Friday, July 22, 2005

To Get Commuter Rail (or Transit in General), You've Got to Put Up

There were a couple of interesting items about transit on the blogs of two Utah legislators last week -- one by Jeff Alexander, majority leader in the House, and the other by Rep. John Dougall, who is on the transportation task force.

Both are also from Utah County, and they took UTA and John Inglish to task for saying Utah County needs to decide if it wants to have help from transit as part of its overall transportation infrastructure. Utah County politicians have not been particularly warm toward transit, in part because they seem to have some problems with UTA as an organization, the way it is run and what it is doing.

Alexander and Dougall both use the vote to increase the transit tax in Davis and Weber Counties as an example of what they don't want to do in Utah County. Says Alexander, "Let's look at Davis and Weber Counties. They have been paying a sales tax since 2000 and haven't seen any construction on commuter rail." He goes on to say that Utah County residents shouldn't do the same. Rep. Dougall seems to imply that Utah County officials will not be as "naive" as the other county officials to vote for a tax increase without getting specific plans and commitments for commuter rail and increased transit.

I respect these two gentlemen and their opinions very much, but I disagree with their premises and conclusions.

If you think transit is an important part of the overall transportation system for your community (and we here in Davis County, for one, really do think it is), then I believe you have to put up to play. Yes, we were promised expanded transit services in Davis County when we agreed to put the transit tax increase on the ballot, but we also knew that it would be several years before we would see anything concrete happen. Much of that is just because that's the process in the federal system, and because of the competition for transit money throughout the country, those that have actually committed will be the ones to get top priority.

In the meantime, UTA has done some very good things with the money. They have expanded regular and transit bus service in Davis and Weber Counties (which, by the way, Utah County has benefitted from as well -- those nice new red white and blue over-the-road express busses); the money has been used to purchase the rail rights-of-way from Union Pacific Railroad (which Utah County has again also benefitted from - with no new contributions from them). Also, construction has indeed started, and commuter rail will be up and running in early 2008.

What kind of commitment would we have gotten from the Federal Transit Agency if we didn't have the money committed, and UTA went to them to ask them to fund our commuter rail project, and oh, by the way, we'll try to get a tax passed later? They would have said, they have lots of other places around the nation like Denver, San Diego, etc., that have passed the taxes and are ready to go.

Why are elected officials in Utah County afraid to put the issue on the ballot? Let the people decide if what UTA proposes is adequate! Though I do agree, without the support of the elected officials, it would probably make passage a shaky proposition. But then...I guess you can wait even longer for transit to help with the transportation situation.

This all reminds me a little bit of the story of the little red hen, where she asked all the other animals to help her do all the prep work that leads up to actually baking a loaf of bread. No one wanted to pitch in. But when the hen had done all the work herself and the loaf was ready to eat...well, then there were lots of takers. We've done our part in northern Utah, and transit is coming.

12 Comments:

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Former Centerville Citizen said...

Considering all of the money that's being spent on commuter rail, I sure hope a lot of people decide to use it. What's sad is that you can spend millions trying to put in place a good public transportation system, and still have people who won't use it because they are simply too set in their ways. But I'm afraid that commuter rail isn't going to benefit everyone. For us on the south end of Davis County, there won't be much point in driving across the freeway to the stop in Woods Cross just to wait for a train, when we could just as quickly drive to downtown SLC. Anyhow, check out my posting on this issue at www.centervillecitizen.blogspot.com

 
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