Commuters give UTA changes mixed reviews

Published: Friday, Aug. 21 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sid Campbell of Layton rides on TRAX. Starting Monday the Sandy line will no longer run to the central station.

August Miller, Deseret News

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What Sid Campbell likes about riding the TRAX lines in downtown Salt Lake City to the FrontRunner station is the simplicity.

The 52-year-old Layton resident boards at Temple Square or City Center, riding either the Sandy or University line to Salt Lake Central Station to catch the train. But starting Sunday, the Utah Transit Authority will require him and thousands of other commuters to disembark from the Sandy line at EnergySolutions Arena to board the University line. The Sandy line will no longer run to the central station.

"It's a long time period to wait in between. You're trying to make connections from downtown to the northbound train," Campbell said. "Also, a lot of times you can't tell whether it's a Sandy or University train, which I haven't cared about until now."

As part of UTA's three-times-yearly schedule changes, the Sandy line running to the central station, or Intermodal Hub where multiple buses, trains and TRAX lines meet, will stop at the arena. The $2.5 million UTA saves from eliminating the extension will pay for more direct TRAX trains from Sandy to the University of Utah.

The two lines run every 15 minutes from about 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, which before the changes gave TRAX riders heading to the central station a ride every seven or eight minutes.

"Overall ridership past Arena station was fairly low, so we thought we could reduce (TRAX trains) from every seven minutes to every 15 minutes," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter. "We have increased bus service to there, which gives people options to change to bus or train."

To offer commuters an alternate route to the central station, UTA has opened a new bus route on 200 South from University Hospital. Also, UTA is adding new express buses from the Roy and Clearfield train stations to downtown Salt Lake City.

Scott Allen, a Clearfield resident who commutes to Fort Douglas near the University of Utah, said he thinks taking away the four-car Sandy train for the two-car University train will make it "much more crowded."

"I actually may take the new bus route," said Allen, 42. "It'll be a bit farther to walk, but I'm going to try it, at least."

The additional TRAX trains directly from Sandy to the U. will benefit music student Tiffany Brinkerhoff, who commutes from Draper to school. She usually switches from the Sandy to University line downtown but can now take the direct route that runs every half-hour.

"It takes a long time to get up there via TRAX, but this could be nice if it saves some time," she said.

For many downtown workers and regular commuters, however, some of the changes will add waiting time that could be spent catching a northbound train or a different bus.

"If I miss my train, I'll have to wait 30 minutes more for the next FrontRunner train," said 28-year-old David Wall, who commutes to Bountiful. "It'll be much more of a hassle."

A new FrontRunner schedule, which goes into effect Monday, will shave four to six minutes off the commuter time by reorganizing how the trains run on the single-track line.

For a complete list of schedule changes, visit www.rideuta.com or call 1-888-RIDE-UTA.

e-mail: lgroves@desnews.com

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