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UTA 'essentially done now' with 2015 five-line plan

Published April 25, 2013 12:43 pm

Transit • General manager tells board: " We've exceeded our goals multiple times."
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Riding high from this month's celebratory airport TRAX line launch — completed two years early and $40 million under budget — the Utah Transit Authority crossed a host of other items off its to-do list Wednesday, noting the initial target to deliver five lines by 2015 is "essentially done now."

"We've exceeded our goals multiple times," UTA General Manager Michael Allegra also told the board, which enthusiastically approved its 2012 goals report after applauding staff.

Allegra credited the aggressive schedule as the reason Washington has handed Utah the highest per capita discretionary monies for transit.

"We'll see dividends for that commitment and good work." The general manager also lauded the agency's year-old safety initiative as a "model" for the nation.

UTA has been criticized during the past two years for an accident rate that doubled that of the five transit systems most similar to UTA in size and service.

On Wednesday, the board watched a YouTube clip warning pedestrians and cyclists never to cross in haste. "It only takes a second to take a second look," the video says. Allegra also highlighted multiple media campaigns stressing safety — he called it a "cultural change" — as well as a series of signs around transit platforms.

But the goals report was far from defensive. Ridership, it boasted, edged the 42.7 million goal with 42.8 million. The 400 van pools across the system will double in number during the next few years. And the 92 percent completion rate targeted for 2012 is actually 98.4 percent, registering $300 million under budget.

What's more, 27 percent of downtown Salt Lake City workers and 35 percent of University of Utah faculty, staff and students now take transit.

Other highlights from the goals report include:

• Provo-Orem bus rapid transit has entered project development phase, the last step before notching federal funding next year.

• The Draper line is complete and now awaiting certifications to open in late July or early August.

• UTA is pursuing a federal grant for a new natural-gas station.

• Maintenance buildings across the Wasatch Front are being sized for solar panels.

• Bus system pollution is lower while miles per gallon are higher due to engine tuneups.

• Investment per rider was $3.44, below the goal of $3.60.

But completing the 2015 goal two years early, aided by lower materials cost during the recession, captured the board's attention.

"Not only did we set the goal," said board member Charles Henderson, "we actually exceeded the goal."

Allegra also praised Salt Lake City's North Temple upgrade into a so-called grand boulevard, calling it "transformational." He also commended UTA police and city police for conducting train sweeps and video surveillance, making the Salt Lake City Marathon a "nonevent" for security purposes in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Board member Keith Bartholomew also sought to ease the fears of Sugar House business owners who are concerned about a proposed 1100 East streetcar route — still under debate — for the project's second phase, fearing potential business disruption. He said the construction company, contracted from Portland, Ore., can complete one block a week.

"It's not your father's transit-construction schedule," he said. "We're dealing with a new and much more streamlined system."

Phase one of the streetcar line, which will zipper the Sugar House business district to TRAX and FrontRunner, will be complete in December. Competing plans to take the second phase north on 1100 East or east along 2100 South were the subject of a public hearing Tuesday.

djensen@sltrib.com