As the Utah Transit Authority began looking toward 2009, the agency realized it must tighten its belt in order to maintain services.

To streamline operations, UTA general manager John Inglish proposed that the board of trustees re-evaluate its advertising policy to encourage administrative savings. He also said the transit authority should keep promoting the use of its services to increase revenue at fare boxes.

Other money-saving options include re-examining contracts UTA holds with colleges and universities, as well as ECO pass contracts with businesses in Salt Lake City.

"We're really caught in a hard place, and our natural tendency would be to cut service," Inglish said Wednesday in a presentation to the board. "But instead, we're tightening up in other areas to make accommodations possible."

The board this year granted Inglish the ability to implement surcharges to help mitigate rising fuel prices. According to current budget projections, fuel costs will put a $6.7 million dent in UTA's $177 million operating and maintenance fund this year.

Cost-cutting also could come from reducing paratransit service to only meet, not exceed, the required standards demanded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A legislative audit showed that UTA was doing more than the law required, Inglish said. While he stressed that the transit authority did not want to abandon people with disabilities, he said it is necessary to enter into pilot programs that could make better use of services across the state to assist disabled riders.

If the proposal is accepted, UTA could adjust services to only meet ADA standards required by federal law, beginning July 1, 2009. That might include reducing the rate at which paratransit vehicles are replaced and consolidating driving efforts with other agencies that assist persons with disabilities, Inglish said.

"I realize that (UTA) is probably having money problems," said Barbara Toomer, vice chairwoman of the Disabled Rights Action Committee. "But we are, too."

E-mail: [email protected]