Additional buses remain an issue in Avenues. Will anything change?

‘We don’t do neighborhood engagement,’ Utah Transit Authority says during community meeting

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) A Utah Transit Authority bus travels east on 3rd Avenue at M Street, Friday, May 13, 2022. UTA is changing several bus routes in and around the Avenues and some community members have been protesting through fliers and on social media.

New bus routes in the Avenues are unlikely to change after feedback from some community members worried about safety, noise and other issues.

Utah Transit Authority representatives answered questions and listened to proposed alternatives at the Greater Avenues Community Council meeting Wednesday at the Corrine & Jack Sweet Library.

However, “we’re very far along in our process,” said UTA Board Chair Carlton Christensen. “If we were to change our mind at this point, which is unlikely, we would just have to start altering.”

Nichol Bourdeaux, UTA’s vice president of external relations, said more than 100 routes will change in August, across communities from Pleasant View to Santaquin.

“So we don’t do neighborhood engagement. We do more of a mass approach to the [cities] and the counties that we serve,” she said.

And Eric Callison, manager of service planning for UTA, said the more frequent Avenues routes will allow people to reach their destinations in a timely manner.

“We want to emphasize that there are many other demands, or requests for services, to other parts of Salt Lake City that we’ve received from residents of the Avenues,” he said. “Having a 15-minute service on routes 1 and 209 helps make that more possible for the broadest number of residents.”

The meeting drew more than 50 people in person and more than 50 people via Zoom.

It came in the wake of controversy surrounding a flyer dispersed by a group of Avenues residents opposed to the bus route changes.

“New bus route will affect you!” it read. It listed concerns one might expect, such as busier streets and increased noise. And that new routes would decrease housing values and buses will bring “homeless inhabitants” to the area.

Opponents of the new bus routes say they’re not against public transportation and that their concerns are safety and noise.

(Utah Transit Authority) UTA's new bus routes go into effect in August, but some Avenues residents have concerns about what an increase of buses will do to their neighborhood.

The new plans will replace Route 6 (which includes South Temple, N Street and 6th Ave.) with Route 209: service to downtown with north/south connections.

UTA also is introducing Route 1, which will connect downtown Salt Lake City and the University of Utah via South Temple Street.

Major destinations along the new Avenues routes include LDS Hospital and the Smith’s on the corner of 6th Ave. and E Street.

Buses will run every 15 minutes, compared to the current routes which run anywhere from every 15 minutes to every 30 to 60 minutes.

Alternative bus routes?

During the community council meeting, Avenues residents Donna Dinsdale, Carol Fudyma and Laurie Holland represented neighborhood members opposed to the new bus routes.

Salt Lake City Council member Chris Wharton, who represents District 3, which includes the Avenues, moderated the discussion.

Fudyma presented four alternative bus routes to the visiting UTA officials:

  • Traveling west: North on J Street to 11th Ave., west on E Street to 9th Ave., around LDS Hospital to E Street, to South Temple. Traveling east: North on E Street to 7th Ave., around LDS Hospital, E Street to 11th Ave., south on K Street.

  • Traveling west: North on M Street to 6th Ave., west to J Street, north to 11th Ave., west to E Street, around LDS Hospital to E Street, to South Temple. Traveling east: North using E Street to 7th Ave., around LDS Hospital, E Street to 11th Ave., south on K Street to 6th Ave., east to M Street, south on M Street.

  • Have a Flex bus circle the Avenues every 30 minutes; south on E Street, east on 1st Ave., north on K Street and west on 11th Ave.

  • Keep 6th Ave. for east/west travel; use M Street for both north/south travel on the west side to/from 9th Ave. around LDS Hospital.

The group emphasized Ensign Elementary School children using L Street and people using the playground, baseball diamonds and dog park on M Street between 7th and 9th avenues.

Finally, they’re concerned about noise in the neighborhood if buses run every 15 minutes.

Fudyma said UTA’s public outreach was “dismal,” and it’s been frustrating to gather so much information in so little time.

“I bet a lot of people in this audience are just learning a lot about this right now,” she said.

The Utah Transit Authority posted flyers on buses about the changes and held a 30-day open comment period from March 2 through April 1.

Jon Larsen, transportation division director for UTA, said if they moved the proposed routes at this point, they’d just be transferring concerns to other streets — streets that never had the chance to give input.

Christensen said new routes are more accessible to Avenues residents and to people with disabilities. For instance, 6th Ave. isn’t a good option for the latter group, he said, because parking strips make it difficult for them to get on and off buses.

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