UT: UTA Stays Out of Morgan, For Now

Aug. 14--MORGAN -- The Utah Transit Authority has decided to keep its bus service out of Morgan County, after residents at a public hearing spoke against the estimated $201,900 to $370,150 annual cost involved in bringing the service to the area.

On Wednesday, the UTA board, meeting at Salt Lake City, voted not to proceed with the annexation of Morgan County, while agreeing to still work with its officials in the event other funding sources, such as grant money, comes available to provide Morgan residents with regular UTA service, according to Remi Barron, UTA spokesman.

On June 17 the Morgan County Council signed a resolution initiating the process of considering annexation of the county to the UTA.

UTA is currently providing vans for vanpooling within the county. But at this time there are no other public transportation options available to residents, Morgan County Council member Lyle V. Nelson stated in a letter to UTA dated Nov. 13, 2013.

"Through an assortment of public outreach efforts, including surveys and a transportation study, the Mobility Council and the County Council recognize the high value placed on public transit by citizens of Morgan County," Nelson said in his letter.

But residents who attended the July hearing saw things differently.

At the July hearing, which about 50 people attended, it appeared there was an organized effort against the annexation, "it was pretty one-sided" with only one resident in attendance speaking in favor of bringing bus service to the county, Barron said.

The summary of comments received via email, written correspondence and from comment cards at the public hearing included 37 opposed, three neutral and one in favor.

The county council had been considering placing a proposed annexation of bus service for the county on the November ballot to allow residents to determine if they were willing to pay the cost for a public transit service that would connect them to the FrontRunner rail lines in the Ogden and Salt Lake City areas, Barron said.

That cost would have been based on a proposed sales tax increase of one-third of a penny on each dollar spent, according to UTA officials.

Based on the distance between Morgan County and the FrontRunner rail service, which extends public transit service, it was speculated operational cost could be high, and would include a yet-to-be-determined passenger fare as well, Barron said.

"The cost are definitely higher than if the community was closer," he said.

The Morgan City business district is about 20 miles away from Weber State University. Morgan County has a population of 9,469 people.

Fuel cost for the buses, he said, would also likely be higher based on the elevation of Morgan County.

Some Morgan residents who spoke at the hearing were just as opposed to the idea of making their county more accessible with a public transit line.

"Some people liked the fact that (the county) was hard to get to," Barron said. "That is not (UTA's) mission. Our mission is to make it easier to get to."

But in the future, should Morgan County officials and its residents desire a regular bus service for its community, UTA officials will listen to them, Barron said.

"In an effort to maintain the high quality of life in Morgan County amidst a growing population, it is the County Council's desire to proceed with next steps in obtaining public transit commuter service," Nelson said.

Based on information provided to UTA, about 2,200 Morgan County residents, 23 percent, commute outside of the county for employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Economic Census, 2011.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or bsaxton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

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