Taxpayers have paid for the “mostly advisory” CEO of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) to travel to more than ten countries and seventeen American cities in the last eighteen months. John Inglish was UTA’s general manager until two years ago, when he was replaced and kicked upstairs to a newly created position “as severance.”
“Nice severance,” comments a reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune, who notes that UTA is paying Inglish $364,400 a year (compared with $319,360 for his replacement general manager, Michael Allegra) even though Inglish has no day-to-day responsibilities for the agency. Allegra himself travels a lot, taking 1.4 trips per month, but not as much as Inglish, who averages 1.6 trips a month.
These two are not the only UTA officials who travel a lot at taxpayers’ expense. The entire UTA board traveled to Portland to see its transit operations. The board chair has been to Australia, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and numerous American cities.
Of course, they all claim that this travel is very useful for improving their programs. But just what lessons can a transit manager in Salt Lake City, whose urbanized area population is under 4,000 people per square mile, learn from Hong Kong, whose density is 76,000 people per square mile?
The newspaper points out that the state department of transportation spends less than half as much on employee travel each year as UTA. Someone who is on the boards of directors of both argues that this makes sense, because the Department of Transportation’s job is to maintain roads while UTA “is trying to change the culture here from ‘cars-first’ to convince people to use mass transit. Most of the places that have a lot of experience with that are in Europe or the East Coast of the United States, so that’s where they travel.”
Actually, no one has any experience with that because no developed country has managed to reverse the erosion of transit’s share of travel. So, if you want to see someplace that has succeeded in ending the “cars-first” mentality, you might as well stay home and live in your fantasies.
The Antiplanner has previously noted that general managers of rail transit agencies are grossly overpaid. But it turns out that the real scam is to be a retired general manager.