UTRU is excited to hear that UTA will officially open the long-awaited Vineyard FrontRunner station on August 8 with an opening ceremony on Friday, August 12th at 10 AM.
The Vineyard stop represents a forward-thinking transit policy for the rapidly growing community along Utah Lake. The city was barely a spot on the map when the southern extension of FrontRunner connected Salt Lake City to Provo in 2012, however, with a current population of 20,000 and a possible 50,000 in the near future, city and regional planners stand poised to turn the city into an example of what transit/person-oriented urban development can look like when done right.
But, the city need only look some 20 miles to the northwest to find out what can happen when planners view a train stop as the end, and not the beginning, of their transt plans.
The Daybreak community of South Jordan in southwest Salt Lake County was seen as the next big thing for transit-oriented development. A planned community with not one, but two, light rail stops within its borders (with a third just a stones-throw outside the communities’ limits), Daybreak appeared custom-made to appeal to those who wanted to leave their car at home but still have easy access to downtown along with some breathing room away from the hustle and bustle – not dissimilar to the current appeal of Vineyard.
But, implementation of a comprehensive transit plan with rail as its backbone was half-hearted, and the community has paid the price for this tepid response to comprehensive transit. The southern end of the Salt Lake Valley was littered with “flex routes” by UTA – routes that do have a designated route, but are designed to deviate from the main route by up to 3/4 of a mile in order to make individual stops. The principal disadvantage of flex routes when compared to a fixed bus route is that these deviations make predicting when a bus will actually arrive, well, unpredictable. This isn’t terrible if you are staying within your community, but if you are expecting to catch a train that only runs every 30 minutes to an hour, riders can easily go from “mildly inconvenienced” to “embarrassingly late” when the bus arrives just a minute or two later than expected, with those minutes compounding for each deviation. Repeat this enough times for enough riders and support for transit falls off quickly and it is only natural to wonder why the community should even bother.
And so, the one-two punch of COVID and low support for ridership in the first place has resulted in a community of some 21,000 people not having access to a single bus route. Indeed, between the suburban cities of South Jordan, Herriman, Riverton, Bluffdale, and Draper, despite having a combined population of over 211,000 (which, if it were one single city, would make it Utah’s largest), have a grand total of 2 FrontRunner stations, 4 light rail stops, 2 fixed bus routes, and one flex route. What the area does have is a UTA supported microtranist system similar to Uber (where the jury is still out on its effectiveness) and the newly paved Mountainview Corridor, which only further divides communities and encourages car ownership – car ownership that carries financial and health burdens on the driver and communal blights such as air and noise pollution, congestion, and higher tax burdens that cities have to pay in order to maintain roads.
UTRU strongly encourages the City of Vineyard to work with UTA to double down on a city/transit plan that puts at its core walkability, that this walkability feeds into bus stops that are no more than 5 minutes away, that the stop has a bus that arrives every 15 minutes, and that the routes feed into a rail system that arrives every 30 minutes. If they do, they will create a city that will be the envy of the Wasatch Front, and can serve as a model of how new communities and historic cities alike can create a world-class transit system that addresses current and future needs.
Click here sign up for our mailing list and to call yourself an official member of UTRU so that you can receive important updates in your inbox!