Most Salt Lake residents live far from high frequency buses

Map of Salt Lake City census tracts. Tracts in blue had the largest population gains. Bold black lines represent high-frequency bus routes. *This image has been updated to include the 200 route along State Street.
Map of Salt Lake City census tracts. Tracts in blue had the largest population gains. Bold black lines represent high-frequency bus routes. *This image has been updated to include the 200 route along State Street.

Over half of city residents do not have convenient access to bus service.  Building Salt Lake analyzed 2010 census data and found that an estimated 46 percent of Salt Lake City residents live within relative proximity to a 15-minute frequency bus, while many of the fastest-growing sections of the city have no high-frequency bus service.

Building Salt Lake used census tract data compiled by the University of Utah’s Utah Community Data Project (UCDP) and compared it to the route maps for Salt Lake City’s six high-frequency bus routes.  Building Salt Lake included only census tracts that had a high-frequency bus pass either directly through it or within a few blocks of where the majority of residents live within a given tract.

Residents living downtown and along 200 South are the best served by bus transit.  Two different high-frequency routes, the 2 and 205, run along significant portions of 200 South.  South Temple, 900 East, 500 East, 2100 South, 2100 East, State Street and Redwood Road each have one high-frequency route.  All the high-frequency routes have limited late night service with reduced frequencies in the evening hours.

Just two of the census tracts with the largest population gains between 2000 and 2010 had a high-frequency route pass through its boundaries.  Census tract 1014, which includes the University of Utah has two 15-minute frequency routes, the 21 and 2 routes.  Census tract 1025, which includes the Depot district and downtown’s west side, has the Intermodal Hub, the terminus for many of the high-frequency bus routes that pass through downtown, within its boundaries.

The other census tracts that had significant population gains are located in Salt Lake’s west side which has only one high-frequency route, route 17 that runs along Redwood Road.   Redwood Road acts as the western border for much of the residential zones south of North Temple.

Robin Hutcheson, the director of the Transportation Planning Division, told members of the city council in a meeting last month that “the hours and frequency of service don’t match the needs of city residents.”  According to Hutcheson Salt Lake residents make shorter trips than the regional average and want more higher-frequency buses that run later hours.

The city is currently working on a Transit Master Plan that will call for improved bus service in the area.  But the city will need new revenue to be able to provide expanded service.

Both the city and UTA are turning to the Utah State Legislature to allow local municipalities to allow voters to consider a sales tax increase that would be used to fund mass transit.  Two competing house bills, HB362 and HB369, are under consideration that would potentially provide more revenue for UTA.  HB369 would allow voters to increase sales tax for transit by three-tenths of a cent for $1 purchase.  HB362 would allow voters to consider a quarter of cent increase.

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Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.