For the past several years, Taylorsville City has worked diligently with multiple partners, including West Valley City, Murray City, Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake County, UDOT and the Utah Transit Authority, to bring the Midvalley Connector Bus Rapid Transit service (BRT) to the heart of the Salt Lake Valley.
Bus Rapid Transit makes sense, especially as state and local leaders seek innovative ways to improve air quality and cut through the inversion and smog we confront each winter. It makes even more sense when looking at the significant growth that puts tens of thousands more drivers on Utah’s roadways each year. BRT uses more frequent bus service, larger capacity buses and dedicated bus lanes. The result is a fast, comfortable, and more effective transit system.
That is why it was disappointing to read The Salt Lake Tribune’s recent articles indicating that the Utah Transit Authority appears poised to focus new revenues on new rail projects rather than buses as previously promised. On the table is a $1.2 billion TRAX expansion aimed at spurring development at the soon-to-be-vacated state prison site at Point of the Mountain. The apparent shift comes even as sales tax increases for transit were implemented across northern Utah based on pledges for improved bus service.
It is my hope that UTA leaders will take another look. Consider this: The Midvalley Connector will link Frontrunner and the Green, Red and Blue TRAX lines with a convenient, clean system that connects Murray, Taylorsville (including Salt Lake Community College) and West Valley City. Riders will access 15 stations and 1.4 miles of dedicated transit lanes on 4500/4700 South, as well as a new transit hub at the college.
It’s much more than a bus system. The Midvalley Connector brings seven miles of BRT service to large employment, educational, activity and civic centers. The primary purpose of the project is to provide a frequent, efficient connection to this population center, improve transit service, provide a clean transit choice, increase mobility and enhance the local economy.
Particularly with service to 20,000 students at Salt Lake Community College’s main Taylorsville Redwood campus, ridership along the Midvalley Connector is projected at 2,200 to 2,700 people each day. Utah State University’s Salt Lake campus, as well as Stevens-Henager College, also will be served by this BRT route. In addition, approximately 34,600 jobs are currently accessible within a half mile of the proposed project route. This is a population that is already here and in need of service, and the roads are ready.
What’s more, the project will use clean fuel buses, provide an alternative to single occupancy vehicles and add 1.4 miles of dedicated bike lanes with direct connection to the Jordan River Trail. In essence, it provides three forms of clean transportation: electric buses, bike lanes and pedestrian trails. It is much more efficient than a regular bus system while actually taking buses off the roads in favor of electric vehicles — and all at a fraction of the cost of light rail.
The environmental assessment 30-day public comment period, including a public open house, concluded Dec. 28. Area residents are supportive, and the long road of planning is complete. All that is holding BRT back at this point is additional funding.
While transportation options are understandably needed for the developing Silicon Slopes area, BRT funding would provide a demonstrable commitment to bus service. A shift in focus to include light rail could certainly be offset with a renewed commitment to the Midvalley Connector project. Bus Rapid Transit is a good plan. The strategy is sound. Let’s keep moving ahead.
Kristie Overson was elected as mayor of Taylorsville City in 2017. She served for six years as a member of the City Council and 11 years on the Taylorsville Planning Commission. She is a long-time resident of Taylorsville, where she and her husband raised their family.