The Board of Trustees of the Utah Transit Authority approved a $283 million budget for 2008 on Wednesday that included no cuts to service in Weber and Davis counties — at least not yet.

After meeting with officials from the two counties, UTA staff decided to postpone, until the end of January, possible service cuts that were announced last month.

That delay will give the counties time to levy a tax hike, if desired, to compensate for revenue lost from a reduction in the sales tax on food, board member Terry Diehl said.

UTA staff said during the first quarter of next year, no service will be lost in the two counties. It has allocated $887,000 from its budget for capital projects to keep service whole during the quarter.

But if a decision is delayed, bus routes could be eliminated and FrontRunner commuter rail service reduced, the agency said.

"It's probably not the most appropriate thing to do, but it's probably the only thing we can do at this time," Diehl said, later adding: "I think we failed miserably in our communication skills in communicating what we needed early on."

In other news, the UTA board also heard an update about discrepancies with ridership counts of TRAX riders during 2007. On the first of this year, UTA switched to a new system of counting riders that showed a decrease in train boardings compared to 2006.

General Manager John Inglish said the new system was more accurate than UTA's old method, but he had no way to go back and recount 2006 ridership numbers with the new system.

The new system uses an infrared tracking device above each door in a TRAX train. The device will account for passengers exiting and entering a train based on body heat. UTA's old method required staff to manually count passengers on random days during the month.

During 2007, UTA roughly estimates its average daily ridership was anywhere from 40,000 to 45,000 passengers. Numbers from 2006 could be anywhere from 47,000 to 58,000, Inglish said.

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