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UTA Announces Leadership Changes, Renewed Focus On Riders

Brian Grimmett

Two months after taking the helm of the Utah Transit Authority, CEO Jerry Benson has restructured the organization’s leadership. He says it’s the first step in improving UTA’s image and regaining public trust.

UTA announced Wednesday that it’s streamlining its management. The number of people who report directly to CEO Jerry Benson will be reduced from eight to five. Benson says for the last decade or so UTA has been focused on building rail lines, and now its focus needs to shift to riders and employees.

“It is intended to reorient us to be better focused on service, the people who provide our customer service and those who support those people,” Benson says.

The transit authority has been criticized in recent years for using funds irresponsibly—including giving large bonuses and salaries to leaders and paying for executive trips to foreign countries.

That mistrust is thought to be one of the reasons voters in several counties last year rejected a proposal for a slight tax increase to improve transportation.

Chris Stout co-founded the Utah Transit Riders Union, a UTA watchdog group. He called the leadership restructure a step in the right direction.

“This idea of scaling back the number of staff is going to make it so they can start focusing on expanding service.,” Stout says. “And I think what it will do is it’s going to make UTA more accountable for what they are working on.”

Benson says expanding service is on his radar, but he hinted that it might take some time.

“We’ll continue to make incremental improvements in our service,” he says. “And when communities decide they want more and are willing to approve tax increases to have more service, then we’ll respond to that with more and better coverage.”

Benson says the management changes will have little to no effect on the salary or day-to-day responsibilities of UTA’s largest group of employees—the people who operate its buses and trains.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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