Thursday, November 06, 2008

Coming Soon: UTA to Eagle Mountain

Eagle Mountain's Proposition One, of which I wrote about here, to bring EM and Saratoga Springs into the UTA taxing district, passed by healthy margins. 76.5% of EM and 66.8% of SS voters voted in favor of annexation.

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.

12 comments:

p-boi said...

I voted no. I agree with everything you've said here and in your previous post. UTA service to Eagle Mountain and SS does not make sense, any way you look at it.

J. Doug said...

First why you haven't been able to run for something amazes me. You should.

Interesting. Maybe I'll pay attention to local politics.

Anonymous said...

As someone that rides a UTA bus everyday to and from work for the last two years, I just wanted to add my 2 cents.

I love riding the bus. Sure it is a little less convenient, but during my 20-30 minute ride each way, I'm able to read, sleep or just unwind from a long day at work. I don't have to deal with the stress of the freeway, other drivers or the weather. This is a huge added value in addition to saving money on gas. I'm fortunate that my employer subsidizes my pass, which only cost me $70 for the whole year. Even without that subsidy, I would still purchase one out of my own pocket. The reason is, you have to take into account to total cost of car ownership, you simply can't compare how much you spend on gas with how much the pass costs. You need to factor in insurance, repairs, depreciation and, if you borrowed money to purchase the car, your loan repayments and interest.

By riding the bus, my wife and I have been able to downsize to one car, save hundreds of dollars a month, and help the environment to a small degree.

I've spent time in cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York where the public transit is phenomenal; it is so easy to get around. I also grew up in Los Angeles, where the transit planning was horrible leaving the city's citizens to fend for themselves on the sprawling freeways. So to some degree, I see it as a wise decision for Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs to start planning mass transit for the future while they are still small and growing towns.

Jamie said...

I think we should have voted on real issues, like getting a Papa Johns here in E.M!

Cameron said...

Lyndee,

You were one of the 20% too, huh?

Doug,

Once I get a little more settled out here I'll think about it. I've certainly gravitated more and more to the local side of politics. There's a lot more bang for the buck there.

Jaime,

You sad, sad little person you. Papa Johns? Come on. :-) Besides, don't we already have a pizza place?

Cameron said...

Anon,

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against mass transit. I recognize the many benefits of it.

My question with this ballot measure is, is UTA the only option? And why does it cost so darn much? To date, no one has been able to answer these questions.

Jamie said...

Holly told me you don't like Papa Johns. Maybe your thinking of Papa Murphys?? I think your body may be missing some sort of chemical. JK. I don't like the pizza place out here.

Cameron said...

I don't not like Papa Johns. It's just not at the top of the list. But it's been a while since my last slice, so maybe my chemical imbalance has been fixed since then.

You should open one up.

Jamie said...

Trust me,If I had the money I would~;)however thats all we would ever eat at my house.

Jamie said...

LOL what is at the top of your list?

Cameron said...

As far as chains go, I vary between Pizza Hut and Dominoes. Both get old after a while. Papa Murphy's has some good stuff too.

I haven't tried the local one yet. Why don't you like it?

Jamie said...

Have you ever heard of Ligories Pizza? That is my all time favorite. The Pie is pretty good too. I probably don't like The Village pizza too much because thats all we ate when I was in bed with morning sickness pregnant with Faith! I am sure it tastes better then I remember! All this talk about pizza is making me hungry! LOL