Recently, UTA announced its Long-Range Transit Plan (LTRP): UTA Moves 2050.
UTRU has reviewed the plan and has responded. We are releasing our thoughts on the plan based on geographic area over the course of this week – but if you just can’t wait, you can view the full response now by clicking here.
Our release schedule is:
Monday: Introduction to UTRU, UTRU’s opinion of the plan, and an Executive Summary
Tuesday: System Wide Review
Today: Salt Lake County Review
Thursday: Utah County Review
Friday: Davis and Weber Counties Review
Saturday: Tooele, Box Elder, and Summit Counties Review
This response was approved by UTRU’s Board of Directors on October 17, 2023, and presented to UTA on October 30, 2023.
Salt Lake County
Salt Lake City
- The idea of a downtown light-rail circulator has been discussed for years, and it would be great to actually see this idea come into being. Taking advantage of an existing rail spur directly north of the Ballpark stop and traveling along 400 West before finding its way to the Salt Lake Central FrontRunner/Trax station only makes sense and would help bring greater cohesion to this growing section of the city. This, combined with an extension of Trax to continue west from 400 South and Main and the construction of a streetcar line along 200/100/South Temple would help further continue the trend of ever-growing interconnectedness between the University of Utah and Downtown that will only grow stronger over the next 30 years.
- The inclusion of a University of Utah/Fort Union Express Route is a logical connection between these two communities and the areas in between. No doubt, the University of Utah will continue to be an economic driver for the region and state, and increased access to this driver will only grow more important in the years to come. This route should offer an interesting mix of off-campus students and mid-century doctors, scientists, and business professionals.
- Bus Rapid Transit Routes (BRT’s) also appear to be here to stay under the LRTP, and UTA’s plan to Connect Downtown Salt Lake to Daybreak via the airport and 5600 West with a BRT should prove to be an important way to tie the west side of the valley to the economic, cultural, and political heart of the state. This project is one of the more likely ones to actually take place as it was an agreed-upon item between UDOT and transit advocates after the Mountain View Corridor was greenlit in 2008, and will be triggered once the Corridor is converted into a full-fledged grade-separated roadway.
- Under the LRTP, the West Side of Salt Lake continues to be viewed as an inconvenience, with routes largely being either a means-to-an-end to connect Downtown/the University of Utah with the Airport with the few fixed routes that exist largely connecting to Downtown and not circulating within the neighborhoods themselves.We acknowledge that this isn’t entirely UTA’s fault, however. I-15, I-80, and the Union Pacific Railroad (with its unpredictable schedules and just stopping on major cross streets) make it extremely difficult to reliably connect the west side with the rest of Salt Lake City and County. If these literal roadblocks are cleared, we would strongly advocate for fixed bus routes running along 900 West and 800 South.What is achievable today but missing from the plan are bus routes that penetrate deeper into the Westpointe and Rose Park neighborhoods; a dedicated circulator route along Star Crest Drive, North Temple via the State Business Park and State Fairpark (and possible future MLB Baseball stadium), up 1200 West before connect back via Dupont Avenue and 1000 North would go far in creating a cohesive network within the neighborhood. The Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods do appear to be better served, but, again, an 800 or 900 South route would help increase circulation within this area.
- We understand that creating dedicated transit lines within Salt Lake’s west-side industrial areas is difficult and appreciate the fact that UTA is trying to remedy this by expanding Innovative Mobility Solutions Zones (IMSZ) in the area. That being said, the area’s major arteries (namely 500/700 South and California Avenue) could benefit from the addition of lines connecting people to FrontRunner and Trax both to the north and south of the area. As we have stated previously, it is UTRU’s opinion that IMSZs only work when they have fixed routes at their core.
- From the start, the S-Line has been the black sheep of the system, and there doesn’t appear to be any efforts to change this situation under the LRTP. Extending the S-Line to connect with Westminster College and possibly the Stadium Trax Station could help increase overall circulation within the area and reduce auto-traffic to both institutions but, for some reason, this option was not included in this non-budget-constrained plan.
