City to have its first transit master plan

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A blue line train passes through downtown Salt Lake. Photo by Isaac Riddle

Salt Lake City leaders acknowledge that the city’s current public transit network doesn’t adequately meet the needs of city residents.  The Transportation Planning Division, City Council and Mayor Becker’s office are collaboratively working on the city’s first-ever master plan for public transit.

“The system we’ve got now just takes us to big employment centers,” said District 3 representative, Stan Penfold.  “It is really difficult to get across town.”

During Tuesday’s City Council work session, Robin Hutcheson, the director of the Transportation Planning Division, and transportation planner, Chris Jones briefed City Council on the goals and scheduled outline for the city’s proposed Transit Master Plan.

The plan builds off of goals established by the City Council during a 2013 retreat.  The council developed and defined six goals to address transit deficiencies:

  • Ease of Use: Anyone in Salt Lake City can get from Point A to Point B using only one transfer
  • Affordability: Cost for service should be scaled to the length of each trip – or everyone should get a transit pass.
  • Destinations: Everyone should be able to get to two transit routes within a quarter mile of where they live or work.
  • Time of Day: Mass transit hours of operation should mirror the times people leave and return from work and play.
  • Immediacy: Mass transit service should be available every 10 minutes so people can presume service
  • Route Reliability: Routes should remain stable so residents and developers can make transit part of their long-term housing choice.

The transit plan will be a “living document,” that will be updated as needs change.  The project’s management team will lead public workshops and stakeholder interviews to help identify gaps in the current transit network.  The initial project plans call for an aggressive public outreach effort that will tentatively include a traveling information bus that will visit various neighborhoods and transit nodes to gather community input.

“We are looking forward to having a comprehensive discussion as a city about our goals and where we want to be with transit,” said Hutcheson.

District 2 representative, Kyle LaMalfa, emphasized the need in many communities for better access to public transit.  LaMalfa’s district includes the Glendale and Poplar Grove neighborhoods, two of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Salt Lake and very under-served by the current transit network.  LaMalfa referenced the Fair Housing and Equity Assessment for Salt Lake County, a 2013 study by the Utah Community Data Project at the University of Utah.  The study found that access to public transportation was one of two factors contributing to the high concentration of minority and Hispanic populations in Salt Lake’s west side.

After City Council approves the final draft of the Transit Master Plan, the next step will be to secure funding and work with the UTA to implement the plan’s recommendations.  Salt Lake residents will be able to vote for more transit funding through a sales tax increase.  The Utah State Legislature passed HB0362 that will allow local municipalities to fund transit through a voter-approved sales tax increase.

About Isaac Riddle 592 Articles
Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.