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
Wednesday: Salt Lake County Review
Today: 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.
- Utah’s newest city, Vineyard, has been fairly forward-thinking in its attitudes towards transit and active mobility, especially when compared to other cities along the Wasatch Front. The Vineyard FrontRunner stop is a minor miracle and is a major investment on the part of both UTA and the community and both seem to be continuing the trend with the proposed extension of UVX to the Vineyard FrontRunner station. Given how geographically small Vineyard is, this addition might mean that Vineyard could hold the title of the community with the most access to transit in the state in the years to come.
- Combined, Provo and Orem have roughly the same population as Salt Lake City and are actually a bit more compact compared to their neighbor to the north (once you remove the mountains and wetlands all three cities include in their boundaries); but in terms of transit, when comparing Salt Lake to Provo and Orem, it really is a tale of two (or, we suppose, three) cities.Though the LRTP is “cost unrestrained” (in other words, not concerned about how to pay for the ideas it proposes), we can forgive UTA for its hesitation to create denser networks in this community…to a degree.Back in 2015 voters in Utah County rejected Proposition 1, which would have raised taxes to, among other things, fund transit in Utah County – however, part of the reason voters rejected the tax was that it was widely seen at the time that UTA would waste the money. You see, at the time, UTA was engaging in questionable trips and business dealings that ultimately resulted in a restructuring of UTA, the state moving portions of capital construction projects over to UDOT, and a group you might of heard of, the Utah Transit Riders Union, forming to ensure that the transit rider is actually considered in transit decisions.
All of this is to say that there is still a lack of investment in the Provo/Orem area, and we would like to see some greater density in the area, unfortunately, UTA is still reaping what it sowed, even, in theory, 50 years later.
To this end, we hope that UTA is able to continue to work to change the hearts and minds of those in Utah County and change perceptions about the transit agency so that more investment can take place. UTRU, for its part, will work to encourage a transit-affirming culture in Utah County. These areas deserve more transit, and would greatly benefit from it, but the people need to see the benefit of it first.
- Though we appreciate that UTA wants to increase service to 30 minutes to the Provo Airport we have to wonder if this actually a bit short-sighted.Currently, the Provo Airport offers flights to places like Phoenix, Chicago, and San Diego, and it is not unreasonable to assume that other destinations will be added over the next 30 years. If UTA can successfully extend FrontRunner further South, why not extend UVX to the airport? A more direct connection from downtown Provo, BYU, and FrontRunner has obvious benefits for the region when compared to making multiple transfers and waiting upwards of 30 minutes for a bus. We feel that long-term thinking on a project like this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the region and airport.
Northern Utah County
- Understandably, service on the west side of Utah Lake is difficult for UTA. Currently, the communities of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs are in a bad spot when it comes to transit: designed with the car and not transit in mind, but clearly in need of transit options both now and in the future.As opposed to the city of Vineyard, these communities still lag behind when it comes to considering transit in their planning, perhaps because they have themed themselves as being “away from it all.” For this reason, we appreciate UTA’s efforts to mitigate this by increasing options and access west of Utah Lake with routes to FrontRunner and deploying Innovative Mobility Solutions Zones (IMSZ) which, unfortunately, is the only viable option for communities that refuse to build communities for people and not cars.
- Though we are underwhelmed by the Point of the Mountain BRT Line (see the Additional Comments section below), we do want to highlight the fact that this line, along with the proposed Redwood Road South Line are important in regards to connectivity between Salt Lake and Utah Counties. It is odd to think that there are only two main roads between Utah’s largest counties, and yet we have such limited options to go between them.As we noted in the South Salt Lake County section, we feel that a Trax extension makes more sense, but, alas, here we are. For now, the plan to at least utilize Redwood Road and the I-15 Frontage Road for both BRT and fixed route lines would help to provide more options for those moving between the two counties.
- The Highland, Cedar Hills, and Alpine Communities are nearly abandoned by the LRTP, with the area quite possibly being the largest in UTA’s service area to not have a single bus route. If you throw in the eastern benches of Pleasant Grove and Lindon, there are roughly 35 square miles of established and mature communities (more than twice the size of the Kennecott Copper Mine) that are more than a half mile away from a single fixed route. Yes, an IMSZ is being offered as an option in the area, but the catchment area is laughably large and will do little to funnel people onto the larger system.Currently, the area is already underserved with just one limited route running along the Timpanogos Highway and Geneva Road, and yet UTA seems content with making the situation worse by removing even that route. UTA cannot reasonably expect to increase ridership by decreasing service, right?At best, UTRU hopes that we see a similar situation to the one we are witnessing in Southern Salt Lake County in the LRTP, where IMSZs initially removed the majority of fixed routes, only to have UTA restore (or at least propose the restoration) of fixed-route services, later on.
- Speaking of IMSZs, we find it surprising that Lehi has three different IMSZs within its borders – and two of them don’t even cover the Lehi FrontRunner Station. Yes, we know you have to draw the lines somewhere, but it seems odd to divide Utah’s 9th largest city up by what seems like relatively arbitrary lines. We hope that, if the 2050 plan comes into effect in this area, the bugs get worked out to allow for much greater flow in and between these areas.
- The Point of the Mountain has always been a chokepoint and UTA has only really been able to offer FrontRunner as an alternative to the 12 lanes of traffic that constantly snarl I-15. That is why it pains us to put the Point of the Mountain Rapid Transit Line in the “Eh” category when we would much prefer to gush over a new BRT line.The route is primarily designed to serve as a bridge between the forthcoming redevelopment of the old prison site and the Draper/Lehi FrontRunner Stops. This is fine and it makes sense, but it doesn’t do much more to get people out of their cars. At a minimum, extending the BRT line by converting portions of the Central Corridor Connector Line and/or taking advantage of the Draper to Pleasant Grove Corridor Preservation in Utah County could do a lot more to help reduce traffic and congestion along I-15. Oh, and did we mention that we also would like to see the expansion of the Blue Line into Utah County?
Southern Utah County
- One item we are particularly excited about in the LRTP is the proposed southern expansion of FrontRunner by extending the current line to Payson. UTA is showing that it really wants to get ahead of the demands of future growth along the ever-expanding Wasatch Front by proactively connecting Springville, Spanish Fork, and Payson to the rail network while also beefing up the frequency of bus service to these areas.
- In an area that already has limited service, we don’t have many complaints about the plan to implement IMSZ services as increases in service are always welcome. As we have stated before, it is UTRU’s opinion that IMSZ should exist only to provide transit in areas that otherwise could not support a traditional route due to low density, should be used to supplement the system, and still feature at least one fixed route within it to serve as a backbone.In this case, where an IMSZ could connect people to the larger system in a very obvious way and where local routes most likely would not be viable on their own, we don’t have much to complain about. We just hope that UTA continues to keep an eye on the south end of Utah County and looks for opportunities to convert frequent on-demand routes into fixed routes where possible.
- With nearly all of Juab County basically being Nephi, and the Wasatch Front metro area expanding at a rapid clip, it is not hard to imagine that, one day some 30 years from now, the citizens of Nephi might want mass-transit connections to Provo, Salt Lake, and Ogden (and dare we say Brigham City and Logan?). Yes, it makes sense for UTA to not include Juab County it in the 2050 plan since they don’t currently pay UTA for services, but we hope that, somewhere, in the back of UTA’s mind, they are considering expanding FrontRunner to Nephi, with stops in Santaquin and Mona, for good measure.
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