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UTA built trains on the backs of big-money lobbyists, but can the system be sustained?

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  • Robbie K SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    June 9, 2012 10:44 p.m.

    Is this news or opinion? I'm having an increasingly difficult time figuring this out at the DesNews,

  • Mayfair City, Ut
    June 9, 2012 1:04 p.m.

    Dear Orem Parent 2:34am
    I would think your ire be equally directed at the lobbyists who have happily enriched themselves.....

  • XelaDave Salem, UT
    June 9, 2012 11:23 a.m.

    Research has suggested that the typical return on lobby dollars is 25 to 1 so the UTA return even if inflated in spectacular- the real issue though is what other thing do you know where you can get returns like that- generally those are illegal at best but all of this is legal and we wonder why Washington and State Houses are broken and people have no trust in the system- I will happily take a 10 to 1 return on my retirement funds- perhaps I need to hire a better lobbyist

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    June 9, 2012 9:47 a.m.

    At least they could use the money to buy more attractive train cars...these are hideous and look like something from the 70's.

  • Drew Chamberlain Layton, UT
    June 8, 2012 11:38 p.m.

    Shut it down!

  • Fern RL LAYTON, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:31 p.m.

    I still miss the public transportation that was available in Germany in 1970. It is sad, but true, that Utah has a very long way to go before it could even come close to a transit plan similar to what I experienced there so many years ago. It is clear to me, though, that we cannot keep relying on our own vehicles, though.

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    June 8, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    In case many people have noticed, the Wasatch front has become a scenario of high density living. When I was a small boy, a drive from Provo to Ogden meant passing through a lot of farmland on the way. That's gone forever.

    I suspect that today, or tomorrow, TRAX might seem like an expensive ordeal, but I would be willing to bet that by the end of the decade more and more people will be glad it's there.

    where I live currently, such a thing would be impractical, I live in a very rural area and I don't need a bus or a train, I need a pickup truck to haul hay for my livestock. In my opinion, the Wasatch front, and a few other key area in the country are best suited for public transportation - like the high density areas. In such areas, cars are going to seem more and more troublesome and when that day comes, then it is too late to ask for a sleek running public transportation system that has worked out the bugs already.

  • Anti Government Alpine, UT
    June 8, 2012 1:04 p.m.

    This is the same sorry discussion that happens everywhere they have "mass transit". Who came up with that term "mass" transit because in reality there is no transit of "mass" amounts of people. I digress.

    Republicans ought to be embarrassed they were conned into this system that will forever be a black hole.

    You can read it in the comments here though. There are plenty of people that simply don't care what a failure it is for most everyone or the exorbitant expense or the fact it will steal money need for higher priorities.

    The reality is there is not a more expensive way to transport people based on the statistical usage patterns.

    Government=waste and this will be just another example. Mass transit, car pool lanes etc. Scams to use govt money that NEVER achieve all the promises that Liberals make BEFORE they are implemented.

    They will say anything to get what they want and then we are stuck financing their agenda. Just the way they wan it/ Literally, agenda at any cost.

    Go talk to Greece about how that is working out for them.

  • rogerdpack2 Orem, UT
    June 8, 2012 1:04 p.m.

    I knew there was a reason I disliked those trains...

  • Blaine Cedar City, UT
    June 8, 2012 1:03 p.m.

    Add the cost of construction, the cost of lobbying, and the cost of day-to-day maintenance, operation and replacement/expansion. Amortize that over the expected life of the investment to determine the annual cost of UTA. Then subtract the average yearly revenue from passenger fares. Then, ask yourself, was this really a good use of taxpayer dollars?

    We desperately need smarter voters!

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 12:26 p.m.

    As capitalism decays, the road network and all that goes with it will become unaffordable to average people. Ten years from now, if not sooner, we are going to be grateful for this rail network.

  • What in Tucket? Provo, UT
    June 8, 2012 12:03 p.m.

    Thank you JDL you are on the money. All those who think UTA in any form is going to be profitable stand and raise your hand! It is another whack at the poor taxpayer. My neighbor works for UTA and says the bus rider pays 15 cents on the dollar for his or her ride. We never seem able to have our legislators tell the truth on this.

  • lindaj Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 11:37 a.m.

    We need UTA as functional and as cheap-per-ride as possible. It benefits both riders and non-riders because auto traffic causes close to half the air pollution. We subsidize highway building, which only increases air pollution. I suggest a (bigger) dedicated sales tax, which will provide a reasonably predictable revenue stream, because almost everyone out buying "stuff" has driven and created air pollution or has used UTA. I hate the idea of no downtown parking for free, but that will help make UTA successful; the less parking, the more riders. A well funded UTA providing excellent service is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to live here and breathe.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, Utah
    June 8, 2012 11:20 a.m.

