The Utah Transit Authority board of trustees on Wednesday officially approved and adopted a budget of $387.1 million for the new year.
UTA CEO Jerry Benson said the amount represents a nearly 3 percent hike from 2016 and includes funding for development of a bus-rapid transit project in Utah County and increasing operational productivity.
The agency budgeted nearly $10 million to upgrade technology on commuter rail, as well as fare payment and other improvements in 2017. At the top of UTA’s list is upgraded Wi-Fi service on FrontRunner.
UTA will also install a new way for riders to pay fares. The new ticketing options should be ready to use by the second quarter of the year, said UTA chief information officer Clair Fiet.
The estimated cost of changing out all electronic card readers is about $3.7 million, he said.
For future convenience, UTA is also considering installing additional electronic signs on rail platforms to let riders know when the next train is scheduled to arrive. The overall estimated cost of the planned improvements for next year totals about $9.9 million, he said.
Significant upgrades will also be made to bus service with the replacement of 59 buses in addition to conducting repairs and maintenance on rail platforms and other light-rail assets, Benson said. He added that UTA plans to expand service in counties that approved the Proposition 1 sales tax increase — Davis, Tooele and Weber.
“We always want to be adding service and better connections,” he said.
Next year, Benson said the agency will present a “report card” of the Proposition 1 improvements to allow counties that did not approve the quarter-cent sales tax increase to see the benefits the additional funding can provide.
“We want to show exactly what happened with that money, what kind of improvements we were able to make,” Benson said. “We believe that when we show that to other communities, they may look at it and say, ‘Now we have a very clear understanding of what can happen,’ and then they may be willing to put it back on the ballot and consider it again.”