UTA looking to improve and expand transit service

Published: Monday, Jan. 13 2014 5:35 p.m. MST

A UTA streetcar prepares to leave the Fairmont stop, 2216 S. McClelland St., as part of the new S-Line in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After a historic period of rail expansion, the state’s largest public transportation agency will begin working on enhancing its customers’ riding experience. The Utah Transit Authority’s top executive said the agency is now targeting ways to make riding trains and buses more accessible to more residents along the Wasatch Front as well as providing a more enjoyable.

General Manager Michael Allegra said the major focus of the agency in 2014 will be operations and operational excellence, which includes service reliability, courteousness of employees who interact with the public and “all the attributes that make our system better and better.”

“(We want to establish) responsiveness to the customer, continued focus on safety and listening to riders and nonriders — and trying to persuade them to become riders,” he said. “These are cultural changes and efforts to be more efficient and effective.”

Allegra noted that technology would be a major tool in the advancement of transit, including mobile apps that make it easier for riders to find travel information, as well as technology that makes paying fares much simpler, along with passenger information systems, social media and distance-based fares.

He said UTA will also make a concerted effort to incorporate more use of alternative fuel vehicles, including an all-electric bus that will be used on the University of Utah campus; compressed natural gas vehicles; as well as using solar and wind power to help reduce overall energy costs for the agency.

Transit-oriented development will also be a major point of focus, Allegra explained, “to get more residential and commercial growth closer to UTA’s transit stations.”

According to the Wasatch Front Regional Council website, hubs for the Wasatch Choice for 2040 Vision would be located "where regional destinations have grown, where economic activity has clustered, or in strategic locations that are headed in that direction. The vision suggests that these centers should expand to provide broadening choices for residents to live, work, shop and play."

The belief is that hubs should work in conjunction with the long-term growth plan, helping to provide opportunities for residents who want to live close to work, walk or bike to shop and have both convenient transit and road access.

In addition to the Wasatch Choice plan, UTA is closely aligned with Utah's Unified Transportation Plan, which provides a summary of anticipated 30-year needs for road capacity and maintenance as well as transit improvements and operations for the state’s metropolitan and rural areas. The Unified Plan — which Allegra described as “UTA’s bible” — reflects the agency's approach to providing transportation choices to its residents, responding to the anticipated population and job growth, and maintaining and preserving the systems that are already in place.

In 2013, the agency launched four new light-rail lines, culminating several years of capital improvements aimed at expanding transit across the Wasatch Front.

In 2014, the agency will begin its quest to create a more welcoming and user-friendly environment for current riders and potential future riders, Allegra said.

He added that the agency wants to continue working in partnership with cities along the Wasatch Front to advance the goal of improved mass transit.

“Our job is to help achieve the community’s goals,” UTA General Manager Michael Allegra said. “We have plans for future streetcars and a lot more bus-rapid transit and bus services. We are climbing the next (transit) mountain!”

Email: jlee@deseretnews.com

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