- It is great to see the forward-thinking on an east/west 3300 and 3500 South Rapid Line. This corridor is ripe for a dedicated BRT line, which has a solid mix of residential, commercial, shopping, civic, and industrial districts with easy connections to all three Trax Lines. Our only real question is that the plan appears to require a transfer at Millcreek Station to go from Wasatch Boulevard to 9180 West. We estimate that the round-trip route would take approximately 2 hours, so we would only want to see this happen if driver breaks and lunches could be respected.
- The Mid-Valley Connector has seen a lot of starts and stops over the past few years and is still behind schedule (according to the project website, construction was supposed to begin in Spring of this year). That being said, we still have a lot of enthusiasm for the project and, with the federal government finding that there is no significant environmental impact for the project, construction and completion is now more of a “when” and not an “if.” This valuable connection will provide more direct and rapid connections for the Green Line and Salt Lake Community College’s Main Campus in Taylorsville to FrontRunner and the Red and Blue Lines by creating dedicated lanes and/or signal prioritization. We hope UTA is able to break ground soon on this important project.
- We are encouraged by the continued review and elevation of standard bus routes to rapid transit lines, and the State Street North Rapid Line is no exception. With Trax generally two to three blocks away, the State Street North Rapid line can serve as a valuable rapid transit “gap filler” as Trax stations become more spread out south of 900 South. We also think that photos of a BRT line with the Utah State Capitol Building in the background flanked by skyscrapers will make for fantastic promotional shots for UTA!
- As we have said before, UTA isn’t going to propose higher route densities in the heart of the Salt Lake Vally, we would hope that they would provide IMSZ services to support and funnel people onto the system as a whole.That is why we find the lack of fixed route density AND IMSZ services in the middle of the valley disappointing. The east benches seem logical regions to offer, at the bare minimum, IMSZ service, and if the popularity currently seen at the south end of the valley is any indication, it isn’t as if east-bench suburbanites are avoiding using the service. Though similar questions could be raised in the Provo/Orem area and Northern Davis County, this omission is particularly glaring when compared to the areas immediately north and south of the area.
- Though we understand that north/south Light Rail is not viable east of roughly 700 East, we would like to see some form of BRT running along 700 East/VanWinkle/Highland Drive potentially connecting with the Draper Town Center Trax Station. This would provide a needed east-side rapid connection along the Benches.This would have been placed under “Additional Comments” if it didn’t feel like such an obvious addition to the system overall as the corridor is certainly wide enough to physically support a BRT line, could easily connect downtown with the heart of the valley, and access underserved east-bench communities that would probably enjoy the convenience of such an express route.
- Despite its fantastic, centralized location within the valley, Murray Central still feels underutilized under the LRTP. Yes, three BRT lines, two Trax lines, and two IMSZs radiate out from the stop, but there is only one fixed route bus line that heads east from the stop … and this route is more of a north-east route. This all culminates in Murray Central not actually servicing Murray.It feels like it shouldn’t be difficult to provide at least IMSZ service east of I-15 should exist inside the belt route, but what we would like to see are circulators perhaps along 5600 or 5900 South to help provide regular service to the residents in this area.
- When on-demand service was first rolled out at the south end of the valley, our principal complaint was that numerous fixed route lines were removed. That is why we are pleased to see the return of several fixed routes to the area. We suspect that UTA is using the data gathered by Via trips (and the often long wait times to actually get a ride) to determine viable routes. Given that the area is almost defined by its suburban sprawl, we acknowledge that transit in this area is difficult to provide traditional services to and that IMSZ service needs to remain in order to supplement the system. We just hope that data collected from Via ride requests continue to be used to create new fixed-route lines.
- As part of this resurrection of lines, it is refreshing to see that the Red Line stops in the Daybreak area are being used as transit hubs. Currently, all the Red Line is good for in this area as it relates to transit is park-and-ride lots and for those who happen to be in the catchment area. Given that the Red Line in this area of the valley largely acts as the border between open space and the Daybreak community, it means that these stops are not currently meeting their full potential. Feeding these stops with bus routes will do much to improve overall system connectivity.
