Through November 16, UTA is accepting public comment on its proposed 2012 budget. The budget is available for viewing at http://www.rideuta.com/uploads/NoticeofHearingandTentativeBudgetPacket.pdf, and comments can be made at http://www.rideuta.com/mc/?page=Proposed2012Budget.
The budget is subject to approval by the UTA Board of Trustees, which will take into account all public feedback received during the comment period.
With the 2012 budget public comment period underway, UTA wanted to take the opportunity to provide some background on its management philosophy, give insight on its priorities and offer education on agency oversight and governance.
UTA prides itself on its commitment to maintaining high standards in its management and operational practices. Over the years, UTA has been recognized in many quarters for its excellence – including its recent designation as one of the best transit in the United States by US News and World Report and its 2003 Transit System of the Year Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
The agency is also the only transit agency in the country that is actively building five major rail projects at one time (two of those projects, the Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines, opened in August 2011), and when completed, these projects will be a tremendous asset to the Wasatch Front.
UTA is also extremely innovative, as demonstrated by it being the first transit agency to accept fare payment via contactless credit cards, a move that earned UTA APTA’s Innovation Award in 2008.
UTA credits its success through adherence to set of rigorous management and ethical standards that promote agency transparency, operational and managerial excellence, and wise use of taxpayer money.
UTA’s Open Door
UTA is committed to doing right by the taxpayers and the citizens it serves. While trying to meet the transit needs of the communities in its service district, manage an ambitious capital program, and plan for future growth, UTA welcomes and promotes public observation and feedback into the many facets of its business.
The agency prides itself in going beyond the legal requirements regarding public access to functions such as service planning, major project development, and decision-making done by UTA’s Board of Trustees.
An example of UTA’s extra efforts in obtaining public feedback is the agency’s recent use of an unusual public participation process to plan its upcoming August 2011 bus system changes.
UTA went beyond the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) requirements for gathering public comment on service changes and engaged the public through a scoping-type process that encouraged individuals to express their operational preferences for the bus system.
Through an online poll, a series of open houses, and a program of focus groups and phone surveys, people were asked their opinions on broad considerations such as bus frequency versus coverage.
The input was used by UTA planners to develop two service proposals, which were then taken through the FTA’s required public hearing and comment process.
This approach proved so successful the agency plans to use a similar model for obtaining public feedback on service changes in the future.
This spirit of openness also extends to the way business is conducted by the UTA Board of Trustees. All of the board’s meetings, including its working committee meetings and full board meetings, are open to the public and the press, and all votes are done publicly.
Agendas for each meeting are published in advance at rideuta.com, and all regular full board meetings include a public comment period.
In addition, contact information for each trustee is available on UTA’s website, and any member of the public may contact a UTA Trustee to provide input on the transit system or to ask questions. Board members read every query sent to them by the public and respond as appropriate.
Additionally, the public has access to thousands of documents generated by UTA at rideuta.com (Public Records section) or at http://utapublicrecords.com/sirepub/home.aspx.
On this site, UTA provides all board documents and project environmental studies in addition to salary and other compensation information for each of its employees. Ridership figures and other reports concerning the agency’s performance measures are also available on this site.
UTA Board of Trustees Management
UTA is governed by a 15-member board of trustees appointed by select state officials and local elected officials in the cities and counties that support UTA with a local option sales tax.
Through UTA’s enabling legislation, the Utah State Legislature determines the number and manner in which board members are appointed.
UTA’s Board of Trustees is comprised of a broad spectrum of highly-educated and well-respected community leaders. Board members must undergo a thorough interview process before being appointed and most possess strong backgrounds in fields relevant to transportation such as business, public policy or planning.
UTA board members typically work 25 to 30 hours per month on board duties, and the only involvement UTA has in the board member appointment process is after a board member’s term has lapsed, the agency sends a letter to the appropriate municipality stating the appointed board member’s term has expired.
Once a board member’s term has lapsed, the appointing municipality can appoint another board member or recommend the current appointee serve an additional term.
There are seven members who represent Salt Lake County; one member from Salt Lake City; one member from Utah County; one each from Davis and Weber counties; one member representing Utah’s governor; one representing the Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives; one representing the Utah State Senate; and one representing the Utah Transportation Commission.
UTA board members must abide by a code of conduct called the Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act, which holds members accountable to the same standards as Utah’s state agency employees.
Additionally, board members must follow an internal board code of conduct that is more stringent than the requirements outlined in the Utah Public Officers’ and Employees’ Ethics Act.
The UTA board member code of conduct requires trustees to disclose all actual or potential conflicts of interest when they first become members of the board, and at least annually thereafter or sooner as circumstances justify. Potential conflicts of interest must be submitted by affidavit, and board members are not permitted to use knowledge obtained through their membership on UTA’s Board for personal gain.UTA Management Oversight
In addition to the oversight provided by its board of trustees, UTA has multiple levels of management oversight. Many stakeholders and partners are interested in UTA’s overall success and the appropriate use of federal and state taxpayer dollars.
Stakeholders such as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Utah State Legislature, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), and others regularly monitor or audit UTA’s compliance with rigorous federal mandates, state statutes, enabling legislation, and applicable financial and ethics laws. In addition, UTA has many internal policies and procedures in place that govern its operations and management practices.
In any given year, UTA may undergo any one of numerous evaluations including an annual salary audit, Homeland Security audits, procurement audits, and various operational and safety compliance audits among others. UTA is a willing partner in all evaluations and appreciates the recommendations provided by each audit as it assists the agency in achieving continual improvements.
While UTA prepares dozens of federal reports each year, one of UTA’s most significant audits is the FTA’s stringent tri-annual review, which evaluates the agency’s performance in 24 distinct areas. Some of the key audit areas include: legal, financial, procurement, Title VI, fare increases and major service reductions, ADA, and safety and security. If the tri-annual review finds deficiencies, UTA must immediately bring these deficiencies in compliance. The FTA conducted UTA’s last tri-annual audit in 2010.
UTA is under additional oversight for its capital projects. When studying a capital project, UTA follows the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to evaluate the potential impacts of the project. These studies are evaluated and approved by the FTA.
For federally-funded capital projects, the FTA also hires a project management oversight contractor (PMOC) to verify UTA’s performance and stewardship of federal funds and management.
As part of its financial oversight program, UTA conducts annual internal financial audits and reports each year. Like most government agencies, UTA prepares an annual external financial report, called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
UTA also prepares a monthly financial report that is reviewed by the UTA Board of Trustees and published for public review at rideuta.com. As part of its annual budget preparation, UTA provides a draft budget each year for the public to review and comment. The draft budget is also distributed to city, county and state government officials. After considering the public input and other board and staff comments, UTA then adjusts the budget and provides a final draft that is subject to board approval.