Natalie Gochnour: Utah's quality of life depends on transportation investment

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  • Husker2 , 00
    April 21, 2019 4:26 p.m.

    I’m not an expert on this subject but a couple things stand out:

    1) Utah seems to react to transportation needs instead of anticipating them and staying one rep ahead.

    2) A lot of people along the Wasatch Front (and areas east and west) commute long distances for work. In my case, it’s because I cannot afford a house in the city where I work.

    3) Light rail is not the solution. Cities all over the country have light rail and they are rarely helpful to traffic congestion problems. People simply don’t use light rail in large enough numbers to make them effective. Light rail is not convenient for many people.

    4) I drive a 10 mile stretch of I-15 every day and my casual observation reveals that about 90% of the vehicles on the interstate are carrying one person. People like their cars. Find a solution to that and you fix the transportation problem.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    April 20, 2019 8:42 a.m.

    NoNames..... most of the time your comments are logical and well thought out. I'm a bit surprised at some of the propositions you are putting out there.

    For example the correlation between cities with traffic and heavy rail? Are you saying that heavy rail is the cause of the traffic? That if DC had not not put in and used heavy rail passenger services, its traffic would be less? Same with Chicago and San Francisco?

    Then you bring up Legacy, which is fine. But compare that to Bangerter which just last year had to have an additions $100 million allocated to it for construction - above the original budget. Why?

    "The increased expenses are caused in part by rising prices to buy and demolish homes and businesses to clear new rights of way."

    No homes nor business were bought and torn down for to build Frontrunner that ran along existing right of ways.

    Your desire to expand north and south is simply going to cause home prices in Salt Lake and Utah counties to explode, and the reality of because of those cost people will need to live an hour plus away from their places of work to get affordable housing. Some will do it, but we need multiple options.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    April 20, 2019 8:24 a.m.

    @lost in DC - don't disagree, at all. How much money was spent on that? There were a lot of places that money should have been spent than a commuter lane that doesn't directly connect to the freeway causing huge backups at that interchange.

    It could have been done cheaper in a less grandiose manner. How much growth are they expecting in Alpine?

  • TerraPack Sandy, UT
    April 19, 2019 4:56 p.m.

    T-money$$$ tells us that our car centric culture is a failure. Unfortunately for him, the data on transit versus car use in Utah tells a profoundly different story.

    By flushing down UTA's drain, over $5 billion in increased capital and operating costs, UTA's share of all linked trips, has skyrocketed to 2.0% from 1%.

    Census bureau data shows UTA carrying about 2.8% of work trips, instead of 2.3% from before the rail mania. Remember that work trips are the bread and butter trip type for transit and constitute only one trip in seven.

    For the remaining 84% of trips by trip type, UTA's share is a fraction of one percent. [ Other trip types include shopping, recreational, utility trips, church, and school related trips]. UTA's lone super-skinny bright spot is college trips which account for only 1% of all trip making. Transit can do "well" at universities where the school can dictate every phase of transportation and parking. if a new rail line is included as at the UofU.

    Conversely, our roads carry the remaining 98% of all trips. [This type of analysis looks only at mechanized travel, ignoring walking trips. This has been modeled by WFRC engineers for decades.]

  • lost in DC West Jordan, UT
    April 19, 2019 3:22 p.m.

    Like everything else, transportation is better when there are more options. AOC Lenin’s gross new deal would force us all on the bus, which we would have to power with our feet through the floor like Fred Flintstone

    NoNames
    The further north or south we expand, the greater the need for some type of commuter rail, be it trax or front runner

    Joshua
    I don’t know of any farms that make good highways. People already have the option of denser, more walkable communities, like DayBreak. Don’t force those on everyone.

    BlueDevil
    It’s interesting to see the commuter lane in addition to the regular lanes leading from I-15 to Alpine. Nothing reeks of “cater to the wealthy than that dual road system.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    April 19, 2019 2:20 p.m.

    "Those living downtown SLC can honestly tout the benefits of high density, walkable living. For everyone else, put your money and lifestyle where your mouth is, but stop trying to destroy the single-family, suburban lifestyle most others really like."

    This may be a true goal for many, but land is one of the true zero sum games, and economics plays a huge role in all of this. Look at home prices in Lehi. Prices have skyrocketed over the last 5 years. In the next 5, when the last farm is dug up and the last cookie cutter home occupied, what do you think will happen to home prices then?

    The reality is higher density corridors enable single family neighborhoods. You need a balance. Economics drives what that balance is. As much as California gets bashed here... what is being described as utopia here is to reproduce Southern California sprawl in Utah. We can choose to reproduce what happened in LA basin with miles of freeways connecting an endless see of homes, with traffic not moving in any direction - or we can try for a better result. At least we should try to do better.

