Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Investigate Utah Transit Authority Ethics"

Introduction: UTA has used a masterful propaganda campaign to keep the public and decision-makers in the dark about what they really accomplish, about the true total costs of new rail projects, about who pays what for roads and transit and about their reliability as stewards of $20 billion dollars in taxpayer "investment" UTA uses ignorance and misinformation as weapons against us.

1. UTA is using junk data to justify spending billions of car-driver-paid dollars for transit "investments" in questionable trains.

a. The highly critical Legislative audit of UTA from January of 2008 noted that "Poor ridership data has been a problem for several years".

b. This bad data has saturated the transportation planning for a decade and during debate on three-transit sales tax hike elections totaling billions.

1. UTA Chief Operating Officer, Jerry Benson, in October 2007 Michelle
Warburton article in the Deseret news stated UTA had bad data going back to 1995.

2. "We remain concerned that the faulty ridership data is still being used to justify major investments in the transit system".

a. What is Major Investment? billion$ of dollars paid by car users

1. Many more rail projects are planned and wanted without decision makers or the public knowing what they will really cost or accomplish.

3. UTA has mislead us as to the total long term costs of trains. They have baited and persuaded politicians to buy into rail transit with early estimates only a fraction of future total costs.

a. TRAX extension to the Airport, Draper, Mid Jordan and West Valley will cost nearly $3/4 billion each throughout their 40-year life spans.

b. Full build FrontRunner will cost over $4 billion.

4. UTA routinely reports its ridership in a form that overstates its transportation value.

a. The Legislative Audit criticized UTA for reporting ridership in "boardings", a measure that overstates the actual transportation value of those trips. UTA should, they said, report in "linked trips" a measure that is most nearly comparable to car trips. The Federal Administration and transit researchers have also stressed the desirability of using linked trips.

5. UTA habitually overstates or misrepresents gains in transit ridership over time. They carefully omit the details which regularly would show the irrelevance of those "apparent" gains.

a. UTA reported that TRAX had shown an 11% gain in ridership for October 2008, compared to 200. But they neglected to mention that most of that gain, likely 80% of that apparent gain was due to opening three new TRAX stations and FrontRunner since last year. The news stations would generate, perhaps, 500 hundred of the new rides. In addition, about 5,000 of those new riders were due to the trips dumped at the Intermodal Station by the $2/3rds-billion dollar FrontRunner trains each day.

b. Actually TRAX ridership has been nearly flatgoing back to late 2004
after accounting for gains that accompany new additions of stations and extension.

6. To gain taxpayer approval for the multi-billion tax hikes in 2006, UTA purposely misrepresented gross estimates of likely future TRAX extension (and other linked rail and bus rides) ridership as though they were the best data NET estimate.

a. UTA gave to the Downtown alliance data for their 2015 Transportation report claiming 25,000 to 30,000 riders a day on the MidJordan TRAX line by 2025. This claim was pushed by the DownTown Alliance, the Salt Lake Chamber and their "Speakers' Bureau to convince the public that this TRAX extension would do a lot to help congestion on our roads. But the Federal Transit Administration has just repeated 3-year old best-data analysis showing that this line will only carry 3,700 New Transit Trips daily by 2030 (WFRC data shows trips on southwest valley roads will increase by 1.25 million by 2030 (from 2001)

7. UTA continues to falsely claim transit helps clean our air or our worst pollution problems. This is not true.

a. The Legislative audit has stated that UTA is a net polluter of NOx BUSES cause so much excess NOx that they wipe out modest gains from VanPools and TRAX, leaving UTA upside down by 185 tons of excess NOx a year.

1. To mislead the public, UTA sums its excess NOx with its savings in lower prioity and less health damaging pollutants. It then declares, on balance it reduces pollution. But the EPA, UDAQ and WFRC all state that NOx is the key and worst pollutant.

b. UTA has claimed that FrontRunner reduces the worst pollutant NOx. This is false.

1.FrontRunner Locomotives will burn 1.8 million gallons of diesel a year, (full service conditions outlined by UTA's Mr. Steve Meyer) Every gallon yields 139 grams of NOx according to the EPA. This totals 279 tons a year of NOx. FrontRunner diesels will, like the UTA buses wipe out all gains from future TRAX extensions and further deepen its excess NOx pollution deficit.

c. A 2005 pollution analysis by WFRC and UDAQ engineers showed that UTA buses emitted 2% on-road NOx pollution. But with two FrontRunner extensions, UTA transit vehicles will emit over 5% a much NOx as all cars and trucks on the road. They are not helping!

Michael T. Packard Electronic Engineer and Safety Consultant

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