PROVO -- While residents, leaders and stakeholders throughout the county wait to see Tuesday's decision by the Provo Municipal Council on Bus Rapid Transit, county mayors have already spoken. It's Option 4 or they want their money back.
Two options remain in the discussion.
Option 4 and a newly proposed Option Zero. Option 4 will include the loop around 900 East past BYU, the Missionary Training Center, the Marriott Center, LaVell Edwards Stadium and on to Orem's University Mall and Utah Valley University and inter-modal hub.
Option Zero, proposed just a month ago, would take BRT directly up University Avenue to University Parkway and locations beyond. Buses not in the BRT system would then provide connection from the 900 East area to University Ave.
The Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) is designated by the governor as the metropolitan planning organization for the Provo/Orem urbanized area. Their interest in BRT is $75 million strong, but only if Option 4 is the preferred route.
MAG is responsible -- together with the Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Transit Authority, Utah County Commission and Twenty Five incorporated cities -- for carrying out the Metropolitan Transportation Planning and Programming Process. The planned Provo Orem Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects is a significant element of this planned system.
Three council members, Kim Santiago, David Sewell and Stephen Hales, have raised issues with the BRT plan, saying they are concerned, along with a number of residents in the Oak Hills and Wasatch Neighborhoods, that Option 4 does not meet the needs of the neighborhood.
While the neighbors on the east side of BYU are wary of the UTA option, county mayors, and city leadership in Provo and Orem are concerned that a small group will eliminate the opportunity for BRT altogether.
The arguments over the two options also has caused open division amongst neighbors in the area. Some see it as a benefit while others see it as continued encroachment into their neighborhood.
The project that was expected to bring students and shoppers to and from Orem and Provo, also is expected to help with air quality, economic development, and congestion, among other things. The project also would bring wider streets, bike paths and protective buffers to 900 East and the neighborhoods in question.
UTA has already said it will not consider Option 6, one of the other favored options. Option Zero is still under consideration. UTA will report its findings Tuesday before the vote. Tuesday's meeting will see if Option Zero meets the requirements set by the Federal government.
MAG's resolution touted several features of the BRT.
"Bus Rapid Transit is an enhanced bus system that operates on bus lanes or other transit ways in order to combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail and that by doing so, Bus Rapid Transit operates at faster speeds, provides greater service reliability and increased customer convenience, utilizing a combination of advanced technologies, infrastructure and operational investments that provide significantly better service than traditional bus service."
MAG mayors also listed what the Provo/Orem BRT is planned to provide:
• Service between the Orem intermodal Center, UVU, BYU and the Provo intermodal.
• Capacity improvements to University Parkway.
• Exclusive bus-only lanes.
• Stations with upgraded features such as real-time next bus information, shelters with seating and the ability to pay for fares at stations.
• More reliable bus service with increased frequency during peak hours.
The resolution was dated Feb. 10, and signed by Gary Gygi, vice chairman of MAG's Regional Planning Committee and mayor of Cedar Hills.
"More than 10 years have been spent studying the proposed alignment of the Provo Orem Bus Rapid Transit Project by many stakeholders, elected officials and the general public; and whereas, the preferred alignment for final Environmental Assessment for the project was published in April 2011 and has been signed by the FHWA, UTA and UDOT; and whereas the MAG Regional Planning Committee understands the interest of the Provo Council and residents in reconsidering the approved Bus Rapid Transit route, we wish to clarify that as investors of $75,000,000 dollars of local match requirement we can only support the preferred alternative as identified in the Environmental Assessment and previously endorsed and supported by Mountainland Association of Governments as the option that maximizes ridership and stays within the FTA small starts budget category. Now therefore, let it be resolved; that the Mountainland Association of Governments supports the Provo Orem Bus Rapid Transit project as designed and encouraged a rapid resolution of this issue before the Provo City Council."
MAG mayors will be watching Tuesday's vote and what route the council will consider. A presentation of the MAG report will be given during the work session.
UTA, TMAC, the stakeholders group and Provo administration will make final presentations at the regular council meeting. It is expected that there will be no public comment allowed.