UTA seeking public comment on 2014 budget

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6 2013 5:26 p.m. MST

With less than two months left in the year, the Utah Transit Authority is asking the public to offer impressions on how the entity plans to spend millions of dollars serving its riders.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — With less than two months left in the year, the Utah Transit Authority is asking the public to offer impressions on how the entity plans to spend millions of dollars serving its riders.

On Nov. 20, UTA is holding a public hearing to receive input on its 2014 proposed budget. The agency will hold an open house from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., just prior to the public hearing, allowing people to review and discuss the budget with UTA representatives.

During that time, the public may submit written comments in addition to having specific questions answered during face-to-face interactions with representatives. Afterward, as part of the regularly scheduled monthly UTA board meeting, individuals can also offer verbal comments directly to UTA’s board of trustees.

In addition to the hearing, the public can submit comments via email, mail or through UTA’s customer service at any time during the comment period, which runs through Dec. 2. Information on the proposed budget can be found at www.rideuta.com or in person at UTA’s headquarters, 669 W. 200 South.

Bob Biles, UTA's chief financial officer and treasurer, said the agency’s 2104 operating budget is estimated at $235 million, with a capital budget of $99 million.

The total budget is about 7.6 percent higher than 2013, with the additional funding needed to operate the agency's growing mass transit system, Biles explained.

“We will see a full year of service for the Sugar House (streetcar), the Draper (TRAX extension), the airport TRAX (extension) and other improvements,” he said.

“There is always this tension to provide additional service,” Biles said. “UTA is good at looking at innovative ways to reduce costs to provide more service.”

UTA has implemented financial modeling designed to help the agency budget for future operations, he said.

“We use that modeling to make sure that we can afford to do what we are doing today (in the coming years),” Biles explained. “We are always looking for ways to do things cheaper, better and faster.”

Meanwhile, the agency is actively seeking feedback from customers to help UTA better serve commuters.

“We highly value feedback and do what we can to respond,” explained UTA public relations supervisor Chad Saley. “One example is we were tweeted by a rider that a particular route had ski buses on it, and the bus was packed with people. Someone let us know and we were able to immediately respond.”

From time to time, UTA runs the ski buses during the summer on regular routes in order to keep them maintained properly, Saley said.

“We can’t just park them for the summer,” he said. “We contacted the person who assigns the vehicles, (and) the next day that route had a regular bus.”

Saley said the agency isn’t always able to make a change overnight, but “we really try to do what we can to improve based on the feedback we receive.”

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