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UTA adopts first-ever 5-year service plan

Envisions creating a ‘core network’ where service is so frequent that schedules are not needed.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) A UTA bus in Downtown Salt Lake City, Aug. 6, 2019.

Imagine a core network of Utah Transit Authority buses and trains that arrived so frequently that riders wouldn’t need schedules. Add to that vision transit that runs late at night, at midday and early in the morning — seven days a week.

Those are key goals of the Utah Transit Authority’s first-ever, five-year service plan, which the agency’s board adopted Wednesday. The Legislature required the agency to develop such a plan and update it regularly when it restructured UTA in 2018 after a series of scandals.

The final plan comes after UTA reached out to residents over two years in what it called its “service choices” effort with surveys about how the agency should prioritize, and after months of reaching out to local cities for comment about its proposals.

“I think it’s a positive way to move things forward,” said UTA Board member Jeff Acerson.

Rather than list a series of specific steps that are coming, UTA Planning Director Laura Hanson said the new plan is more of a high-level vision about where UTA may want to go over the next five years.

“This is a target of where we think we’re headed. And there’s a lot of work still to come,” she told the board. “Everything that is proposed here in this plan is subject to a lot of additional analysis.”

But among those high-level goals are working toward the “core route network” where main arterial routes would run every 15 minutes. Another major shift would be toward more all-day service, instead of focusing mostly on morning and afternoon commutes.

It also outlines some major changes envisioned in different counties.

In Salt Lake County, that includes:

• Improving service on the west side, with new connections to Salt Lake City International Airport and the inland port via 3600 West, 5600 West and 3100 South.

• Adjusting local bus routes to prepare for the future bus rapid transit projects, including the Midvalley Connector bus rapid transit project in West Valley City, Taylorsville and Murray, one to connect south Davis County with downtown Salt Lake City and possibly one on 5600 West.

• Improve connections between Tooele and Salt Lake counties.

• Improve transit connections in the Rose Park and Glendale areas of Salt Lake City and build a new transit hub on the west side of the city.

• Improve connections between FrontRunner to the University of Utah and Research Park.

• Continue and possibly expand UTA’s experimental on-demand “microtransit” service in southern Salt Lake County with vans that are a hybrid between Uber and traditional bus service. That service may also expand into Tooele County.

In Utah County, the plan envisions:

• Opening a new FrontRunner station in Vineyard and adjusting local bus service to connect to it.

• Consider using microtransit or other innovations in west Provo and Thanksgiving Point to provide better coverage and replace some bus routes that now have few riders.

In Davis, Weber and Box Elder counties, the plan suggests:

• Finishing a new bus rapid transit system between downtown Ogden and Weber State University and building a new transit hub at WSU’s Dee Events Center.

• Adding 15-minute bus service on State Street between Farmington and Ogden.

• Considering microtransit or other innovations in north Weber County and south Davis County to provide better all-day coverage and replace routes that have few riders.

• Add bus service between the Ogden and Pleasant View FrontRunner stations.

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