The Sugar House streetcar is moving forward. Of the two primary routes included in the alignment study commissioned by Salt Lake City, I believe the east extension up 2100 South makes more sense for the following reasons:
1 Sugar House Park is both a local and regional attraction and is well used during all seasons. Parks are not usually factored into transit ridership projection models, so the consultant did not include Sugar House Park as a ride generator. This was a mistake, as the park would likely generate ridership on the east extension.
2 A Wilmington Avenue or Shopko area redevelopment extension will be less congested. With the proposed creation of a Sugar House Monument Plaza, the right southbound turn lane on 2100 South and 1100 East will be closed. This will make an already busy intersection even busier. By extending east up Wilmington, the streetcar can cross 1300 East to Sugar House Park at that intersection instead of the much busier intersection at 2100 South.
3 The east bench area is terribly underserved by public transportation. While bringing the streetcar east to 1700 East won't immediately resolve many of those issues, it demonstrates that the city is committed to public transportation options for all of its residents, and that there is a future for reliable public transportation on the east bench.
4 The streetcar is a people mover, not just a redevelopment tool. While 1700 East isn't the final terminus for the eastern route (just in this phase), it would likely be extended to the 2100 East-2100 South-2300 East business areas, and maybe even to Foothill Village. So there are viable redevelopment options along the east alignment.
5 The east alignment will create a new generation of transit users. Many Highland High students live along the streetcar line and would likely use it to get to and from school. With such a large public investment we should first be looking at the option that would best serve our neighborhood kids attending high school.
It should be noted that the east alignment was favored by the majority of the community workshop participants as well as by the majority of attendees at the April 3 Sugar House Community Council meeting and a follow-up meeting on April 15. Also, if current transit ridership along the two primary routes had been factored into the study, it would have demonstrated that 2100 South is the logical route.
The City is finally developing a citywide public transportation plan, including future streetcar and neighborhood bus lines. While I favor the east extension, I would support delaying the immediate decision of this next phase until the citywide plan is finished.
Please join the City Council for tonight's meeting at 7 p.m. Regardless of your support for a preferred route or opposition to any of the options, the Council really needs to hear from you.
Charlie Luke represents District 6 on the Salt Lake City Council.