Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
U. student Adam Jensen looks over a new UTA bus stop that<BR> he and other students designed.

Almost two years ago, Adam Jensen and four classmates from the University of Utah's College of Architecture and Planning entered a competition to design a bus stop for the Utah Transit Authority.

They wanted to pad their resumes and gain design experience, and they didn't think their stop would actually be built.

But in late November, UTA began installing a reproduction of their design on the southwest corner of 1100 West and 3500 South. It's about 10 feet tall, and looks like the skeleton of a bus. Later this year, seats will be put in, and glass panels installed between seating bays to block wind and rain.

"I've got a smile on my face," Jensen said after coming by one day to check out the stop. "I'm happy it's happening."

Jensen's stop is the first of 24 planned along 3500 South. It will be used to help distinguish a new type of bus line called bus rapid transit, or BRT, from regular bus routes. UTA wants to begin running BRT down 3500 South by next November.

Unlike a traditional bus, which makes frequent stops and moves with traffic, BRT lines have fewer stops and sometimes operate in a designated lane. With the 3500 South line, buses will operate with "signal prioritization," where a transponder on the bus can signal stoplights to stay or turn green.

Engineers compare BRT to light rail because the transponder system allows it to be more consistent and timely than a regular bus. "It will be similar to how TRAX works," said Hal Johnson, UTA project manager over BRT.

But the cost is significantly less than light rail, which can require upward of $50 million per mile. BRT is about $10 million per mile, according to UTA.

In designing the stop, Jensen said that he and his classmates tried to create something cost-effective and distinctive, yet still aesthetically connected to the UTA system. "We wanted it to be a separate entity but connected to a slicker system," he said.

The students also looked at the functionality of the stop, and safety. Because it is a skeletonlike structure, people can't hide behind it, Jensen said. As for function, its roof and glass panels help block the wind and rain, he said.

Ryan Smith, an architecture professor at the U., said that Jensen will have a head start on getting a job when he graduates next spring because of his participation in the bus-stop competition. "Most students come out of school and have no idea what it's all about, what happens after the idea process," he said.

Smith and Johnson, who also teaches part-time at the U., helped advise students during the design competition, which was sponsored by UTA.

Jensen said that he believes the stop has helped showcase his talents. He's already received a job offer from an architectural company in Utah.

Over the next 25 years, UTA plans additional BRT lines for Provo, Ogden and the southern half of Davis County.