Salt Lake City officially has a transit master plan

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A S-Line streetcar passes 500 East along the S-Line Greenway. Photo by Isaac Riddle.
Map of the proposed Frequent Transit Network in the draft Transit Master Plan. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

Salt Lake City officially has it’s first-ever Transit Master Plan.  On Tuesday, the Salt Lake City Council unanimously adopted the plan the plan after an intensive three-year public process.

“This is a big deal for Salt Lake City to have a transit master plan,” said Council member Erin Mendenhall.  “Let’s get this done and figure out some funding to make this thing happen.”

The plan is intended to help city and UTA officials set local transit priorities for the next 20 years through the expansion of a frequent transit network (FTN), enhancement of bus corridors and implementation of programs to increase transit use.  If the plan is fully implemented, most of the city’s residents would be within walking distance to a high-frequency transit route, a route that runs every 10-15 minutes.

The plan will build of current FTN routes that include 200 South, State Street, 500 East, 900 East, 1300 East, North and South Temple, 2100 South, 2100 East and Redwood Road.  The draft transit plan identifies these routes as tier one routes and would prioritize these routes as the initial components of the FTN.  Other tier one routes include improving east-to-west connections with improvements to 400 South, 1300 South and 900 South.

The draft transit plan process started in 2015 under the Ralph Becker administration.  The draft plan went through several revisions when Mayor Jackie Biskupksi took office.  Biskupski instructed transportation staff to remove any language calling for rail and streetcar expansion.

Last month the council voted to put that language addressing rail back into the plan.

“You can see that the streetcar is important to us; it’s important to the city.  We’ve made a huge investment,” said Council member James Rogers during Tuesday’s work session.

The draft version emphasized routes as “mode neutral” without establishing a preferred mode of transit.  The approved version will identify several council-supported rail routes including the proposed Black TRAX Line, that would connect the University of Utah to the Salt Lake City International Airport, a streetcar route that would connect downtown to the university and the extension of the S-Line streetcar in Sugar House.

During Tuesday’s work session council members took issue with a line that the administration had added to the draft plan since the last council briefing that stated, “while the plan is mode neutral, an interest in what a streetcar network would look like was one motivating factor for the City Council in funding this plan. The capital investment corridors with connection to existing rail corridors identified herein provide a framework for a potential streetcar network.”

“I think this is an unnecessary statement,” said Mendenhall. “It does not have to include some political context at the time that’s really irrelevant in a long-standing document.”

The council voted unanimously to strike the first part of the controversial statement addressing the council so that the final plan will only state that “the capital investment corridors with connection to existing rail corridors identified herein provide a framework for a potential streetcar network.”

Under the city council’s request, the final plan will also call for affordable transit and equitable transit for both east and west-side residents, references to a circulator serving the Foothill Cultural District, identify the transit needs of the International Center and the Northwest Quadrant, calls for extended service hours for the Green TRAX Line and encourage Sunday FrontRunner service.

“Through this process, what we’ve heard is that our residents really want access to transit and they will use it if it’s there,” said Council member Stan Penfold.

About Isaac Riddle 630 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.