The Chronicle’s View: It’s just an illusion

When UTA announced it would be holding public hearings to assess the effectiveness of recently proposed route changes, it was like we’d found a pearl in a garbage heap.

A state organization seeking taxpayer approval ahead of time?

No, silly rabbits. That was our collective imagination running amok.

The Utah Transit Authority did, in fact, hold its promised public hearings — at which its representatives explained to people what changes will be made, where they’ll be made and where people can shove their objections.

Then, when the U Student/Staff Coalition held an on-campus discussion Monday (sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Utah and the Bennion Community Service Center) at which both UTA and opponents of its proposed routes were invited, only the opponents showed.

A U professor and UTA Board of Trustees member declined a personal invitation, and UTA failed to respond to a U student’s requests for another representative.

Though UTA pretended that public opinion mattered after its grand scheme was revealed, it appears it’s more than willing to forfeit any more debates. The organizers’ minds are set, and their minds must be better suited to understanding Utahns than the citizens themselves.

After all our hope, it reeks of the same obdurate governing that many despondent citizens have come to expect.

Some of the public criticism voiced has addressed UTA’s apparent preference for enhancing commuter traffic at the expense of the local Salt Lake City infrastructure on which many residents solely depend — thereby attracting more people to the downtown area while simultaneously detracting from the city’s capacity to handle such a heavy load.

Whether or not that perception is based on reality, it doesn’t do much to ease concerns when UTA won’t even face its foes. It seems as though it’s going to make changes regardless.

Maybe not. Maybe there’s hope. Maybe it’s nothing more than a basic mishandling of the situation so far.

UTA needs a stern lesson in public relations if that’s the case, however, because it sure appears as though it’s completely indifferent and unaccountable.

To make matters worse, this issue is also being contended on the basis that low-income Salt Lake City residents feel as though their treasured conveniences are being retracted at the behest of wealthy out-of-towners, adding “pretentious” to the list of qualities ascribed to UTA.

Among those low-income Salt Lake City residents? Us!

More than 13,000 Ute students, staff and faculty make use of the city’s public transportation according to UTA. These route changes will take place at a crucial time for students — six days into the 2007-2008 school year (Aug. 26).

UTA needs to recognize how significant this issue is to many at the U. We may not be big ticket, white-collar commuters or bring in a significant portion of the state’s revenue, but we have another impact besides our taxes.

Our votes.