I emailed a councilman and the mayor of Eagle Mountain before the election to express some concerns and questions I had about the proposition, but I did not receive a response. The week before the election, EM hosted a "meet the candidates" night, and as part of that meeting the mayor subbed for a UTA official to speak in support of the proposition. After all the candidates had given their 3 minute speech, each went to their assigned spot and met one on one with voters. I was able to talk to the mayor for a few minutes, and ask her the questions I had emailed before.
The mayor's view was that EM desperately needs mass transit, this is a great opportunity to get federal funding for it, and it won't mean a huge increase in local taxes. I asked her why these bus lines would cost so much money, and she didn't know. I asked her if there were any other alternatives to UTA for an express bus service, and she didn't know.
The city councilman I emailed posted his view on his website. It reads much the same as the mayor's view. Transportation is something that falls under government jurisdiction, EM really needs a bus service, and if we join now we can get $600,000 in federal grant money.
I had a few problems with this proposition.
First, I felt really uncomfortable with the fact that I seemed to be the only one asking the question, "is this the best we can do?", and perhaps even more uncomfortable with the fact that no one seemed able to answer it.
Second, I didn't like that one of its major selling points was that it came with "free" federal grant money.
Third, both the city councilman and the mayor dismissed the sales tax increase as minimal because Eagle Mountain currently doesn't have much in the way of retail sales establishments - meaning most residents shop in communities that already have the UTA tax. However, a quickly growing city of 25k+ residents will have shopping at some point. So it will cost taxpayers money.
Fourth, the bus fare is expected to be $160 a month. At a gas price peak of $4, it cost me about that much to drive my own car. With rapidly falling prices, it costs me substantially less. With a single car pool partner, my commute cost is cut in half. And I don't drive a special, expensive, gas saving vehicle - I drive a 2003 Toyota Corolla. It simply does not make financial sense to subsidize a bus system that costs me more to use than it does to simply drive myself.
It very well may be that that final point encapsulates my hesitation at this new UTA bus line. My personal commuting situation, coupled with a rise in gas prices, caused me to make changes in what I drove and how I drove. They were not drastic measures. They were simple actions taken to better manage my personal economy.
This UTA line would basically remove those incentives to change. And it costs substantially more - particularly to those not interested in riding a bus. Perhaps this thought line can be summed up best by an excerpt from a comment I received on my previous UTA post. The comment comes from Frank Staheli, a former city councilman whose city faced this same decision during his term:
Others could cut costs in similar manners, but most people don't look for alternative solutions, because government solutions make sluggards of nearly all of us.That's the rub. This bus line was sold as a "something for nothing" proposition. We'll get $600k in federal money, pay next to nothing in sales tax ourselves, and Poof! we'll have a bus line. No one has to take personal responsibility for change, no one has to find alternative solutions of their own.