SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Transit Authority will focus on getting “back to basics” in the coming years, with the agency putting particular priority on people, money and service, the agency's president and CEO said Wednesday.
Jerry Benson told UTA’s board of trustees about his vision for the organization during his “State of UTA” address during a monthly meeting at the agency’s headquarters.
Benson said he recently conducted a “listening tour” to gauge rider satisfaction with the state’s largest public transit system. What he found speaking with passengers on buses and trains, Benson said, was that they were pleased with the system for the most part, but there are still some “gaps to fill.”
“Filling those gaps will create great opportunities,” Benson said. “We can make the system work better for people. We can improve how we interact with and serve our customers. We can find ways to stretch our resources even further and demonstrate our dedication and stewardship.”
Benson noted that the agency will have to be diligent in managing and paying off its current debt, and the path forward will require at least two more instances of borrowing. In the years to come, the agency will have to “implement more rigor” in how it manages its fiscal budget, he said.
Benson said new budgeting practices will reduce or eliminate previous approaches of borrowing funds for routine activities, leasing certain types of equipment and dipping into “rainy day” funds to cover operating expenses. He added that responsible stewardship includes “taking care of the agency’s assets.”
“Keeping our system in a state of good repair must be an ongoing priority for UTA,” Benson said.
The agency will be replacing 59 buses in 2017, and conducting repairs and maintenance on rail platforms and other light-rail assets, he said.
It's "nuts-and-bolts work that people take for granted," Benson said, "but that keeps the buses and trains rolling to get them to work and school on time.”
Benson said UTA will expand service in counties that approved a sales tax increase — Davis, Tooele and Weber. The agency will also make improvements to its website to provide a more informative and simpler user experience, he added.
“People are relying on UTA to be successful,” Benson said. “Because with a viable transportation network, we can have a viable economy, a good environment, and have people who can live their lives in a high-quality level.”
Benson admitted that the agency faces some financial challenges in the next few years, “but with a focused and disciplined approach, it could lead to a better and stronger place,” he said.
UTA also will have to “do more and better with what we have,” Benson said, and innovate harder with other local partners to develop more customer-friendly policies.
“I will stay focused on the customer experience and make sure that (UTA) management and everyone who works in this building does everything we can to support our employees who serve our customers,” he said.