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Murray Journal

MTAP: Murray City's answer to transportation woes for struggling households

Nov 07, 2023 01:23PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

The Utah Transit Authority's TRAX and bus: Now more accessible than ever for Murray City's lower-income residents through MTAP. (Shaun Delliskave/City Journals)

Murray City has launched the Murray Transportation Assistance Program (MTAP), a new initiative aimed at addressing transportation expenses for its lower-income residents. The program is designed to provide financial assistance, aiming to make daily commutes and essential travels more accessible for these households. 

“The Murray Transportation Assistance Program, or MTAP, offers assistance to help pay for transportation costs,” Community and Economic Development Director Phil Markham said. “The monthly funds cover public transportation costs, such as UTA passes, scooter rental fees, taxi rides, and some Lyft/Uber fees.”

MTAP's core principle is to help in transportation. "The goal is to provide a buffer against transportation costs, allowing these households a bit more financial flexibility for other essential expenses," stated Tammy Kikuchi, Murray City's chief communications officer, who provided details about MTAP, discussing its origins, mechanisms and potential long-term impacts.

The program is open to all Murray residents who meet low-income guidelines. An application must be completed by one household member, either online or via paper. Households will be notified of approval or denial by email. If approved, a debit card will be sent along with the letter. Any family member living in the household may use the card(s). Each eligible household will receive a Murray City debit card with access to $300 per month. 

The decision to provide a $300 monthly allocation was data-driven. Kikuchi said, "The figure was determined based on an average calculation. We considered the potential monthly transportation expenses of a typical household: two members using public transit, occasional use of rideshares and scooter rentals. The $300 is an approximation of these combined costs."

When it comes to funding such a program, financial backing is crucial. "The pilot phase of MTAP is kickstarted with a $40,000 allocation from the Redevelopment Agency. With this budget, the program's initial aim is to assist at least 50 households," Kikuchi said.

On the topic of eligibility, Kikuchi said, "We've chosen to use the Salt Lake County 2023 HUD income guidelines as our benchmark. To qualify for MTAP, a household must earn 80% or less than the median income as per these guidelines."

Regarding the program's sustainability and duration, Kikuchi said, "MTAP is designed to be ongoing, contingent on available funds and the household continuing to meet the set criteria. After the pilot phase, we'll assess the program's outcomes and, if deemed viable, further funds may be allocated."

Specific guidelines are in place to ensure the funds are used as intended. "The program funds are versatile in their usage, but they cannot be used to purchase gasoline for cars. The intention behind this is to promote more sustainable modes of transportation," Kikuchi said. She further added, "To monitor and prevent any misuse, there are vendor-specific restrictions on the card, and a system for daily transaction monitoring has been established."

Speaking about the application process, Kikuchi mentioned its simplicity. "We aimed to create a straightforward application process. It involves providing basic personal and financial information, evidence of residency in Murray, and verification of income. Once submitted, applicants should typically expect a response within a week."

Awareness of MTAP's availability and benefits is crucial for its success. "To ensure maximum outreach, we are utilizing multiple promotional channels, including our official website, social media platforms, and partnerships with entities such as UTA. Additionally, some local media coverage has been secured to increase awareness," Kikuchi said.

When asked about the metrics of success for MTAP, Kikuchi said, "Initial enrollment rates will give us an early indicator of the program's reception. However, periodic reviews, set for every six months, will provide more comprehensive insights into the program's effectiveness and areas of potential improvement."

Emphasizing the importance of feedback, Kikuchi said, "Feedback mechanisms, including a planned survey in six months, are essential. They will provide valuable insights into the residents' experiences with MTAP. Such feedback will play a pivotal role in refining the program's features and mechanisms."λ