Monday, April 02, 2007

SL Tribune- April 2, 2007

Transit could link opposites together
UTA study is looking at linking rough part of South Salt Lake with Sugar House
By Cathy McKitrick
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:
A future transit line, under study by the Utah Transit Authority,
could one day link two very different Salt Lake Valley communities. At
one end of the 1.8-mile route, a few blocks west of State Street,
there is an area of South Salt Lake that some folks hesitate to
frequent after dark.
At the other end, several blocks to the east, there is the charm
of Sugar House's retail district, a combination of sought-after
franchises and unique mom-and-pops.
In between - the dividing line between South Salt Lake and Sugar
House is 500 East - the residential neighborhoods run together.
For South Salt Lake's part, the city aims to revive its west side
with transit-oriented development near the light-rail station at 250
W. 2100 South. That transition has begun, and a direct rail link to
Sugar House could be part of that community's revitalization.
Also sandwiched between these two destinations are South Salt
Lake's city offices and Salt Lake County Government Center at the
corner of 2100 South and State streets. Most of the county's 4,000
employees work there.
A few blocks northeast of the corridor, 2,500 students attend
Westminster College - about 900 live on its cozy campus.
"We're the biggest employer in the Sugar House neighborhood, and
we have a regular flow of commuters," says Gary Daynes, director of
Westminster's Center for Civic Engagement.
Daynes estimates that 200 employees and 1,500 students make their
way to the liberal-arts enclave each weekday.
At Salt Lake City and South Salt Lake's request, the Utah Transit
Authority launched a study of the corridor to determine the best
east-west route, somewhere between 2100 and 2700 South, and the most
appropriate mode of transport.
Vehicle choice could be anything from light-rail, jazzed-up bus
service, state-of-the-art streetcars or vintage trolleys.
Stacey Liddiard, president of South Salt Lake Chamber, views the
study - and today's open house - as an opportunity.
"South Salt Lake residents can have a voice about what goes in
there that they can actually use, rather than something that wouldn't
benefit them at all," Liddiard says.
From that perspective, she believes that rubber-tire transport
that travels at slow speeds and stops at every other block would best
service the neighborhoods east of State Street.
Some residents whose homes border UTA's right-of-way favor
rubber-tire transit on 2100 South rather than trains zipping through
their backyards along UTA's rail corridor, Liddiard says.
As a business advocate, Liddiard acknowledges the advantages this
east-west connection could bring.
Construction on South Salt Lake's mixed-use Market Station
development is scheduled to start this summer and Liddiard views it as
a future valleywide draw.
"We're hoping we can share customers with Sugar House, that people
will want to stop and shop at both ends," Liddiard says.
Lynne Olson, vice chairwoman of Parley's Rails, Trails, and
Tunnels Coalition (PRATT), said her nonprofit organization favors a
single-track transit system along UTA's right of way.
"That would work best for us," Olson says, as it would allow for
an adjacent bicycle-pedestrian path that would become part of the
eight-mile Parley's Creek Corridor Trail.
In the most narrow portions of UTA's right of way - currently a
former Union Pacific rail line overgrown with weeds - additional land
acquisition for the rail-trail would still be required.
While homed in on the route, PRATT is less picky about the mode.
"We've been told TRAX could run on a single track in that
corridor," Olson says. "Also a rubber-tire or neighborhood trolley
would work just as well."
For six years, Trolley enthusiast Doug White has examined the idea
of refurbishing old-time streetcars and reviving their use along this
"I'm a big fan. That style of operation and look would be a
perfect fit for the community," White says.
However, his idea lacks financial backing and "the ball is in
UTA's court now," he says. "I'm in standby mode right now."
Steve Hurlbut, who teaches management at Westminster, credits
White as the "spark plug that got us all talking and studying this."
In late 2005, a team of Hurlbut's students analyzed White's
concept and concluded it was feasible. But without an influential
board of directors and serious fund-raising, it likely would go
"I would love to see them do some kind of trolley, some slow
touristy thing, and stick a bike trail on one side," Hurlbut says. "It
would get rid of the blight along the corridor, provide transportation
and give Sugar House one more unique feature."
Wish lists aside, Hal Johnson, UTA's engineering and construction
manager for Bus Rapid Transit, says the process of defining a "locally
preferred alternative" is rigorous, combining regional travel data
with area demographics.
"We connect all that in a mathematical model and see what mode
fits it best," Johnson says.
The cost to bankroll a project can elevate one mode or route above
another. Most of the cost to operate a transit system lies in labor,
not rubber and fuel, Johnson says, noting that a single operator can
drive an 800-seat train or an 80-seat bus.
Unseen factors can also drive up costs - "like underground
utilities you have to protect or move," Johnson says.
Once a preferred route and mode are selected, a more detailed
environmental study takes place. After that, the search for funding
"This is a starting point," Johnson says of the current study.
"And we encourage early involvement from the public when they can have
the most impact."

Open house today

* What's next: Utah Transit Authority-sponsored open house on the
Sugar House Transit Corridor
* When: Today, 5-8 p.m.
* Where: Columbus Center, Room 106, 2531 S. 400 East, South Salt Lake
What's it about?

* In January, the Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City and South
Salt Lake initiated the Sugar House Transit Corridor Alternatives
* Its goal: to determine the best route and mode to move people
through this area.
* The study should be completed this fall.

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