Segways for UTA frivolous spending

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Utah Transit Authority officers have recently received some fun new toys, courtesy of your tax dollars. Six Segway Personal Transporters8212;electric two-wheeled scooters8212;were purchased for the UTA Police Department at a total cost of $47,600. UTA’s snazzy new means of conveyance was made possible by the 1 percent of stimulus money required for security use.

UTA claims the Segways will be a good way to go green and quickly secure TRAX stations. Bicycles however, seem like a much cheaper and even greener way to accomplish the same goal. According to www.segway.com, the top speed for a Segway is 12.5 mph. The average speed for a mountain bike with knobby tires is 13 to 15 mph. The website www.abikestore.com advertises new police issued patrol bikes for $1,029.99. This is $6,904 less than each Segway. With more than $47,000 spent on six Segways, UTA could have bought 46 patrol bicycles. Apparently bikes seem less authoritative to UTA than the commanding presence of a Segway.

It’s easy to lambaste UTA for wasteful spending. John Inglish, UTA general manager, received $100,000 in bonuses to complement his nearly $267,000 salary. In total, this is $73,000 more than the 2007 salary and bonuses of New York City transit boss Elliot Sander.

Sander, who has the job of running public transportation for the most populous city in the country, obviously has a lot more on his plate. Nevertheless, his extravagant salary drew fire from critics across New York state. His Utah counterpart has experienced similar public outcry. This discord led to a legislative audit of UTA in January 2008. The audit highlighted things such as perceived lack of board oversight, high executive salaries and “unreliable” passenger data. UTA seemingly attempted to solve the latter with a new tap-on tap-off system. I ride TRAX nearly everyday and I can’t see how their passenger data can be any more “reliable,” because I’ve never actually seen anyone use the system.

To be fair, Salt Lake City’s public transportation has come a long way in a relatively short time. However, I’m not sure this substantiates Inglish’s astounding salary. Nor does it justify exorbitant spending8212;UTA funded a $48,000 European getaway for nine managers, board members and politicians last December. Hopefully, they found some inspiration.

I enjoy the services that TRAX and UTA provide, but $47,600 for six “security” Segways is laughable. More oversight is necessary to deter this wasteful and utterly frivolous spending.

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