Ridin' the Rails | Urban Living

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Ridin' the Rails

Posted By on August 7, 2019, 4:00 AM

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When Sugar House's S-line was installed just south of 2100 South, it didn't make much of a splash in the community, despite its $26 million price tag with funding through a U.S. Department of Transportation grant. The problem with the project was that it was slow—20 minutes to get from the Fairmont Park station on the eastside to Central Point station in South Salt Lake—because there was just one track. I dubbed it the "ghost train" because during winter fog days, the white train would appear out of the mist without a soul sitting inside except the bundled up driver. It still has less than 1,500 riders a day. UTA, South Salt Lake, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have now worked together to put in more rails between 300 and 500 East, which speeds up service somewhat so that it might entice more riders. Now, it only takes 15 minutes to get from one end to the other.

Pay attention to two outcomes of this highly specialized streetcar: 1. Development is popping up all along the line, from WinCo Foods at 2193 S. Main to dense residential units behind Dancing Cranes Imports on 700 East. Anywhere you put in light transit lines you will find commercial and residential development pop up soon afterward. A decade ago, locals would have never heard of or been able to find "districts" in the Salt Lake Valley. Now, there's the North Temple District, where the Redevelopment Agency is working with locals on the Fairpark Public Market Study, Folsom Corridor, Congregation Spirits and Spark! Projects, all served by the Trax Green Line; the State Street District with the Capitol Home Apartments Project right by the S-Line; and the Ball Park Station and all the townhomes being built by private investors around there; 2. There will be many S-Lines developed in the future going east and west in the valley—which will gentrify and revitalize areas that have had poor transit options (think Poplar Grove).

Trax (light rail) is headed south to Utah County. Politicos and planners are working on designs as to where the rails will eventually end up and where the stations and parking lots will be located. If you go to the Salt Lake Parade of Homes in Daybreak through Aug. 17 and head west from 1-15 along 11400 South, you'll drive by where Trax ends. There are now 7,000 homes in Daybreak with thousands and thousands more planned. It's obvious that the rails need to be expanded to the next valley south where all the techies are working. There are future plans for Trax to even head north of downtown Salt Lake to Bountiful. The point is to get people using mass transit to save money on driving costs, and to have more money to spend on housing. And, of course, riding the rails helps keep pollution in check.

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