    Re: RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    "Conservative Utahn's really don't mind government spending, as long as the money's spent on conservative Utahn's pet projects"

    Probably explains we question the wisdom of the GSA's $820,000 lavish party in Las Vegas.

  • alternate Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    My concern continues to be bonus money that has been and most likely will be paid to upper management. Shouldn't happen. If they can't work for the excellent salary they receive then find someone else. The bonus money should be put into maintenance or turned back to the city/county/state where the tax money came from.

  • Fern RL LAYTON, UT
    June 8, 2012 11:09 a.m.

    "...consider one round trip between Ogden and SLC, 36 miles each way. At 30 cents per mile, the cost would be $21.60 to go to work and back one time, assuming you don't have to pay for parking. You can ride FrontRunner for $10.20 round trip, if you don't have a pass."

    If you also consider buying a $189.00 per month monthly pass just so you won't have to buy a separate ticket each time you commute by FrontRunner, and you commute five days per week, four weeks per month, taking no vacation and only one holiday and one "sick" day per month, you might come close to breaking even on the cost of buying the tickets each day.

    What I would like to see, is for UTA to give a better incentive for buying monthly passes. Let them allow for days when someone needs to use an alternate source of transportation or is gone on vacation. Does it really cost that much to run a full train? Or, does the cost reflect the lost revenue by not utilizing the empty seats?

  • CountyLemonade Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:44 a.m.

    "I don't like the idea of people who don't use the system having to subsidize it."

    Oh dear. Senator Madsen's quote rather blows me away, because it comes off as rather uneducated and woefully misinformed. For a couple of reasons. One, public transportation is by its nature subsidized. It's subsidized in every city in the nation. It's not meant to be run like a business. Two, we all pay for infrastructure that we do not use! We all pay for roads that we do not use, but we are okay with it. We all pay for sewers, schools, garbage disposal that we do not use. We are okay with it. Why? Because we recognize that it is vital for our city and state. Hmm. Well, I bet the average misinformed voter will eat up Madsen's rhetoric and vote for him because of it.

    Folks, we are becoming a world-class city. Commuter rail will extend across the Wasatch Front. Light rail reaches all corners of the Salt Lake Valley. Do I use all of that? Of course not. But I recognize the innumerable value that this has for the well-being of our city.

  • Marrion Barry provo, Ut
    June 8, 2012 10:31 a.m.

    Pretty ironic that the state that howls the loudest about less government and "we hate the feds' are top of the list for spending other peoples' money, from the same feds they despise. It's time to grow up and acknowledge that you are part of the U.S. and you will always have to play by the rules. Actually it looks like you know how to play the rules pretty well.

    Secondly, mass transit isn't about saving your personal gas money. It's about reducing fuel use overall, cutting pollution along the Wasatch Front, and reducing congestion on the highways. Utah should be called the "It's all about me" State.

  • JDL Magna, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:22 a.m.

    All that is needed is for people to read the UN's Agenda 21 documents. The Idea is to force people into the European system of High Density living and dependence on Government. Transit Oriented Developments is a case in point. Governor Huntsman and Envision Utah were/are a miniature Agenda 21 package.

    UTA has prostituted themselves to the Redistribution Money Masters and have unapologetically created indentured servants of the people to uphold and maintain their Priestcraft.

    This train system is also one of the most dangerous and deadly transportation nightmares.

  • 1conservative WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:19 a.m.

    Its unfortunate that the UTA board of directors don't take their job seriously. Really, all they are is a rubber stamp for anything UTA mgmt. wants, (including increasing their salaries).

    We NEED mass public transit, but sadly, SOME involved with issues of public trust have just used their positions to ENRICH themselves.

    Recently I think the Guv. appointed the outgoing LDS presiding bishop David Burton to the UTA board. MAYBE he can bring some credibility and reforms to the organization, but I'm not holding my breath.

    UTA is institutionally flawed from the top down. Unless/until the "board" switches out upper mgmt. things are gonna be the same.

    Maybe we should privatize it or put it under UDOT, which is a natural fit.

    I have written to my state representative (Janice Fisher D- West Valley), and she has tried to make some effect at the state level but many in the legislature don't give the issue much attention.

    Don't just complain here. Let your state legislator know your feelings. UTA certainly aren't going to "change their stripes" until they are forced to by higher powers at the legislature.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:17 a.m.

