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UTA stops pushing for huge paratransit fare hike



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The Utah Transit Authority says it was public input -- overwhelmingly negative comments from people with disabilities -- that convinced it to back off the fare increase.

"People should feel empowered, because that's why we have an public input process and why we reach out to them," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. "There were many creative solutions and many helped guide us in our process."

The agency says it is facing an $18 million shortfall this year, and paratransit service is expensive. Instead of a fare increase, UTA says it will get federal funding and make cutbacks in other ways.

The fare for paratransit would have gone from $2.50 to $4 one way. So, for the agency to pull back after months of pushing for the increase, is significant.

Longtime advocate for the disabled Barbara Toomer has been very active in organizing past protests for the Disabled Rights Action Committee. "I am not only surprised, I am absolutely floored. This is, in my memory, in exception to the lifts on the buses, this is the first time UTA has capitulated so entirely. I mean, they almost gave up," she said.

Even so, the changes are not official yet. The UTA board has the final say and plans resolve the matter once and for all at a meeting on July 22.

Paratransit users say they're watching closely to make sure the board follows through on the proposal UTA officials have offered.

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Richard Piatt

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