The Sugar House streetcar
Salt Lake City, over the past two years, undertook a supposedly robust study that found around 100 people who recommended that the Sugar House streetcar extend north on 1100 East to 1700 South. With the realization that a streetcar may be constructed up 1100 East, most of the business owners and nearby residents objected, and they provided one of the biggest turnouts at City Hall in a decade.
I talked to most of the business owners on 1100 East in Sugar House and almost all do not think that they will be able to survive the construction of the line. Many are women-owned small businesses. These businesses give Sugar House its character.
A streetcar on 1100 East would destroy a major safe north-south bicycling route. In a robust study of around 1,600 Portland, Ore., bicyclists, 67 percent said that they had crashed on streetcar rails. When bicyclists approached rails near to parallel, their bike tire would catch and throw the rider.
The issue is made more serious if the street is so narrow that there is no room for error to avoid obstacles that often pop up in front of bicyclists. Wet rails would also increase bicycle crashes.
Construction and operation of a streetcar on 1100 East would create more congestion and pollution. Buses stop all traffic when they stop on 1300 East and I believe that a streetcar would also back up traffic on 1100 East. Although city engineers contend that there would be enough room to allow vehicles to pass a stopped streetcar, the width of 1100 East does not seem to realistically allow that.
City employees also have mentioned several times that the increased congestion will encourage people to leave their cars and take mass transit.
Most of the streets adjacent to 1100 East are in quiet single-family-home neighborhoods. But during construction and operation of a streetcar, the adjacent streets will have much more traffic and parking problems.
Some Westminster College students want it. But Westminster officials have said that students don't need a shuttle to Wilmington (four blocks south) when they should be able to walk the four blocks. So why do we need a streetcar for the students when they should be able to walk four blocks to it?
If the streetcar is to be successful, it needs to have a great destination. The greatest destination in the area is Sugar House Park. A streetcar to Sugar House Park through Wilmington or the Shopko block would encourage special events in the park. There is higher economic development potential in that area than anywhere else on the streetcar route.
That could help pay for some, if not all, of the streetcar. Another advantage of sending the streetcar directly east to Sugar House Park is that it would remove the significant and continuing battles from the single-family home residents and small businesses that are against a streetcar on 1100 East.
Salt Lake City has done a good job of providing just one side of the proposal. The other side is the destruction of small businesses, destruction of safe bicycling, increasing congestion and continuing battles. The city needs to listen to owners of the almost 2,000 businesses and residents who have said that they are against a streetcar on 1100 East. Salt Lake should send the streetcar east to Sugar House Park.
George Chapman lives in Salt Lake City and is a big user and proponent of mass transit. He helped notify many Sugar House businesses and residents about the potential streetcar route.