    People complain on here all the time, especially our locally and nationally elected politicians about the size of out national debt. Where is their outrage about accepting federal dollars for TRAX when we really don't need it? Mind you I love riding TRAX. But we seem to have a disconnect with the posturing of our politicians about the big bad federal government and it's intrusiveness while at the same time having our hands out saying "Gimme me more". Hypocrisy at its worst.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:16 a.m.

    Lest we forget, for every dollar spent by UTA for lobbyist, there are many dollars spent by the oil and automotive industries to prevent public transportation.

  • JWB Kaysville, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:09 a.m.

    This article is a little skewed as Primary Elections are coming up and this will drive some people to vote, maybe. However, lobbyists, like any group involved in the public and private sector can be good and bad. Senators and Legislators, bureaucrats and elected officials are not all knowledgeable or have the ability to gain all the information they need to make decisions. These same people, government and lobbyists, can have some devious ways or the best of intentions, one or both parts. However, citizens can vote out the politicians or the government can work on bureaucrats through their fraud, waste and abuse programs but that takes a system that works in Utah, even though it may take some time. The Department of Alcohol, etc is one of those examples, whether individually or as the whole department, etc. Lobbyists register through the Lt. Governor's office and have some rules but there are always ways for them to find holes and beat the system, for awhile. The UTA does require some lobbyists to help through the muddled process in DC to extract what they can to help our people and businesses have a good system. Thanks to very GOOD people.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    June 8, 2012 10:05 a.m.

    The real problem with our governments both local and national is the spending of money to make some businessmen rich instead of providing for the welfare of America.

    The return of $500 for every $1 spent is great. For those businessmen who got it. Not so great for the people who paid that outrageous rip off of the taxpayer.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if the public could benefit from the investment but after it is built, it’s use is left up to those who want to pay outrageous costs for it’s use. Plus the managers often will discourage it’s use to further their profits.

    The profit for business is in the building of public services not in their use. Thus the business lobby is working against to the citizens.

    To have better and smaller government, we need to get business out of government. Smaller government without reform will just make it easier for unscrupulous businessmen to rob the taxpayer.

  • Dixie Independent St George, UT
    June 8, 2012 9:54 a.m.

    "UTA built trains on the backs of big-money lobbyists..." No the big-money lobbyists have made out handsomely while our kids and grandkids are going to be stuck with the costs of this never-ending boondoggle!

    It's past time for citizens to realize that there is no free lunch, or big-money lobbyists, or anybody else paying your bills. It's you and me and our posterity.

    Talk about flat-earth thinking. Big city transit systems are all heavily subsidized because they are not cost effective.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    June 8, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    toshi1066 wrote,
    "My problem with Frontrunner, other than it takes forever to go any distance, is that the cost of going to SLC from Ogden is roughly the same as in my own vehicle and I can drive directly to the place I want."

    For a long time I made the mistake of estimating the cost of driving somewhere based on the cost of fuel. I now realize that the total costs are much higher! The cost per mile depends on many things, but I think 30 cents per mile is a very conservative estimate. So let's consider one round trip between Ogden and SLC, 36 miles each way. At 30 cents per mile, the cost would be $21.60 to go to work and back one time, assuming you don't have to pay for parking. You can ride FrontRunner for $10.20 round trip, if you don't have a pass. And you'll be able to read, work, or relax instead of driving.

  • Rational Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 8:41 a.m.

    Reading, reading, reading...

    Wait for it....

    "That could leave the agency and local cities with two painful options once the lines are completed: Cut service or ask area residents for more money to operate the trains and buses."

    And there it is. More taxes to pay for an inefficient GOVERNMENT system (are there any other kind?)

    As if the feds $60 trillion in debt and unfunded obligations weren't enough, Utah had to spend money on lobbyists to run up the bill. THAT is where the deficits come from -- PEOPLE, special interests and local governments running to the feds for more, and of course, the feds don't say no, they just pass the cost along to the next person. Only guess what, folks: other people may be paying for OUR projects, but we are in turn paying for theirs. WAKE UP. This article is all about what is WRONG with America!

  • Ms Molli Bountiful, Utah
    June 8, 2012 8:39 a.m.

    I see Utahans bragging all the time about how healthy financially the State is. I'd really like to see DN do some homework and compare the amount of federal dollars given per State and then allocate per person in each State. Seems as though the State of Utah is always there with its hand out for more federal money.

  • JayTee Sandy, UT
    June 8, 2012 8:02 a.m.

