Airport TRAX line won't have operating hours to serve all flights

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 7:00 p.m. MDT

A UTA Trax passenger asks for directions at the West Valley Central stop in West Valley City Sunday, Aug. 7, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — The new TRAX line to Salt Lake City International Airport is now only weeks away from completion, but those hoping to catch the first flights of the day or who will be arriving late won't be able to add a train to their travel plans.

Transit officials confirmed the line will open April 14. But the new service’s first run of the day will arrive at the airport at 5:46 a.m., and its latest departure from the airport is 10:37 p.m.

“It’s not a high volume time for our ridership even if it’s fairly active at the airport,” UTA spokesman Chad Saley said. "We are trying to be as responsible with our funds, which are paid by taxpayers. We had to really take a look at our budget.”

Saley said the agency can’t afford to expand hours across the Blue and Red Lines and the FrontRunner, which he said would also have to be included in an expansion of hours in order to make sense logistically.

Saley said UTA has discussed expanding hours in the future when demand increases.

“I absolutely see a day when each of the lines are used more extensively and at more times,” Saley said. “But right now we don’t have a timeline.”

As now scheduled, nine regular flights leave less than an hour after the first UTA arrival and 17 arrive after the final train leaves the airport. These account for about 4 percent of the airport's average daily flight schedule. 

“The airport operates on a 24-hour schedule, so it’s a tough one to cover,” said Salt Lake City International Airport Spokeswoman Barbara Gann. “But hopefully we can work together to eventually expand those hours.”

Laura Smith, who arrived from Florida to ski with her friends, said the new line will reduce confusion about how to get from the airport to downtown and beyond.

“That’s actually the first thing we had to think about coming here,” Smith said. “'How are we going to get to Solitude (Ski Resort)?’ A few of us are taking a shuttle out of here and (one friend) is already on her way in a cab. We’re already split up.”

The Airport TRAX line will feature stops along North Temple at 500, 800, 1100, 1500 and 1900 West in addition to its platform east of Terminal 1. Regional Delta Air Lines spokesman Anthony Black said customer demand will likely dictate how quickly the hours expand.

“I suppose it will bear out depending on how quickly the trains fill up,” Black said. “But anything that gives the fliers more options can’t be a negative thing.”

UTA predicts 14,000 people will ride the line daily by 2030.

E-mail: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhart89

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