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With UTA officially opening the nation’s newest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, OGX provides a more direct and faster connection between the Ogden FrontRunner station,  Weber State University, and McKay Dee Hospital. The project marks the end of an 18 month construction effort and joins UVX in Utah County, which connects the Orem and Provo FrontRunner via Utah Valley University, BYU, and downtown Provo.

Often called “Rails on Wheels,” BRT’s have become a popular and more cost-effective alternative for transit agencies that want to provide express service, but don’t want to pay for the rail that often comes with it and/or for routes where standard 40-seat buses aren’t enough, but a 750 passenger light-rail train is too much. True BRT’s are separated from the standard flow of traffic, allowing buses to zip past gridlocked intersections, thereby making the route a viable alternative to driving.

Though we certainly hope OGX enjoys UVX’s success, we here at UTRU couldn’t help but think about UTA’s shuttered BRT route: MAX.

MAX (or the Magna Express) not only set the naming convention for BRT’s in Utah the same way the Utah Jazz seem to have done for every other sports team in the state, but was also UTA’s first attempt at a rapid transit bus system.

In some ways, MAX was doomed from the start. The route, despite running roughly 11 miles from the Millcreek TRAX station to Magna via the West Valley Central Station along 3500 South only featured about a mile of dedicated BRT separation. The rest of the time, the buses running the route would have to compete with every other car on the road, effectively evaporating any competitive edge the route might offer. In addition, the “Magna” portion of the route was a bit of a misnomer. The official MAX route abruptly stopped at 3500 South and 8400 West; the only time MAX ran the full Magna loop was during morning and evening commutes.

The biggest problem with MAX, however, was that it didn’t really “go” anywhere. UVX is anchored by two universities and OGX features a university and major employer for the area. MAX’s own maps featured major points of interest such as “Starbucks” and “Beto’s.” Now, don’t get us wrong, Super Nachos are amazing, but I don’t know if they are a major draw for a transit system.

UTA didn’t know what it wanted MAX to be. If it was meant to be a connector route for suburban communities to the light rail network, it failed to go into neighborhoods where riders could be picked up and effectively moved to the larger network; if it was meant to be an express route, essentially a spur off the TRAX network, the corridor it ran down simply did not have enough commerical and residential density to support it; if it was meant to be a hybrid of these two, the failure to have adequate separation from the standard traffic flow meant that it offered no competitive advantage to a car trip.

In the end, UTA suspended the route during COVID, and there has not been much discussion about restarting it. The less frequent 35 route now services the majority of what was once the MAX route.

So, can MAX be saved? We think so – but it needs a reroute and a rebrand.

We propose the Tooele Express, or, if we really must stick with the naming convention, the TEX:



Tooele is currently served by the 451 and the F453, but both of these routes are less than ideal when it comes to connecting to the greater transit network. Both routes are similar in that they divert into the business park west of the airport before finding their way downtown. As far as connectivity to the rail network, both run parallel to the Green Line along North Temple with the main difference being that the 451 goes to the heart of downtown Salt Lake while the F453 connects at the North Temple FrontRunner station before returning to Tooele.

The proposed TEX would fill very important gaps for those in Tooele County and within the Salt Lake County network. TEX would start at the cluster of colleges on Tooele’s West end, travel north along Highway 36 before connecting with Magna along SR 201. It would exit 201 at 9180 West and follow a westward route along 3100 South before reconnecting with the old, built-out MAX section along 3500 South (shown in black). After connecting with the Millcreek TRAX station, it would exit, travel south along State Street, before ultimately terminating at the Murray Central Station.

TEX would have strategic lane separation along traditionally busy roads and at troublesome intersections in order to provide legitimate time benefits for those along the route. TEX also provides alternative routes between Salt Lake County and Tooele County and allows riders direct access to all three TRAX lines as well as FrontRunner.

Though 15-minute frequency along the entire route would be great, it would be understandable if the Tooele leg of the trip was every 30 minutes while the Salt Lake leg ran more often.

If someone were to drive the route without diverstions, it would take roughly 45 minutes and be a 44 miles; the proposed TEX route would be closer to an hour (not including stops, of course) and be closer to 40 miles. We are willing to bet that there is a good segment of the population that would be happy to add 30-45 minutes to their day in exchanging for a) not having to drive and b) not having to put 90 miles on their car every day.


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