UTA gains Davis County approval for bus rapid transit route

Published: Wednesday, July 9 2014 5:20 p.m. MDT

Davis County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday in support of a bus rapid transit route that would traverse Salt Lake City, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross and Bountiful.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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BOUNTIFUL — Davis County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday in support of a bus rapid transit route that would traverse Salt Lake City, North Salt Lake, Woods Cross and Bountiful.

The 12-mile line was selected from among several routes in a study conducted by the Utah Transit Authority. The large buses will drive along 400 West in Salt Lake City, turn onto U.S. Highway 89 and eventually head along Main Street in Bountiful to 500 South. Almost half of the route will be on designated bus lanes with signal prioritization.

Part of the route goes through an unincorporated portion of Davis County, which required approval from county commissioners.

Commissioner vice chairman Bret Millburn said he hopes the transit system will enhance the "quality of life" for residents along the route.

"With Davis County, we're looking at it from a broader perspective, trying to enhance some opportunities both on the movement side — getting people to and from — and also for some enhanced economic development along that line," Millburn said.

Salt Lake City has yet to approve the route, but Bountiful, Woods Cross and North Salt Lake have all adopted resolutions in favor of bus rapid transit.

UTA estimates the project will cost $75 million.

Once approval is obtained from Salt Lake City, UTA planners will begin looking for funding sources, including federal grants, UTA spokesman Remi Barron said. The Utah Legislature could also vote to raise sales taxes to contribute dollars to this and other transportation projects.

Such a motion was introduced in the 2014 legislative session, proposing to lift the sales tax ceiling. HB135 called for an increase in sales and fuel taxes, but the bill did not pass the House.

UTA also considered an enhanced bus system, which would have cost about $14 million — a fraction of the price of bus rapid transit. Though it comes with significant upfront costs, bus rapid transit makes fewer stops and transports more riders at a faster pace, thus generating more long-term revenue than an enhanced bus system, Barron said.

"If you have higher ridership, which bus rapid transit tends to do in other places where it's been used, then obviously you're going to have more revenue," he said. "So this is one of the major reasons why (bus rapid transit) was more favorable because … the demand is there."

Millburn says bus rapid transit would be more conducive to consistent economic development.

"Another thing that bus rapid transit brings is permanency," Millburn said. "It's not going to be subject to a lot of change and movement over the course of time, which provides some opportunity for long-term planning and development around the line."

After the line is in place, UTA will likely consider adding a connecting route to the University of Utah campus, depending on rider demographics, according to Barron.

"That's a real possibility because, obviously, the University of Utah has a lot of students that come from Davis County, and it just makes sense that students would use" bus rapid transit, Barron said.

"I think it'll be a big resource for commuters in Davis County, and it offers the promise of moving people quickly to their jobs and shortening their commute and getting cars of the road," he said.

Currently, Taylorsville has the only operating bus rapid transit line in the state. UTA is also in the process of acquiring funds for a bus rapid transit route that will run through Orem and Provo.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

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