Transit: Imagined asks a simple question: what if 2.1 million Utahns, stretching from Logan to Nephi and from Tooele to Heber, lived, worked, and played within a 10-minute walk to a bus, BRT, light rail, and/or commuter rail line? What if everyone had access to, at minimum, 15-minute service from 6 AM to 8 PM, 20-minute service from 8 PM to midnight, and 30-minute service from midnight to 6 AM? What if this service was available 365 days a year?
Ambitious? Absolutely. But we can’t expect to make positive changes in the way we view transit without a target in mind.
For more than a century, cities big and small have been designed with the car in mind, and, with each passing day, it has become more and more obvious that we have been sold a bill of goods. We were promised efficient transportation but we received congested roads; we were promised economic growth we received plots of land that are more parking lot than business; we were promised improved mobility but received communities that are next to impossible to walk, bike, or use transit.
Most importantly, we were promised a higher quality of life but received noise and air pollution, less open space for parks, homes, and shops, larger and larger portions of a family’s income going towards buying and maintaining a vehicle, the families of those both inside and outside of a vehicle being decimated after an accident.
Transit: Imagined is a playbook designed to help people imagine a world where they don’t need a car in order to live, work, and play along Utah’s urban core, suburbs, and outlying communities.
It’s not that we want to get rid of cars, we just want to make a community where you don’t need one to survive.
For the past century, the federal government, state of Utah, counties, and cities have poured a nearly incalculable amount of your money into building the robust road network we see today. Transit: Imagined seeks to push decisionmakers towards ensuring that, for the next century, we put the time and resources into a transit system that works just as well.
Utahns Deserve A Choice
Every day, millions of trips take place in and between Utah’s communities, and Utahns choose how they will get from Point A to Point B by making dozens of different decisions – weighing things such as cost, convenience, time, how stressful the trip will be, urgency, and ability to complete a trip and return.
If that last one seems odd to you, it’s probably because you don’t use transit all that often – so long as your car doesn’t breakdown, most people expect to be able to get to and from their location without much difficulty at all – but transit can’t make this same claim. If the system shuts down at 1 AM, has stops that are miles away from your destination, or has hour-long headways, it should come as no surprise that people use their car over transit.
Transit: Imagined challenges policymakers to address this issue head-on by demanding that we make a transit system robust enough to rival the car and allow people to have a real choice when it comes to getting to and from school, work, shopping, recreation, and accessing services.
The Future is Multi-Modal
So, how do we achieve this? Transit: Imagined starts with the most important aspect of the transit decision, the individual, and builds from there. Transit: Imagined, generally speaking, incisions a multi-modal system that allows people to interface with transit by simply walking on and walking off. To create this, we must fully integrate transit the same way we have our road network
Safe walk and bikeways: People must feel safe when getting to and from stops. Communities must invest in walk and bikeways that provide protection and are comfortable.
Transit Stops: At the heart of Transit: Imagined are stops. Everyone must be within a 5-10 minute walk of a stop if we reasonably expect people to use transit.
Ride Share: In areas where density is simply too low, and for trips under three miles, ride shares such as Via need to be robust enough to move people within their community and towards higher capacity transit.
Bus Service: A robust bus network is vital to moving people between neighborhoods and towards longer-distance networks, with average trips being 3-5 miles. Buses need to arrive frequently and be available all hours of the day, every day.
Bus Rapid Transit: Major east/west and north/south connections need to be converted to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that physically separates busses from the regular flow of traffic. Traffic planners must give BRT priority over cars in order to make it a true alternative to driving. These trips should be 5-10 miles.
Light Rail: People wishing to travel longer distances need to have a mode of transit that competes with speeds seen on major roadways and highways. These high-speed trains will move people that need to travel 10-20 miles.
Commuter Rail: Commuter rail is vital for those needing to travel distances of 20-50 miles in order to access other communities along Utahs urban core. Commuter rail must travel at speeds at or higher than freeways in order to truly compete with auto travel.
Regional Rail: Utah exists beyond the urban core, and the people of rural Utah need fast and comfortable transit options when they wish to come into town for an event, visit their child at school, or wish take advantage of services such as world-class hospitals or government facilities. Similarly, people often want to get away for the weekend and may wish for a more rural setting to vacation in for a week or two. These trips will be 50-300 miles and must travel at speeds that far outpace freeway travel.
Interstate and National Rail: Though UTRU is focused on the transit rider in Utah, we don’t want to forget the fact that Utah truly is at the crossroads of the West. High-speed rail networks that rival airline travel in time and convenience would position Utah in a unique economic position that could rival larger cities in the West such as Denver, Phoenix, and Seattle.
Walk On, Walk Off
Ultimately, the vision for Transit: Imagined is the creation of a transit system that allows any Utahn to quickly walk to a transit stop, not worry about timetables, and quickly and contently travel anywhere within their neighborhood, city, county, state, or even the country, and then be able to walk off and reach their location.
Everyone wins when we invest in such a system. The state will not need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars expanding roads and maintaining those new lanes; cities can rezone land to allow lots to be more economically productive as parking needs are reduced; those who still wish to drive will have fewer cars on the road to deal with, resulting in lower commute times; the persistent inversion that mars the beauty of the Wasatch Mountains every winter will be reduced; businesses will see increased foot-traffic as people have greater access and are more likely to explore their communities; employers will have a greater pool of applicants as individuals are less concerned about commute times and distances; families would not need to sink money into the purchase, ongoing maintenance, gas, and insurance needed to as part of car ownership, saving thousands a year; and, finally, individuals will be able to take advantage of the health benefits associated with walking and biking.
Trainings will be customized to the communities we are presenting in and will be improved and refined as we learn more about what community members need to succeed. As we receive more financial support, UTRU will identify new communities to present to while also providing ongoing trainings to the communities we have worked with in the past.
UTRU is currently seeking donors for the CATT Initiative. To read the full proposal, click here and, to learn more about donor levels and donor benefits, click here.
To discuss making a contribution to the CATT Initiative and becoming an official sponsor, contact UTRU Executive Director, Curtis Haring, at email@example.com or at 801-891-5507.