Salt Lake City has big transportation plans for accommodating Sugar House growth
Jul 29, 2019 15h08
By Deserae Dorton
Traffic on 1100 East in Sugar House continues to increase as residential and commercial development boom. (Deserae Dorton/City Journals)
By Deserae Dorton | [email protected]
In June, it was announced that Sugar House would be among the first U.S. cities to have a city- funded expansion to public transportation. Made possible by a new sales tax increase, the hope is to bring relief to the crowded roads of Sugar House.
Salt Lake City Transportation Director John Larsen said this is just the beginning. “The Salt Lake Valley is running out of space, and that means developers are building vertically to meet housing demand,” Larsen said. “Walking, biking and transit are much more efficient ways to move people in dense urban areas, since they take up much less space than cars.” Larsen also emphasized the impact less cars on the road has on residents’ health and the environment.
“The great thing about transit is that the more people who do it, the better it gets,” Larsen said. “It becomes possible to run more frequent service. With driving, the more people who do it, the worse it gets. The streets just get more and more congested.”
The need for addressing this congestion isn’t a surprise to residents like Darren Marshall who has lived in Sugar House since 2002. “I think more buses will benefit the residents in those new megacomplexes, but I don’t see it adding immediate benefit for me and my neighbors.”
Marshall noted that many of his neighbors have road bikes they use as their main mode of transportation; he walks when going to local establishments like shopping or to a restaurant.
Marshall uses public transportation for trips to the SLC International Airport, and occasionally for his commute if he has the time. “It really comes down to time,” Marshall said. When traveling to other U.S. cities he depends on public transportation and finds that it is, for the most part, efficient and speedy. In contrast, when he comes home to Sugar House, he does not prefer using public transportation, as it takes significantly longer to get around.
The need for more convenience
The City Journal’s social media survey in April found that about 70% of respondents do not utilize public transportation because it takes too long.
Larsen is aware of this prevailing sentiment. “We have found that even people who feel strongly about air quality and sustainability won’t take the bus if it’s inconvenient,” Larsen said. “That’s why we’re working hard with UTA to make the bus much more convenient with buses running more frequently and on evenings and weekends.”
In addition to making utilization more convenient, improvements are also being made to bus stops on key routes so that, according to Larsen, riders have a comfortable, attractive and ADA accessible place to wait for the bus.
Improved service on the Routes 21, 9, and 2, begins on Aug. 11. Two additional routes are planned through Rose Park by 2021. The new Salt Lake County revenue will go toward regional bus routes. UTA is doing a study now to determine how it will be allocated.
Sugar House business owner reaction
Molly Kohrman, who owns the Sugar House dessert spot Brownies! Brownies! Brownies! observed that businesses like hers which are outside of the heart of Sugar House aren’t as affected by the congestion, and there is always plenty of parking for her customers even on busy days. However, she has noticed the bus stop near her business is often utilized, though not by her customers.
Sugar House Chamber of Commerce chairman Benjamin Sessions says he has heard mixed responses from businesses regarding traffic and parking issues, but believes there is agreement that increased public transportation is a positive.
Follow Salt Lake Valley’s progress
Both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County passed sales tax increases last year, and a large portion of each are going toward improved bus service. The city portion is going toward improved east/west bus service within the city, as part of the Funding our Future initiative. Visit fundingourfutureslc.com for updates on how the infrastructure of the Salt Lake Valley is changing to accommodate the fast growth projected in the coming years.