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UTA arranging meeting with foes of fare boost

Disabled riders term the boost unaffordable

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Just hours before disabled riders planted themselves in front of two TRAX trains Tuesday in protest of a proposed fare increase, Utah Transit Authority trustee Jay Jensen had agreed to meet with them to discuss the proposal.

And Wednesday, Jensen was busy calling board of trustee members to arrange that meeting.

UTA spokesman Kris McBride said Jensen wants to have the majority of the board members at such a meeting.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the proposed fare increase the end of October. The proposal was created by UTA staff members, and disabled UTA riders have come out in force at several public hearings on the increase.

At one of the public hearings, disabled rider Maggie Davis said the proposed paratransit pass price of $90 a month is not affordable.

"You'll knock them off, push them back into their homes," she said. "I think you're not looking ahead. Until you become disabled, you will not know what it means to be disabled. You don't know what it means to not be able to be social or go to the store."

A rally was planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Federal Building, but protester Barbara Toomer said the sit-in was spontaneous. She said some of the people at the rally were "desperate" to make UTA see their side. Many of the protesters are paratransit users. The fare increase proposal calls for an increase in the paratransit fare from its current $1 to $2.50 by 2004. The regular adult fare would increase from $1 to $1.25.

About 50 people headed to the TRAX line on Main near the 100 South intersection, chanting "Hey hey! Ho ho! The fare increase has got to go" and "No way, UTA."

They were on the tracks for about 15 minutes, which train conductor Ralph Hubrich said was too long.

"They're trying to get a point across and I see nothing wrong with that," he said. "But not to have a train stuck here this long."

Passengers of the two trains they held up were also unhappy about the protesters' methods.

"I'm sure that there's some merit to what they're doing," said South Jordan resident Ross Murray. "They're obviously inconveniencing a lot of folks in the meantime."

One of UTA's officers eventually persuaded the group to move by telling them it wasn't safe for them to be on the tracks.

McBride said Wednesday that UTA general manager John Inglish had spoken to Toomer last week, urging her not to disrupt transit service by blocking the tracks in protest.

Toomer could not be reached Wednesday morning for comment.

E-MAIL: lculler@desnews.com