Mayor chooses transit advocate for UTA board seat

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A Blue line TRAX train, part of three light rail lines in UTA's transportation network. Photo by Flickr user Martijn van Exel.
Photo of Alex Cragun, Mayor Biskupski’s selection for the UTA Board of Trustees.

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced Friday her selection of Alex Gragun to represent Salt Lake City on the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Board of Trustees, subject to the advice and consent of the Salt Lake City Council.

Cragun is the mayor’s second selection after her previous selection, State Senator Jim Dabakis, failed to get city council approval.

Dabakis’s selection received criticism for his admitted limited experience utilizing mass transit.  But unlike the state senator, Cragun has been a lifelong user of public transit and currently relies on mass transit as his main transportation source.

“As a transit user, Alex brings a unique voice to the UTA Board,” said Mayor Biskupski in a statement. “Over the years, Alex has not only spoken out when he has seen troubling actions, he has taken a direct role in helping UTA focus on what matters: rider satisfaction.”

Cragun is one of the original founders of the Utah Transit Riders Union, a transit advocacy group that has pushed for expanded late night, weekend and holiday service.  Cragun also helped develop the Community Advisory Committee at UTA.

“I got involved with advocacy around transit because I was seeing first-hand people getting stranded and having to walk hours to get home at certain times,” said Cragun.  “(As a board member) I will examine each decision by how the public is going to feel about this and how is this going to affect ridership?” “an opportunity for users of the system to have their voice heard.”

Cragun sees his potential appointment as an opportunity for users of the system to have their voice heard on the UTA board.  He moved to Salt Lake City after living in the suburbs to live car free and be closer to transit options and walkable neighborhoods.  He relies on mass transit and his bicycle to in his commute to work and to get around the city.

According to a statement, Biskupski chose Cragun because of his transit advocacy background and her belief that he will be a strong voice for Salt Lake City and for increased transparency on the UTA Board.

“UTA has been taking the steps forward for a couple of years but I want to see that work is complete,” said Cragun.

Cragun currently works as the Public Affairs Coordinator for Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH).  He served as a Board Member of the Utah Transit Riders Union from 2014-2016, as well as the Community Transit Advisory Committee from 2015-2017 and is involved with the Emerging Leaders Initiative.

In addition to representing transit riders, Cragun wants to see transit options expanded west of Interstate 15 and more late night and weekend service, especially in and around downtown.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have late night bus service in the downtown district,” said Cragun.  “If we are serious about reducing the amount of DUI’s, then public transportation needs to be part of the solution.”

Cragun will need approval from the City Council before he can be appointed to the UTA board.  His selection comes a divisive time in City Hall.  The city has been without a Transporation Director for over a year, with several city council members expressing concern that the Biskupski administration isn’t making transportation a priority.  Additionally, the council is expected to vote on adopting the city’s first ever, Transit Master Plan in the coming months.

If adopted, the plan would move toward ensuring that every resident and city worker lives and works within a quarter-mile of a high-frequency transit route while making service more affordable and reliable.  Under the plan, public transit would be expanded through the implementation of a frequent transit network (FTN), on-demand shared ride services, enhanced and rapid transit bus corridors and a number of transit-supportive programs.

If approved, Cragun would replace Keith Bartholomew, an associate professor of city and metropolitan planning at the University of Utah.  Bartholomew had served on the board for 13 years before being removed by Biskupski last spring.

About Isaac Riddle 593 Articles
Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.