Saturday, June 8, 2013

Utah Transit Authority Completes Frontlines 2015 in 2013

English: A map of the light rail system in Sal...
English: A map of the light rail system in Salt Lake City, Trax, of the Utah Transit Authority. This map will be rendered obsolete by 2013, when the airport extension of the green line opens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) -Note does not show the Airport Line which opened in April. 
While Denver’s Fastracks program is pretty impressive, in September the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) will mark the completion of its Frontlines 2015 project with an extension of their original north-south rail line from its current terminus at the Sandy Civic Center station into the city of Draper. This program added 70 miles of rail lines to their existing 64-mile rail network and is being completed ahead of schedule and at or below estimated cost.

The program included an extension of the Frontrunner Commuter Rail line from Salt Lake City to Provo, three new branches of the TRAX light rail system and the aforementioned Draper Line.  In addition to the Frontlines program, UTA has also opened a BRT line along 3500 South from the Millcreek TRAX station to the city of Magna (Utah Transit Authority). If that is not enough UTA is also building a streetcar line from the 2100 South TRAX station to the Sugar House area. While streetcars are generally looked upon with distain by many groups this one is using an existing rail line to provide a direct connect from the pedestrian-friendly Sugar House neighborhood to the heart of the TRAX network (Sugar House Streetcar).

To give an example of how successful TRAX has been in Salt Lake City, let’s look at some ridership numbers just a couple of years after the first North-South TRAX line opened. Just before the second line opened from downtown to the University of Utah, the original North-South line had achieved ridership of 20,000 passengers per day. In fact, TRAX was running 4 car trains during peak hours that were carrying crushed loads. As a comparison, before TRAX opened in 1999 all north-south bus service carried a combined total of just under 20,000 passengers.
UTA Uses the Same Siemens S70 light rail vehicles that Tri-Met ordered for the Green Line  (cars 401-422) but have seats that are cloth and more cushioned than the Tri-Met vehicles.

Of course the argument is often raised that most of the passengers riding TRAX were former bus riders but in this case it just doesn’t hold water. The most popular north-south bus lines were along Redwood Road, Highland Drive, 500 East and State Street. Of those routes the 500 East was rerouted to serve a TRAX station, but 95% of its ridership traveled north of that station to downtown. The only route to go through major changes was the State Street route; it had several branches that were terminated at the 6200 South TRAX Station. However, 75% of all riders on State Street traveled on the section of route that was not affected by the opening of TRAX (Utah Transit Authority annual report 2003).

Another example of success is that by 2009 TRAX was carrying 1/3rd of all passengers in the Utah Transit Authority system. While that may not seem like much at first, it needs to be put it into perspective. At the time TRAX was only two lines covering 16 miles in one area of Salt Lake County. The Utah Transit Authority bus system on the other hand covered six counties (Utah Transit Authority annual report 2009).
Further, the South Jordan line is a great example of a private-public partnership and planning for future growth. The line which opened in 2011 serves several busy corridors but in its final miles the line travels through largely undeveloped land before reaching the growing community of Daybreak. The community of Daybreak, being developed by Kennecott Copper (now Rio Tinto), is a new community developed along the concept of New Urbanism. Rio Tinto invested $13 million into the new TRAX line to insure it was developed into the new development. While the Daybreak area is already creating ridership on the line, once the area is built out the development will be centered on the new TRAX line (Rio Tinto).

UTA Red Line train at the Daybreak Station. Notice the open fields behind the train. The Daybreak Development is the right of the photo. The UTA S70 cars are shorter than Tri-Met's and have the short nose as opposed to the long slopped noses on the Tri-Met units. UTA platforms are design for 4-car trains and during rush hours they are packed. 
Looking toward the current Daybreak development from the station. The buildings closest to the station are  brand new apartments and the area between the station and apartments are to be filled in by mixed use/town center type development 

Now the question is where to go from here. Most of the projects UTA and the Wasatch Front Regional Council have on tap from here on out are BRT projects on several corridors. All of the plans are designed to feed into the TRAX system at some point along their route. There are two possible rail projects in the pipeline - one a rail line into Davis county, the other a streetcar line along the popular route 603 in Ogden. Davis county wants its own share of the rail lines that it has been paying into for several years; itis only served by two Frontrunner stations at the west end of the county. The streetcar plan for Ogden would connect the Ogden Frontrunner Station with Weber State University (Wasatch  Choice 2040).

In less than 15 years, Utah has gone from having no rail service to over 134 miles of rail including light rail service and commuter rail.  The state’s ultra-conservative politics make this all the more remarkable.  While TRAX had many opponents before it opened, there is very little opposition to the system now.  Even one of its most critical opponents before opening is now a stanch supporter and regular rider on the system (Doug Wright).

Thank you to Ben Chaney for editing this posting.

Bruce, B. (2009, December 1). Doug Wright Show [Radio broadcast]. Salt Lake City: KSL Radio.
Sugar House Streetcar. (n.d.). Sugar House Streetcar. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from
Utah Transit Authority Comprehensive Annual Report. (2009, December 31). Utah Transit Authority. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from
Utah Transit Authority Comprehensive Annual Report (2003, December 21) Utah Transit Authority
Utah Transit Authority Frontlines 2015. (n.d.). Utah Transit Authority. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from
Visionary Public-Private Partnership Brings One of the West’s Largest Greenfield Light Rail Lines to the Daybreak Community in the Salt Lake Valley | Business Wire. (2011, August 2). Press release distribution, EDGAR filing, XBRL, regulatory filings | Business Wire. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from
Wasatch Choice 2040. (n.d.). Wasatch Front Regional Council. Retrieved June 8, 2013, from

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1 comment:

  1. Utah Transit Authority has one of the Worse Bus System in the Country. Catmeow UTA is a Sweatshop on Wheels


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