The Morgan County Council, Wasatch Front Regional Council and the Utah Transit Authority will be seeking public comment on transportation options in Morgan County. Some options would require an increase in sales tax.
After studying transportation needs in the county for over a month, including use of a survey, Ali Oliver, transportation planner at the Wasatch Front Regional Council, presented six transportation options that would be a good match for Morgan County’s needs.
The options include UTA van pool, volunteer driver program, travel voucher program, VA service for veterans, community shuttle and commuter transit service.
VAN POOL: Oliver said “There is a huge market in Morgan” for a UTA Van Pool because approximately 2/3 of employed residents are commuting outside the county for employment. The van pool program already existing in other counties is “one of the most cost effective programs UTA has,” she said.
UTA leases a van to riders, who share equally in the transportation costs. The riders can determine the schedule and route. Each rider signs a contract with UTA with specifics for the riders designated as drivers.
VOLUNTEER DRIVERS: Another cost effective program is the volunteer driver program, Oliver said. It is likely used to transport seniors or riders with disabilities. After training, drivers donate their time. It is a good arrangement for those wishing to volunteer as well as the riders, who find they can depend less on care givers such as family members to drive them around.
TRAVEL VOUCHERS: The travel voucher program would utilize federal funds to help pay for a portion of a local taxi fare. For example, the rider would only have to pay for 10 miles out of a 70-mile round trip from Morgan to Ogden. Oliver noted that this program has limited funding amounts.
VA SERVICE: Oliver has found good response for transportation benefitting the 280 veterans in the county. She has already had veterans express interest in being a volunteer driver for the program.
COMMUNITY SHUTTLE: The community shuttle program would benefit the general public and use smaller vehicles that are wheelchair accessible. There is a certain deviation from a set route allowed so some riders can get direct access. Federal funding could be available for up to half the costs of the service, Oliver said.
UTA officials said UTA would likely donate a vehicle to the county for the program. The vehicle would stay in the county and be maintained by county officials.
COMMUTER SERVICE: A commuter service in Morgan would likely look like the one recently put in place in Tooele. It would serve mostly those riders accessing employment with morning and evening routes. The service would be managed by UTA, who would determine the routes, times and vehicles involved. It would likely allow riders to connect to park and ride and frontrunner facilities, Morgan County Councilman Lyle Nelson said.
Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley liked the idea of a “round robin” public transportation option in Morgan County. The route would travel along Old Highway Road and Morgan Valley Drive and head down Weber Canyon, perhaps once each day.
TAXES: A quarter percent sales tax increase on all non-food items may have to be implemented in the county before some of the options would be viable, Oliver said. That would mean 25 cents tax on a purchase of $100.
According to surveys, a third of residents would not approve such a tax while a quarter of residents are still unsure. That would mean more than 40 percent of survey respondents would approve a sales tax increase to support increased public transportation options in the county.
Oliver noted that when Morgan residents shop in Weber or Davis Counties, they are already paying such a tax for public transportation services not available in their own county of residence.
Based on tax records provided by the county treasurer, the sales tax could provide up to $272,000 annually, Oliver said. She said that amount would be more than sufficient for several of the options discussed.
Oliver said since Morgan is a rural community, multiple federal grants could qualify the county for transportation-related monies. Letters of intent for those programs are due Oct. 1.
According to surveys, Morgan residents would like to use public transportation to get to destinations such as LDS temples, Weber State University and medical appointments.
The county council suggested a booth at the upcoming county fair, as well as open houses in the Mountain Green and Morgan City areas to gather public comment on the issues.