The Utah Council of the Blind

Urgent Message

Hello UCB members,


I am writing to inform you that I am part of a group of blind paratransit riders who has an upcoming meeting with
Mr. Jerry Benson, the new UTA president/CEO to discuss concerns and solutions regarding the UTA’s paratransit service. I am writing to ask that the UCB as an organization, as well as individual members who ride paratransit email Mr. Benson with their frustrations regarding their experiences with Paratransit. Personally, I have been putting up with Paratransit policies, procedures, and attitudes that needlessly reduce the convenience, efficiency, comfort, and usability of the paratransit system for too long and I now intend to do something about it. Some examples of situations I am referring to include “dead zones and “dead times” where you cannot get picked up or dropped off at your desired time and location, elimination of entire routes from paratransit coverage (such as flex route buses, ski buses, express busses, and the streetcar), unacceptable scheduling such as being picked up 1 hour before desired pick up times and being forced to accept ludicrously long trip times, the UTA’s failure to provide adequate and useful assistance in getting to/from the bus, and the UTA’s failure to follow a nearly 2-year old Federal Transit Administration rule requiring a 5-minute call ahead system.

None of these issues or concerns are new to paratransit nationally or locally; in fact, many other paratransit jurisdictions far exceed the services provided by the UTA, and often provide services and implement policies as a course of normal business that UTA supervisors often declare as “impossible”.


I believe the UTA gets away with providing such poor customer service, poor transportation service, and the implementation of anti-passenger policies because:

1. Its passenger base is a captive audience whose disabilities and financial status leave them with no other option;

2. The paratransit service is an unaccountable monopoly receiving most of its money from Washington D.C. not from local ridership supporting the service, thus the UTA does not need to respond to its customers;

3. Supervisors implement anti-passenger policies because there is no process for passengers to hold them accountable—there is no appeal process and the same people receiving and evaluating complaints are the same people making the bad decisions in the first place.


I am tired of filing endless complaints that go nowhere, and I am tired of being treated like a second-class citizen who should be grateful for the crumbs being given, rather than being treated like a customer who should be respected and whose business must be earned and maintained. If you feel like I feel, please email Mr. Benson at

Please mention my name in the email body, title the subject “paratransit concerns”, and CC me. 

I have attached my letter to Mr. Benson for your review; if you like, you can sign onto this letter and forward it to Mr. Benson. The appointment is for January 10th, please send all emails before then.


Thank You,
Jim Reed


Here is the message sent to the Utah Transit Agency:

To: Mr. Benson, (Utah Transit Agency)

My name is Jim Reed. I am a blind UTA paratransit rider. I am writing to request an in-person meeting with you to discuss what I view as a constant and on-going lack of customer service and responsiveness within the UTA paratransit department. Before you ask, yes, I have been in contact with paratransit supervisors many times over multiple years to resolve these issues with no result.

Whenever anyone ask what I think of the UTA paratransit service, I must answer “they do as much as possible to provide as little service as possible.” What I mean by that is, every time there is a decision (policy, scheduling, special request, legal interpretation, or otherwise) it always goes to support the business needs of UTA while completely disregarding the needs of UTA passengers. It is obvious to me that paratransit passengers are not viewed by the agency as customers whose business needs to be earned, cultivated, and maintained in order for the service to continue, but rather we are viewed and treated as a detested burden or chore worthy of the bare legal minimum and nothing more. I am tired of being treated like a detested chore and a second-class citizen.

Further, the actions of paratransit supervisors borders on passenger abuse; I don’t mean abuse in an illegal context, I mean abuse in terms of power and using their position to harm, rather than to help the people they have been empowered to serve. Agency administrators have absolute power, passengers have none, and as a result, officials routinely make decisions contrary to passenger needs with no threat of recourse by, or accountability to passengers for their actions and decisions.

Here are some examples of the types of decisions I am referring to:

1. A person was approved for paratransit services because of a cold-related disability, but that person must wait outside in the cold for up to ½ hour because paratransit won’t call upon arrival;

2. Paratransit excludes every new “premium” service the UTA offers from its service area including, among others, flex route busses, the streetcar, and express busses. The fundamental question here is why is a public service provider excluding entire bus and train lines?

3. Paratransit uses bus times (understand this means fixed-route busses only, no Trax or other premium services) to define an acceptable maximum paratransit trip duration. Bus-only is the standard because “fixed route buses” is the language in the ADA and is the law’s bare minimum standard. It is Ludacris and quite telling of the supervisor’s mindset to listen to them explain how bus-only trip times is the standard without giving any consideration to the fact that the entire UTA system has adapted to Trax and other premium services.