    You ought to see the time and money that's going into this Draper line project; it's nothing short of phenomenal. I'm thinking it will take 150 years of savings to cover it--IF they have the ridership, which I seriously doubt. The assumption is that everyone wants to run downtown every day, and they have plenty of time to get there. Of course many special interest groups and even politicians are making a ton of money on the deal, and it's undoubtedly a lot of stimulus money (i.e., money we don't have helping to push us to the $16 trillion deficit level very soon), so we should all be happy, right? Definition of an honest politician: One who, when bought, STAYS bought. I'm betting with all the incentives provided by this monopolistic boondoggle, they'll stay bought.

  • utahboni Ogden, UT
    June 8, 2012 7:26 a.m.

    With the current gas prices, a commute to SLC from Ogden at 25mpg is around $14. With an ECO pass, mass transit saves money.
    UTA could save expenses by reducing the number of inspectors they have on the trains, i.e., people who just sit there and count the number of people who get off and on at each stop. They could replace them with the kind of electronic eye that some businesses have when you enter and exit the door. I've been on some trains where there are six inspectors, two for each car, but they all sit in one car and gossip. What an egregious waste of money.
    Another way they could entice more riders is to replace the uber-incompetent scheduler in the Meadowbrook office which generates the bus schedules for the south and west valleys. The bus connections are mostly seamless in SLC, but go south or west, there are many 25-29 minute connection waits. Once in a while there will be a bus schedule that works well for a lot of people but at the next change day it will be altered seemingly to disenfranchise as many people as possible with evil glee.

  • dumprake Washington, UT
    June 8, 2012 7:11 a.m.

    This is going to end up being the boondoggle of boondoggles in this state. The voters twice voted this thing down, but government dogooders forced it through anyway. This is the typical government solution to something, the cure is far worse than the disease, and the cost will go through the roof, and the taxpayer will be stuck with the cost--as always. Fire those lobbyists immediately, end all this nonsense. This thing will continue to grow until it fills every corner of the state and sucks every conceivable dollar from every taxpayer.

  • Utah_1 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 8, 2012 6:53 a.m.

    According to the recent Legislative Audit, Trax is doing better than buses in moving people financially, but Frontrunner is getting creamed.

    From the minutes of the February 8, 2012 Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee

    "Rep. Cox asked if UTA did not add new lines and slowed the development of Frontrunner, would it change the debt structure. Mr. Coleman replied that is not feasible because they are in the midst of building and could not slow it down. A slowdown would need to be in future projects."

    If UTA needs to slow down future development, why are they spending new money on this new facility?

    "UTA debt has grown from $300 million in
    2002 to over $2 billion in 2013. As a result their bond ratings have been downgraded. Local sales tax revenue must cover the capital and financing costs of UTA's projects. Even as sales tax revenue increases, the auditor projects that debt service will consume an increasing portion of sales tax and will impose a financial strain."

  • toshi1066 OGDEN, UT
    June 8, 2012 6:50 a.m.

    My problem with Frontrunner, other than it takes forever to go any distance, is that the cost of going to SLC from Ogden is roughly the same as in my own vehicle and I can drive directly to the place I want.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    June 8, 2012 6:47 a.m.

    Conservative Utahn's really don't mind government spending, as long as the money's spent on conservative Utahn's pet projects. But then, that's the way it is all across the country too.

  • Virgil SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    June 8, 2012 6:47 a.m.

    "I don't like the idea of people who don't use the system having to subsidize it."

    You can only make the freeway so wide, and you can only have so many parking spaces downtown. Don't just think of is as paying for some poor shcmo to ride the trax, but as paying some money to not have 20 minutes added to your commute from congestion, another 10 from construction and another 10 from trying to find parking. And you might even get some more breathable air during one of the inversions. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

  • Wasatch Rebel Kearns, Utah
    June 8, 2012 4:41 a.m.

    What a colossal waste of money, considering the ridership, especially from the spur lines. Another case of trying to do what's trendy instead of doing what's efficient--a bigger and better bus system.

  • COGITOERGONIHILSVM Salt Lake City, Utah
    June 8, 2012 4:16 a.m.

    I for one am glad they used the lobbyists and built the trains. Sometimes you gotta pay to play. The trains are awesome. It's fine to spend government money on things like trains in a place like SLC.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    June 8, 2012 2:34 a.m.

    I can see it already. Education funding will be cut further due to lack of funds for UTA. We already steal money from educating our children so we can build roads and legislative offices, why not for trains?