  • Flipphone , 00
    April 19, 2019 9:53 a.m.

    I would like to see a freeway build along the west side of Utah lake splitting off from I-15 around the point of the Mountain and reconnecting with 1-15 at Nephi.

    All so a freeway from Spanish fork over high way 6 thru Price and connecting with I-70 in Green River Utah.

  • No One Of Consequence Salt Lake City, UT
    April 19, 2019 9:51 a.m.

    If the goal of UTA is to get cars off the road they are missing the mark. If UTA was a private, for profit business they would survey the public and ask them where they need to go, and when. Ridership would be maximized by designing routes around the needs of the public.

    I live and work on UTA routes but my 20 minute commute increases to 90 minutes, with two transfers and two blocks of hiking just to get to work. The return trip is impossible because I work till 6pm and the return route stop is half a mile away, instead of next to my office. The third leg of the trip, a bus from Trax to home, doesn't run late enough. This is what people are faced with when they consider using public transportation.

  • UtahEngineer Sandy, UT
    April 19, 2019 5:58 a.m.

    Ms. Gochnour would get a much better informed understanding of the modeled/predicted congestion and air quality benefits of UTA's rail and BRT projects if she were to study, in depth, the federally required environmental documentation for each project... which she so blindly recommends, now.

    Study the Draper TRAX extension, for which Orin Hatch managed to get over $105 million from the Federal Government, at the depth of the worst recession in America in over a century, despite printed data showing ZERO calculable benefit.

    Dr. Michael Ransom at BYU panned that absurd rail project in opeds before it was built, as having no claimed benefits.

    For example;

    By 2030, Draper TRAX would produce only five, [yes, just 5], hours of congestion reduction daily in Salt Lake County, [Final Alternatives analysis].

    It would produce NO speed improvement on any road type at the corridor, county, and regional scale, [Technical Report for the above Alternatives Analysis].

    DR-AX would produce only 20 pounds daily NOx reduction, compared to the baseline, versus 51 tons daily NOx reduction, from car-user investments in better cars and roads. That benefit ratio is 5,000 to one!

  • UtahEngineer Sandy, UT
    April 19, 2019 5:28 a.m.

    Great, well informed comments from, NoNamesAccepted - St. George, UT.

    "Most of us don't want "more compact" growth or walkable communities."

    "Only one city in this entire nation has a subway system where any line actually carries more passengers than does a freeway lane of traffic: NYC. In every other city in the nation, freeways carry more passengers in a single lane than does a line of subway/lite-rail. Fixed rail will never be efficient."

    Despite building tens of thousands of high density apartments near UTA's TRAX, that train's ridership, [2nd & 3rd quarter of 2018 at APTA historical data], is stuck at the same level as it was in mid 2012/2013.

    In the meantime, the failure to use car-user dollars to build East/West freeway links in the Salt Lake valley guarantees much higher congestion than in the past. That is one reason the west half of the Valley wants to form its own county, to redress foolish mal-appropriation of billions of dollars to do-nothing UTA trains.

    UTA's 2019 budget is a whopping $457 million.

    UTA's once great bus system is at a 40-year low on a per capita ridership basis.

    UTA's own rail studies show little air quality or congestion benefit.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    April 18, 2019 7:14 p.m.

    @Joshua Stewart: "...We'd have square miles of farms, more compact/smarter growth, more walkable communities, and more effective transportation systems .."

    Most of us don't want "more compact" growth or walkable communities. We want stand-alone, single family homes, with fenced yards big enough for our children to play unattended outside while adults attend to matters in the home. We want a little space, we like the freedom of our cars.

    Most who move in next to farms very quickly complain about the odors, sights, and sounds of farming. I know as I get the complaints.

    Most like suburban living.

    Only one city in this entire nation has a subway system where any line actually carries more passengers than does a freeway lane of traffic: NYC. In every other city in the nation, freeways carry more passengers in a single lane than does a line of subway/lite-rail. Fixed rail will never be efficient.

    Those living downtown SLC can honestly tout the benefits of high density, walkable living. For everyone else, put your money and lifestyle where your mouth is, but stop trying to destroy the single-family, suburban lifestyle most others really like.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    April 18, 2019 5:00 p.m.

    If my quality of life depends on what the State is perpetually doing to the freeways south of the point of the mountain, then we are all doomed. I don't like to hammer on the DoT, but to see them tear up what they just finished less than two years ago - I'm not how you can engineer waste better.