4. A passenger lives 5 houses outside of the ¾-mile boundary, and the bus won’t pick him up in front of his house, instead he must wait at the corner, in the elements;

5. When this same individual pointed out that the bus had to drive past his house to get to the designated pick up spot, UTA supervisors scouted the area in a car and prescribed an approach drivers must take to avoid having the bus drive past his house;

6. Paratransit used to have a taxi service program where passengers could be picked up in a taxi and the trip was then paid by the UTA. This service was canceled. Paratransit supervisors have told me the average paratransit ride cost $40 in the UTA paratransit buses, but taxis can usually get me where I want to go for less than $20. When I asked paratransit supervisors why the service was canceled, they lied to me and told me that “the UTA requires drivers go through background checks, and the taxi companies refuse to comply with the background check requirement.” I contacted a major taxi company who used to do business with Paratransit, and the cab company told me they background check their drivers annually. I don’t appreciate being lied to. Taxis provide a better service to the rider at a cheaper cost to the UTA; why was this program canceled, and why isn’t more being done to restart it?

7. When scheduling a paratransit pick up that is at the same time as the last fix-route bus of the day, FTA rules allows for the pickup window to start at the time of the last fixed-route bus and extend for ½ hour beyond that point. But paratransit requires the pickup window to open ½ hour before the fixed route is set to arrive, and close at the time the fixed route should arrive. This means that for no good reason the disabled passenger must be outside waiting for his/her bus ½ hour earlier than a non-disabled passenger waiting on an equivalent fixed-route bus;

8. Your paratransit supervisors have a faulty belief that the ADA prescribes service maximums, and that it would somehow be a violation of federal law to provide better service than what the ADA requires. In fact, the ADA prescribes minimums that the agency must meet, and allows for agencies to exceed those standards if they wish.

9. The UTA has a no cell phones policy which prevents paratransit bus drivers from calling upon arrival; if this policy was tweaked to allow paratransit drivers to call once the bus is pulled over and parked, disabled passengers would not have to wait in the elements.

10. The UTA has a “don’t reverse the bus” policy. This policy keeps the bus from pulling into my parking area in front of my house. Because of this, instead of being able to wait in the comfort of my home, I must wait outside in the elements for the bus. FYI, a Waste Management dump truck can get in/out of my driveway, and paratransit buses have done so as well.

11. Paratransit scheduling policy only allows buses to be sent to my work at 330, 430, and 530pm. These predetermined pick up times needlessly inconvenience customers while further demonstrating a lack of customer focus.

12. The paratransit scheduling department is so erratic that the running joke among my fellow riders is that scheduling is done by “an untrained monkey”. For example, they have 1 bus with 4 riders going from 1900 W over to 3300 E. Back to 700 W, back to 1300 E, back to 5400 W. There are passengers who leave work at 4:30pm who average arriving at home by 7pm because of how routes are scheduled. The general feeling among passengers is that Paratransit is using antiquated, outdated software that is incapable of effective scheduling;

13. Paratransit has a “subscription service” that allows riders to set automatic trips if they are going to the same place at the same time of day for a longer period of time. Once again demonstrating a lack of customer focus, paratransit can take 75 days to recognize a consistent event—30 days for the rider to demonstrate a “consistent ridership pattern” before an application can be filed, and then 45 days to process the application. they won’t take advanced request (such as when I told them 1 month ago that my new college semester starts January 7); my semester will be mostly over before they accept and approve my application. Whenever I complain about the subscription service, paratransit supervisors always say “the subscription service is not required

by the ADA, so we can set our own rules and policies.” Translation: We don’t have to provide this service at all, so be glad for what you got.

14. The reasonable service modification rules released by the FTA require a 5-minute call ahead system. These rules have been in place for nearly 2 years, and paratransit still does not have a working system in place, nor have they established a temporary work around that would satisfy the requirements of the rule until the final system is developed. These call ahead systems are not new; Anchorage Alaska has used a similar system for years, as do ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. The delay in implementation of the call ahead system is an unacceptable and inexcusable stall tactic. How long must we wait for the UTA to comply with federal rules?

The point of the above list is to demonstrate an ongoing list of power-based abuses that occur regularly by paratransit leadership against passengers and to illustrate a pattern of supervisor’s decisions that needlessly and always go against the needs of customers, even when the opposite decision would better meet the needs of the customer while having a neutral/negligible impact on the paratransit service or department. Many of these issues are because paratransit supervisors choose not to do more or do better (such as expanding service coverage rules), and other issues are the result of policies put in place by paratransit supervisors (such as a no cell phone policy). The frustrating thing is that paratransit supervisors then point to these decisions and policies as justification for not providing a service while being seemingly unaware that they are the ones who made the decisions and implemented these policies in the first place, and that they could change or modified these decisions and policies at any time they choose.


I believe the root of all these problems is the Paratransit service is a monopoly who does not need to be accountable to its passengers. As a publicly funded public service provider who is also a monopoly, I think UTA managers have an extra ethical and moral responsibility to provide the balance not provided by a fair market economy, to insure that customers remain the focus, and to diligently guard against an insulated institutionalism that values the organization above its customers.

I would strongly encourage you to evaluate the resources of the department, and to investigate the direction and leadership of the department and to determine whether passengers are being faithfully served to the best of the UTA’s potential, or if there are leadership, structural, or resource issues in place that prevent the UTA’s passengers from being better and more fully served.

I’m tired of being treated like a second-class citizen who should be grateful for the crumbs being given to me rather than being treated like a customer to be respected and whose business must be earned and maintained.


Jim Reed

Phone: (312) 925 1579