SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Transit Authority's sprawling route map helped to earn the state's capital city a spot as having the second-best public transportation in the nation.
The No. 2 ranking was announced Wednesday and was the result of a recent U.S. News and World Report study, identifying the "10 Best Cities" in which to get around. The publication pointed out that even though Salt Lake City is home to just over 180,000 people, UTA serves more than nine times that — 1.7 million.
Salt Lake City's public transportation system is the No. 1 city in the nation as far as public transit spending per capita, marking what U.S. News called "a heavy investment in serving a large suburban and exurban population." The reason for the high current costs is UTA's ongoing expansion of TRAX lines into outlying areas to provide better access to the city.
"By transporting people to work, school, local attractions, and health-care facilities, public transit can reach into nearly every area of city life, from public health to tourism," the publication states.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said that the latest recognition is a "reflection of the priorities for the city we all share."
"When we can put partnerships together and involve our residents, policy makers and transportation experts, we see success that is noted nationally," he said. "This is the kind of collaborative energy that gets things done and improves our city's livability now and into the future."
Utah's capital city fell just behind Portland, Ore., which leads the nation with a convenient, multifaceted system. New York City was listed at No. 3 in the report due to the sheer numbers its transit system serves, accounting for 40 percent of the nation's total transit trips in 2008.
U.S. News states, "an effective public transportation system can simply increase the quality of life in a city," and based the report on data collected on public investment in transportation, safety and ridership in the various cities.
Despite ranking No. 43 in terms of population, the magazine commended Salt Lake City's ridership rate, placing it as No. 18 in terms of passenger miles traveled in 2008.5 comments on this story
Other areas to make the list include Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Denver and Austin, Texas.
The report came on the heels of an announcement by President Barack Obama, who is planning to push $8 million toward high-speed rail projects throughout the nation, hoping to spur the economy, as the American Public Transportation Association has said that "for every one dollar invested in public transportation, four dollars are generated in economic returns," as stated in U.S. News' recent study.