City, business and transportation leaders are calling for a Salt Lake City downtown that is more easily traversed, whether by foot, car, bicycle or transit.

A draft of the city's Downtown Transportation Master Plan, which will be unveiled today, calls for pedestrian travel to be "the primary mode of travel" in the heart of the city. But the plan also includes light-rail extensions along 400 South, 400 West and 700 South; several new TRAX stations; consolidated bus routes; and a shuttle system connecting downtown attractions.

The document is the result of a study commissioned by the city and its Redevelopment Agency, the Utah Transit Authority, the Utah Department of Transportation, the Salt Lake Chamber and the Downtown Alliance. It comes as the city faces a number of major development projects and is working on a revamping of its land-use master plan.

Among the transportation plan's suggestions is more light-rail routes. With lines added to 400 West and 700 South and a westward expansion of the 400 South line, the plan calls for a TRAX system that loops through downtown and serves more areas. The plan also includes adding TRAX stations so that all of downtown is no more than two blocks from a station.

"That would provide UTA quite a bit of flexibility in how they route their trains through town, and it provides incredibly good coverage through downtown," city transportation director Tim Harpst said.

In addressing bus travel, the plan would cement State Street and 200 South as the city's main bus corridors, and would include a new Bus Passenger Center with information and amenities at the intersection of those streets.

The plan would consolidate some downtown routes, allowing for more frequent pickups among the major lines, and it would institute "branded routes" — a sort of "red-line" system that would run the length of certain roads, with the goal of easing the confusion of visitors and those unfamiliar with the bus system.

Shuttles downtown would connect similar types of attractions — running, for example, from the hotels along 500 South and 600 South to the Salt Palace Convention Center, Temple Square, City Creek Center and other tourist and convention attractions. That system would likely be funded by the businesses that make use of it.

Chamber spokeswoman Natalie Gochnour said that idea is one to which the business community is paying special attention, and she pointed to a need to boost the ability of hotel guests to get easily to shopping and tourism sites. She also said businesses hope the final version of the plan will accommodate car traffic as well as transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.

"They've got to make it really clear how people who choose to be in an automobile come downtown and how they park," Gochnour said.

The plan would establish a parking management group, likely staffed through the city, that would make off-street parking more convenient. Ideas include signs with a standardized symbol — a large blue "P," for example — so motorists could easily find public parking. Parking-garage owners would be asked to clearly display their hourly rates so drivers would know whether they want to park there.

The plan, however, would push for more pedestrians and bicyclists. That would be encouraged through a network of walking routes, including ways to travel through blocks rather than around them. And the plan calls for adding bike lanes on downtown streets that are wide enough.

"Whether you drive or ride transit, part of your trip is walking," Harpst said.

Harpst said the city could add extensions to some sidewalks that would give bicyclists a place to ride that is not among the automobile traffic but doesn't get in the way of pedestrians.

The groups involved in the plan will gather public comment and refine the plan throughout February, with a final version making the rounds for approval in the spring from the City Council, the Planning Commission, Downtown Rising and others.

Once approved, the master plan would guide future decisions on a project-by-project basis and would lay out a time table for funding and other considerations.


If you go . . .

The Downtown Transportation Master Plan will be presented today at an open house that includes a public comment period.

• When: Today, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Open-house format, with a presentation at 5 p.m.

• Where: City-County Building, 451 S. State, Third Floor

• Open to the public

• More information and public comment opportunities at www.slctrans.com


E-mail: dsmeath@desnews.com