    You've got to ask your self what other recently finished projects can they tear up again to "make" better. Perhaps next would be to tear up the entire express bus lanes so they can move them to the other side of the road in Orem and Provo next. Oh, and by all means don't have it connect to a train station in Orem. That could be a whole new project where they get to tear it up again....

  • T-money$$$ Salt Lake City, UT
    April 18, 2019 3:41 p.m.

    Utah, like many other western states, was built with a "car/carriage-first" mentality. In the early days, there was so much open land it made sense to build as many roads as possible. If I remember right, Brigham Young even wanted the roads to be as wide as possible so that an ox-pulled wagon might make a complete u-turn "at any given moment, if the spirit directs."

    Now we are feeling the effects of having a car-centered culture. Until we have mentality shift and realize that not everyone needs a car on their 16th birthday (heck, most adults living and working downtown get along just fine without one) then we will continue to deal with smog, congestion, and auto accidents (not to mention the headache of dealing with mountain snow on our roads - a separate issue entirely, but one that needs consideration when talking about the state's transit situation)

    The solution? Better investment in public transit (UTA does great work with the limited tax funds they receive, but there is so, so much room for improvement) Car-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft should also fit into the equation.

  • Joshua Stewart Salt Lake City, UT
    April 18, 2019 2:47 p.m.

    Imagine if we had used 10% of the gas tax in the last 20 years to strategically buy farms and preserve them instead of dumping it all into new highways. We'd have square miles of farms, more compact/smarter growth, more walkable communities, and more effective transportation systems and land preserved for our grandchildren's children. Instead, we've gobbled up our land, put billions into a system that burdens families with huge automobile transportation costs and weeks each year sitting in traffic.

    Sure some folks want large lots, but you pay for it when you sit in hours of traffic each week.

    Others want more walkable communities in the European model - more Switzerland and less sprawl.

    Invest in the revitalization of the State Street corridor where infrastructure already exists instead of building new infrastructure to support development on open space and farms. Put a Trax line down 700 East in Salt Lake County where you can easily connect to the largest employers in the state - the University of Utah and the Central Business District.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    April 18, 2019 11:35 a.m.

    First of all, our spending on fixed rail has been detrimental for two reasons:

    1-The inflexibility of route changes as neighborhoods experience natural demographic changes over time.

    2-The opportunity costs. On a per passenger mile basis, Legacy Parkway was cheaper to build than FrontRunner into Davis county. Legacy carries far more people, at lower cost, and with greater convenience than does fixed rail.

    Everytime we lay in a mile of fixed rail for passenger service, we don't build over a mile of expressway roads that would do far more good.

    There isn't a community in this nation with fixed rail that doesn't have horrible traffic problems. Let's learn from them and instead do 2 things:

    1-Build appropriate roads.
    2-Stop the high density madness. The Wasatch Front is nearly full. Fine, let's stop. It is time to expand north or Ogden, south of Payson, and elsewhere in the State. 4 different metro areas can all have a fine quality of life. Or, we destroy quality of life along the WF by going ever higher density.

    High density housing and insider deals on fixed rail will make a few insiders a lot of money. Both will destroy quality of life for regular residents.

  • sgallen Salt Lake City, UT
    April 18, 2019 10:17 a.m.

    It’s going to take a culture shift amongst leaders and citizens to plan for smart growth. I think the wasatch front is starting to see the light. Hopefully they can make hard choices before sprawl has engulfed the entire region.

  • Strider303 American Fork, UT
    April 18, 2019 10:02 a.m.

    Interesting ideas. I suggest that we rely less on fixed rail transportation and switch more to electric buses and designated bus lanes at peak transportation hours. Switching routes is easier and follows development instead of driving development to the profit of those in charge or who have inside information. Besides when a bus has an issue, another bus can be sent out on the route and the whole line isn't blocked

    Trax should have been funded to at least Provo decades ago, but the powers that be chose to duplicate Trax with FrontRunner.

    As to funding, levy a separate tax for roads, through fuel and if needed registration fees, and another for UTA. I believe Utah County would have passed the levy if all the money were to go to roads and none to UTA.

    I support biking but realize it will always be a seasonal and relatively minor transportation solution. I have biked to work, 7 miles one way, for years before medical issues and retirement scuttled that idea.

    Oh, don't forget private van pools and bus pools they can be very effective solutions and don't require much oversight, but do need some funding to get started.

  • Weston Jurney West Jordan, UT
    April 18, 2019 9:20 a.m.

    Infrastructure is best built before it is needed. Unfortunately, most Utahns are so determined to avoid a quarter-percent extra on their sales tax that they're willing to make future generations choke on our ever-worsening smog.