The Utah Transit Authority settled two nagging issues Wednesday by selecting station names for the University TRAX light rail extension and deciding not to raise fares for disabled riders.
The agency resolved what had become a controversy in Salt Lake City by choosing simple, succinct names for the four passenger stations Library Station, Trolley Station, 900 East Station and Stadium Station to be added to its light rail system as part of the 2.5-mile University TRAX spur, scheduled to open late this year.
After months of discussion and the involvement of a citizens' committee, the Salt Lake City Council and the University of Utah, UTA ultimately opted for the exact station names that were chosen a year and a half ago in a pre-construction agreement with the city, university and the Utah Department of Transportation. The issue had become sticky for UTA because the Salt Lake City Council, in an effort to appease all interests, recommended a list of hyphenated station names that UTA officials felt were too awkward and could confuse passengers rather than simplify their trip as intended.
It was convenient, then, that UTA discovered that the pre-construction agreement already included station names and was legally binding. It just so happened that the four names mentioned in that agreement were among the same names selected by the Community Coordination Team at the beginning of the recent naming process.
Max Hogan, the board member who chairs UTA's Internal-External Committee, cited the legal nature of the agreement in announcing the board's decision. He said later the station names could be changed legally if all parties agreed to do so. But he expects this decision to stand.
"It's a done deal," Hogan said. "There are really some very dedicated people out there that had some very good personal justification for their points of view, and I certainly can't argue with what their feelings and ideals are, for what they want to have. But our charge is to come up with names that fit the criteria simplicity, location, non-commercial and distance."
The names recommended by the City Council were City Hall-Library Square Station (200 East), Central City-Trolley Station (600 East) and Ninth Street-Gilgal Garden Station (900 East). The university recommended Rice-Eccles Stadium Station.
The board also agreed to establish a specific station-naming policy in the near future to avoid the confusion that ensued when UTA opened up the process to public input.
"What the committee is probably going to work on from now on is setting a set of standard specifications by which names will be done and that will be it, and we probably won't go out there in the manner we did this time," UTA General Manager John Inglish said. "It creates too much controversy over these kinds of issues."
Local residents favored names, such as Gilgal Garden Station, that reflected the history of the community. The name Trolley Square Station was opposed by residents who complained it was free advertising for the retailers of Trolley Square. The NAACP asked that one of the stations be named Rosa Parks Station.
"What we discovered is we were getting into an almost aesthetic discussion about names," Inglish said. "Not to take away from aestheticism and how important it sometimes is, but in this case there's a real pragmatic need to let people know where these locations are in a very simple and straightforward way."
In the other decision, UTA had proposed increasing the fares for disabled riders from $1 to $2, but that plan met with strong opposition from the disabled community.The board decided Wednesday to conduct a study of all UTA fares and consider increases to fares for disabled riders at the same time it considers a possible price hike for all passengers. No action is expected until later this year.
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