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  • Benjamin Wood
  • “The Crossing,” by artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, evokes the movement of water and welcomes transit riders to the new 600 South Station.

9TH CENTER—Utah Transit Authority Chairman Carlton Christensen said Tuesday he feels a special connection to the now open TRAX station at 650 S. Main.

In 1997, when Christensen was a newly elected member of the Salt Lake City Council, he toured the area with the director of the city’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA), who explained how the space had been set aside on along the tracks for a future TRAX station. “to be built in the near future.”

“Who would have thought that the ‘near future’ would be 25 years later?” Christensen said. “With every addition you see in the UTA system, we provide more connection, more mobility and more access to opportunity. This station and all of our transit services are here for you.”

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Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall poses for photos with members of the City Council and artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge and family at the opening of 600 South Station on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. - BENJAMIN WOOD

  • Benjamin Wood
  • Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall poses for photos with members of the City Council and artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge and her family during the opening of the 600 South Station on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

For passenger rail, these additions have been relatively rare since the initial wave of mass transit construction that preceded the hosting of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The 900 South station on 200 West was built in 2005, while the S-Line streetcar opened in 2013.

Since then, UTA has made strides in modernizing its traditional bus services, implementing high-frequency routes in Salt Lake City and bus rapid transit (BRT) routes elsewhere around the Wasatch front.

Ana Valdemoros, who represents District 4 on the Salt Lake City Council, said the 600 South Station reflects and will contribute to both the southward and westward growth of the city’s urban core. Investing in multimodal transportation, she said, ensures residents have convenient and equitable access to where they need to go.

“This station’s downtown location is key to so many downtown-adjacent neighborhoods,” Valdemoros said. “Not only will it serve as a bridge to and from downtown, but it will also provide increased mobility for our city’s residents and workforce in the Ballpark, Central Ninth, Granary and Central City neighborhoods.”

This sentiment was echoed by Matthew Behrmann, senior vice president of the Patrinely Group, whose company is finalizing a new office tower built next to the TRAX station. Patrinely Group was among the private entities that helped fund the station project, and Behrmann said proximity to public transportation was a key factor in the decision to launch the Salt Lake City development.

“It delivers on what today’s most progressive and demanding employers want in their home office – a healthy, productive and connected everyday environment for their employees and customers,” he said.

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(L-R) Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros, artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge and UTA President Carlton Christensen watch Salt Lake City Erin Mendenhall speak to the press during the opening of a new TRAX transit station at 650 S. Main St on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. - BOIS BENJAMIN

  • Benjamin Wood
  • (L-R) Councilwoman Ana Valdemoros, artist Jiyoun Lee-Lodge and UTA President Carlton Christensen watch Salt Lake City Erin Mendenhall speak to the press during the opening of a new TRAX transit station at 650 S. Main St on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.

Will it be another 20+ years before the next new TRAX station in Salt Lake City?

“Damn no! said Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “We go hard after [light rail on] 400 west.

Mendenhall said there are a number of potential transit projects in the city’s plans, which his administration is pushing to accelerate with the benefit of federal transportation funding. The city has also seen a marked shift towards public and active transportation in recent years, with projects underway to reprioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users on the 200 South, 900 South, 300 west and the corridors around, but especially not on, State Street.

“We’re the fastest growing state in the country, with the strongest economy, and when it comes to the city’s vision, it’s about how we grow,” he said. Mendenhall said. “We’re trying to make the most of the growth that’s happening here.”

Starting this fall, school-age residents of Salt Lake City will be able to ride public transit for free through a program funded by the City Council in partnership with the Salt Lake Education Foundation. With the expansion of TRAX and free ride initiatives, Mendenhall said the city aims to make public transit a viable, low-cost option for residents facing a cost-of-living crisis in the mountains.

“We know that the two factors driving today’s drivers to use public transit are convenience and affordability,” Mendenhall said. But we have an opportunity with our young population, who are not yet drivers or who are just starting to drive, to integrate public transit into their way of life.

UTA removed fares systemwide during February, part of a city-led effort to improve air quality during the winter inversion, and saw ridership rise Consequently. Since then, Governor Spencer Cox has repeatedly offered free public transit as a potential answer to inflation, though legislative leaders have resisted those calls.

Christensen said UTA is currently looking at the holistic impact of free fares and suggested more short-term promotions, like Free Fare February, could be on the horizon. But he added that the agency makes a point of being thorough, because it’s much easier to make something free than to charge a fee on what previously cost nothing.

“Once you’ve taken that road, it’s hard to pull it back,” he said.

There are no immediate plans to build additional stations, but Christensen suggested that the next expansion should not yet be decades away. Cities are increasingly adopting transit-oriented building codes – typically denser, more urban developments – around bus and rail routes, driving usage and demand on the transportation network in common.

“Our average customer is 34 years old,” Christensen said. “It’s going from what I would call a commuter population to a population that uses [transit] as part of their way of life. In fact, some of our strongest growth is on weekends and, in particular, Sunday service. »