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This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

What began as an effort to organize a dysfunctional system of public bussing services in Salt Lake has successfully grown into the public transit company we know as UTA.

It began in 1970. The Utah Transit Authority was organized to provide a public mass transportation system for the state of Utah. Essentially, UTA acquired the operations of a disparate collection of bus companies in Salt Lake City. Within six months, UTA had close to 70 buses carrying passengers throughout the county. But the new transit system faced some challenges. UTA needed mechanics and shops for servicing the buses and that required funding. UTA was initially funded by Salt Lake City and by state liquor sales. In 1974, in UTA’s service area approved a one-time permanent public subsidy. The quarter-cent sales tax would remain UTA’s primary source of funding for more than 25 years.

In the mid-80s, interest in rail transit grew nationwide. The first light-rail systems were installed in the West. It wasn’t long before UTA began looking at rail transit for Salt Lake City. Funds were collected and despite considerable opposition, UTA successfully launched Utah’s first light-rail system in 2000.

In November of 2000, voters in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties approved an additional one-quarter of 1 percent local option sales tax to help build a stronger public transportation system. The new system included the first phase of a commuter rail line from Ogden to Salt Lake City.

UTA now manages an active fleet of more than 600 buses and 33 light-rail cars. It serves 75 percent of Utah’s population, covering one of the largest geographical areas of any transit agency in the country. UTA also operates a paratransit service, called Flextrans, for people with disabilities.

Now, as UTA looks to the future, its goals are rooted in improving urban transportation through technology; better fuels; intermodal facilities for buses, taxis and trains; and enhanced safety among other things. The opportunities are promising, which is reflective of UTA’s company credo: Good people creating a good transportation value for a better quality of life.

For Zions Bank, I’m Fred Ball. I’m speaking on business.

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