Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) A family on its way to shop across the street at the Valley Fair Mall, passes by a TRAX train as it leaves the West Valley Central Station in August 2011. Ridership numbers on that line have thus far risen to only 80 percent of UTA's projections.
Controversial Swiss trip well worth it, UTA chair says

Firsthand » Says seeing sites is necessary for policy makers.

By Lee Davidson

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Jul 31 2013 04:17 pm • Last Updated Aug 01 2013 07:47 am

Utah Transit Authority officials’ controversial trip to Switzerland — a day after they told legislators that planned projects and service expansion through 2040 would eventually necessitate a 66 percent sales tax increase — was well worth the time and money, the UTA Board chairman reported to its members on Wednesday.

"If I were [the late billionaire] Howard Hughes instead of Greg Hughes, I would pay for every policymaker to go on this trip and see with their own eyes how people can be moved by trains and other forms of transportation that are not automobiles to give people greater access to ski resorts," Hughes told the board.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The trip took four UTA officials to Switzerland at a cost of at least $10,400 for airfare and hotels to look at mountain transportation systems as a multi-government canyon transportation planning process gets under way. Accompanying them were six legislators — including Hughes, who is also the House Republican whip — who said they paid their own way, or used a mix of personal and campaign funds.

"It’s fun to see eyes light up and people ‘get it’ when you see this firsthand," Hughes said, adding that much of what Switzerland does could be copied to improve transportation in the Wasatch canyons.

"This trip was not for the faint of heart," he said. "In those five days, we went to 15 cities, traveled over 500 miles in 11 different modes of transportation" from cog railroads to trams and trains using systems of tunnels.

Hughes said some reciprocal trips are planned.

"There are some people we met there who we are going to bring here to Utah" to talk to policy makers about their experiences.

When Hughes asked if board members had questions, member Keith Bartholomew said he believes international travel pays big dividends for UTA.

"I know it has some political risks, but the benefits of being able to take our stakeholders and opinion leaders around to other sites around the world so they can see what other communities are doing and we could do here" is worth it, he said.

"I only have to look back at similar educational efforts we have had in the past and what the results were" to see support that resulted in building TRAX and FrontRunner lines and in pushing transit-oriented developments, Bartholomew said. No other board members commented on the travel.


story continues below
story continues below

International travel has been among controversies that UTA has faced recently. Last year, The Tribune reported that UTA had spent $600,000 in a year and a half on travel. For example, former CEO John Inglish had traveled to Belgium, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Spain (twice), Switzerland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and 17 U.S. cities. He averaged 1.6 trips a month.

Hughes traveled in that period for UTA to Switzerland, Hong Kong, Australia, San Antonio, Sacramento, Portland (three times) and Washington, D.C.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.