Utah’s Transit Success

Nearly a decade ago, Utah transportation officials created a plan to expand our mass transit system by 2030 with several new projects along the Wasatch Front.  In 2006, however, mayors and county officials decided that their growing communities needed better transportation solutions before 2030. They proposed that voters increase funding for major projects to be completed by 2015, and voters gave a resounding approval. Thus was born Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) FrontLines 2015 program.

In the last two years UTA completed TRAX lines to South Jordan, West Valley City, Salt Lake International Airport, and the extension of commuter rail to Provo. UTA recently completed construction and began operations on the Draper TRAX Line, the last
FrontLines 2015 project—2 years ahead of schedule and $300 million under budget.  FrontLines 2015 was one of the largest public works projects in Utah’s history. I congratulate UTA for successfully fulfilling their commitment.

UTA provides essential transportation options along the Wasatch Front. UTA has over 42 million yearly boardings on their buses, trains and vanpools. Ridership is expected to grow. We all benefit from transit. UTA riders save 29,000 trips in the I-15 corridor each day, the equivalent of nearly 2 freeway lanes. Seventy-five percent of UTA riders have access to a vehicle but choose transit, which creates more capacity on our roads. Our low highway congestion is a big contributor to Utah’s flourishing business sector. The airport TRAX line is especially notable. World class cities have transit to and from their airport. In my mind, Salt Lake has arrived!

UTA’s transit projects not only remove vehicles from our congested roads, they  eliminate emissions from car trips avoided through commuters switching to mass transit.  As Utah grapples with air quality problems, mass transit offers a unique and significant impact in ameliorating bad air quality.

Riding mass transit doesn’t work for everyone. But it can work for most of us some of the time. A recent letter to the editor advocated the virtues of riding mass transit. The author said they would use transit if it were only more convenient. They were not apparently aware of the irony of their position. Using mass transit has many advantages but it is more or less inconvenient for almost all of us. You have to meet the train’s or bus’s schedule. You have to walk at the start or end of your ride. You don’t have the convenience of a car at work. But you avoid traffic jams, parking fees, and can maximize your productivity when you ride. We can all sacrifice some convenience for good air quality.

Utah’s population is expected to grow from today’s 2.8 million residents to 6 million by 2060, putting us among the fastest growing states in the country. To accommodate this growth, Utah must continue to invest in transportation—both roads and transit.  

I’m pleased to see the completion of UTA’s FrontLines 2015 program, and commend UTA and everyone that participated in the project.