- Similar to the State Street North Rapid Transit Line, we are excited to see the idea of a State Street South Rapid Transit Line – out of the two, however, we would like to see this one implemented first if forced to choose. Why? Because, unlike the North line, Trax stations at the south end of the valley are spread even further apart and are even further away from State Street at this end of the valley.By providing BRT to this area several residential, office, and shopping areas will suddenly gain access to rapid transit options and greater system connectivity. Even the RSL Stadium will be elevated to the same status as other major stadiums across the state with rapid transit stops immediately adjacent to them.Ideally, we would love to see a full BRT line running from the Draper to North Temple and/or Central Station FrontRunner stations via Murry Central along State Street (of course, considering driver needs).
- The Draper FrontRunner Station has always been a bit of an odd-duck and has been the source of controversy over the years due to questionable development deals associated with the station and its specific placement. Indeed, though there is little doubt that Draper should have a FrontRunner station somewhere, the location of the actual station is awkward and somewhat difficult to access for buses – making the station difficult to integrate into the system. Though not much can be done to change this fact, it doesn’t feel like UTA is trying to make the station work under the LRTPMuch like Murray Central, the Draper Station doesn’t really service Draper under the LRTP (or most of the south end of the valley, for that matter).The Mountain View South route takes the most convoluted route possible to connect the absolute southern end of the valley to the Draper stop while the Daybreak – Riverton – 12300 South Route has potential to connect the southern tips of both the Blue and Red lines via 12600 South and the Draper Station (which is a great idea, mind you), by making a perplexing detour west to 5600 West and south to 13400 South before turning back north at 3600 West. If this were two separate routes, we would probably praise them, but turning this all into one feels like it isn’t going to encourage people to take the connection as the route feels like it is too long and too meandering to be attractive to people.In all, more routes radiating out could serve to make the Draper Station a natural extension of the prison redevelopment if UTA seizes the opportunity – but as it currently stands, it looks like the Draper Station will just continue to be little more than a parking structure.
- North/South Connections are almost non-existent south of 9000 South and those that do exist largely have lower frequencies compared to their east/west counterparts. We know that lower density in this area means that it is difficult to run more frequent service, but a route with higher frequency along 2700 West would help fill in this gap. Ultimately, providing at least a few more connections to the Red line going North and South would go a long way toward helping further integrate the region into the system.
- Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the LRTP is that UTA failed to reach for the golden ring that is expanding the Blue Line potentially as far south as Lindon in Utah County. Instead, UTA has opted to mark the area of the map as “corridor preservation.”With trips between Utah County and Salt Lake County only expected to increase over the next 30 years, converting these unused rail corridors into light rail connections could go a long way to alleviating future transit needs for Utahns on both sides of the Point of the Mountain. Instead, UTA has opted not to include this in the plan.We find the statement by UTA that, essentially, the unknowns of the prison redevelopment complicate the transit needs of the area too much for it to be able to reasonably include it in the LRTP unsatisfactory. If anything, UTRU feels that the multi-billion dollar redevelopment of one of the most valuable pieces of land in the state only heightens the importance of UTA inserting itself into the process early and helping to create a vision of a transit system in the area that could be fully implemented using existing, proven, and popular transit types.
- It is worth noting that UTA did not incorporate the controversial Big Cottonwood Canyon Gondola project into its 2050 plan. This is for two reasons: First, the gondola isn’t actually a UTA project, rather, it is being handled primarily by UDOT. Second, because the nature of the project is still very fluid, the question of how UTA can integrate with any future gondola is still up in the air. If the project does move ahead, we will no doubt see plans and projects to help move people from places like Murray Central and along Wasatch Boulevard.Unlike the failure to comment on the Point of the Mountain Project, we do feel that the time has largely come and gone for UTA to have a major impact on the long-term fate of Big Cottonwood Canyon and that, in many ways, policymakers had their minds made up long before UTA was allowed to come to the table.UTRU hopes that UTA uses the time between now and the start of construction to demonstrate the value of the current ski-bus program in the hopes of proving that alternative options to the gondola provide more viable and scalable solutions that better integrate into the overall transportation and transit system. In addition, we hope that, ultimately, these options are chosen over a vanity project that largely serves ski resorts and not the public.
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