on different ways to move people inside our area, especially getting them from the TRAX red line down into The District [shopping center] and other areas. Our bus lines are just not sufficient."
Remi Barron, a spokesman for UTA, said the organization is working on improving South Jordan transportation.
"That's really not the case," Barron said in response to Cunningham's assertion that UTA is not responding to the city's needs. "It was only maybe two or three weeks ago that our CEO, [Sandy] Mayor [Tom] Dolan and the mayor of South Jordan [David Alvord] sat down together and were talking about improving transportation."
Barron also noted that his agency has long-term plans for an express bus that would pick up passengers in Sandy and South Jordan in an effort to connect more people in the area to TRAX, though he said the proposal is not funded.
Cunningham wants quick change as South Jordan grows.
"The east side [of Salt Lake County], as I've been told, has 40 percent of the population, and they get 60 percent of the bus routes," he said. "We've got 60 percent of the population and only 40 percent of the bus routes, and that's including all the west side."
City Manager Gary Whatcott said the South Jordan's 2010 exploration into creating a bus system estimated that such a project would require a capital investment of $1.6 million and an estimated $871,000 annual operations cost, though he said there likely are opportunities for grants.
With three candidates vying for the seat left open by Alvord, Whatcott said it's possible that a city-owned bus line or a different proposal to address transportation issues in the city could move forward under new leadership.
"It depends on the mood of the council," he said. "I think there's need. Whether it's partnering with UTA in some other form or whether we did something on our own, the need is there. I think even the study clearly suggests, even in the future, that the need is going to be there. It's just whether or not that's the most important priority to spend your money on."
However, Whatcott said, creating a city bus line would be more complex than Cunningham might realize; he noted that the 2010 study is old and would need to be updated.
Cunningham, who served in the Legislature, said he has the experience necessary to implement a proposal that would be unique across the Wasatch Front.
"The greatest asset I have is understanding the legislative process," he said. "Sitting on those committees especially transportation, economic development and political subdivisions the last four years [is] invaluable for a future mayor to understand how that works and the relationships it takes to be able to help build those things."
Mayoral candidate Mark Woolley, a member of the South Jordan Planning Commission, said improving transportation would be one of his major initiatives if he were elected. He said the effort needs to start with increased collaboration and dialogue with UTA rather than with the city striking out on its own.
"We need to rely on working together with the communities around us and working with the people who have the state mandates, such as UTA and the Utah Department of Transportation," he said. "There's been a lot of people who have talked about a local bus system, and while that's still an open discussion, that's not going to help us as much as doing some of these other initiatives."
Dawn Ramsey, the other candidate for South Jordan mayor, could not be reached for comment Tuesday to discuss her vision for transportation in the city.