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Provo to hold open houses, again, to discuss 900 East UVX stop

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 12, 2021

Evan Cobb, Daily Herald

Students board a Utah Valley Express bus at Utah Valley University on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Orem. (Evan Cobb, Daily Herald file photo)

When it comes to Bus Rapid Transit and the UVX route in Provo, it appears, like the wheels on the bus, that what goes around, comes around — again.

As part of the continuing UVX Bus Rapid Transit project, Provo City and the Utah Transit Authority are inviting citizens to attend upcoming open houses and provide feedback on a possible new station on 900 East.

These open houses are sponsored by the city following a flurry of letters and emails asking that the city and UTA take another look at a potential 900 East stop.

The first open house is from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Wasatch Elementary School Gymnasium, located at 1080 North 900 East.

The second open house will be from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 20 at the Provo Recreation Center, 320 West 500 North.

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Christopher Knorr, a bus operator in training, boards a Utah Valley Express bus before a demonstrative ride Tuesday, July 31, 2018, at the Orem Central FrontRunner Station. (Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo)

An online survey will also be available through Open City Hall for those unable to attend an open house in person. The link will be active beginning Wednesday at https://www.provo.org/government/city-council/open-city-hall.

“Public feedback is vital and we encourage residents to participate either in-person or online,” said Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.

At the beginning of the year, members of the City Council and the administration received over 200 emails from Provo residents asking them to consider adding a UVX stop on 900 East near the BYU Creamery.

“The recent addition of the BYU Music Building in the area that removed more than 100 parking spaces was part of the reason for the requests cited in many of the emails,” said Wayne Parker, Provo’s chief administrative officer. “In response, the city and UTA did some due diligence over the last several months to review what such an effort might entail and to answer many of the questions we think our residents would have.”

“The open houses scheduled for this week and next, and the forum on Provo’s Open City Hall are designed to share with residents what we learned and to solicit their input. The Administration and the City Council have made no decisions at all about the feasibility or desirability of the additional stop, but will use the input from Provo residents to explore options, gather additional information and either advance the idea further or decide to not move forward,” Parker added.

The UVX BRT project opened for service on Aug. 13, 2018. In looking at future opportunities to improve service, UTA data estimates that a new station at 900 East could generate a 16% increase or 2,000 more riders a day.

“We are looking forward to sharing the information we have gathered so far and hearing from our residents about whether this should be a priority in the future for the City and for UTA,” Parker said.

These open houses are the first part of a planned public outreach and involvement effort to determine the feasibility and desirability of a new UVX station at 900 East.

Residents who have lived in Provo for more than five years could have a sense of déjà vu when it comes to a 900 East bus stop.

For nearly 20 years, the bus rapid transit system had been in the planning stages with everything from environmental impact studies to traffic studies, public meetings and government negotiations.

In 2005, UTA approved what was considered the best route, known as option 4, for the new bus line. It was heavily vetted, approved all the way to the federal level and was in line to receive funding from the Obama Administration.

Option 4 would take Bus Rapid Transit buses north on University Avenue, then east on 700 North to 700 East. They would then travel north to 900 North and east to 900 East. They would continue on 900 East to 1620 North/University Parkway, and west to Orem on the Parkway to the University Mall, Utah Valley University and the Orem intermodel hub.

A group of residents, lead in part by former councilwoman Kim Santiago and former councilman Dave Acheson, wanted one additional round of vetting on the routes. Option zero, which bypassed 900 East was their preferred route.

The Provo Council approved the request and a consortium referred to as “the review team,” was brought on. It included Hales Engineering, Metro Analytics and Civil Science.

The review team was hired by the municipal council to give a second, and more recent, opinion on route options 4, 6 and zero. The objective was to see which would be the optimum route and would service the public best.

The council voted to pay the review team $95,000 out of the city’s rainy day fund to find out which option was best. The team was also asked to answer 12 questions about current or potential other route options.

After six weeks of intense study, the review team concluded that option 4 was indeed the best route.

On Aug. 1, 2017, the Daily Herald ran an editorial by Sherrie Hall Everett, former councilwoman and member of the UTA Board of Directors. She noted, “With the coming growth, our challenge was to figure out how to move twice the number of people along that corridor without increasing the congestion, pollution, creating constant gridlock or building even one more parking lot over our beautiful green space or neighborhoods.”

“Some opposed the project. They voiced their preference and made their case. In two separate surveys, years apart, more than 70 percent of Provo expressed their preference in support of the project. And in the end, after 19 years of carefully followed public process, community leaders were called upon to set all preferences aside and make a principled decision. That decision was once again guided by what would be best, for the most people, for the longest foreseeable future,” Everett added.

The new 900 East stop would be on the west side in front of the new Brigham Young University music building and across the street from Wasatch Elementary School.

“I appreciate the neighborhood had concerns, or may have, but now that we’ve been in business three years we’d like to hear from the residents again,” said Mary de La Mare-Schaefer, district manager for UTA.

There may be some shift in the way the community feels about buses on 900 East, but Santiago is hoping UTA honors the original wishes of the neighborhood.

“I know there has been a big push from the bicycle committee to get a bus stop at the creamery location,” Santiago said. “This was a super divisive issue in the community and I don’t think there is benefit from re-opening old wounds.”

“The current bus stop near the Brewster building was agreed upon and put in place. It is very close to the creamery stop, it is closer to the Wilkinson Center than the creamery stop would be,” Santiago said. “That was the point of the stop. I hope the Mayor and current City Council will honor that hard fought battle to find a solution that we could all agree upon at the time. It would be a waste of our taxpayer dollars to put in another stop at the creamery.”

UTA noted it would not move ahead without the support of Provo and the residents.

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