Kem C. Gardner air quality recommendations 01

A Utah Valley Express bus stops to allow passengers off and on at the Center Street station Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Utah Transit Authority is celebrating 50 years this week, and part of that celebration is what UTA says is the success of the bus rapid transit project in Provo and Orem, now known as the UVX route.

The success has spurred other cities and government organizations to start looking at additional transit routes between Orem and Lehi.

Jamie Davidson, Orem city manager, spearheaded the idea that now has traction.

“We see transit as an important part of our future,” Davidson said, adding that they know people will take advantage of service that is reliable and frequent.

Utah Transit Authority’s route 850 that travels along State Street is the route that is looking to be expanded for rapid transit like UVX.

Seven cities in Utah County have partnered with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and the Mountainland Association of Governments (MAG) to enhance transit options and improve community connectivity between Lehi and Provo, according a UTA press release.

The participating cities include Lehi, American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Vineyard, Orem and Provo. The cities and supporting agencies have launched the Central Corridor Transit Study, which will identify a north-south corridor for a high-quality, reliable, frequent and high-capacity transit solution, UTA said.

UDOT is taking the lead when looking at alternative routes along the 850 route. This is required to receive government funding. Just like the UVX route, there must be optional routes to choose between. It is the same process UVX went through starting 14 years ago.

The study will build on the successful implementation of UVX and the FrontRunner commuter rail in Utah County. Various modes will be evaluated as part of the study, notably bus rapid transit and light rail.

When Salt Lake County was looking at TRAX light rail for alternative transportation, residents were generally against it.

“Concern about TRAX quickly changed after it opened and the fear disappeared,” Davidson said. “It used to be ‘We don’t want it’ to ‘When can we get it?’”

Just the Orem part of the corridor along State Street is about 12 miles long. Davidson said the 850 route was improved so that instead of coming every 30 minutes, it comes every 15 minutes.

He said that more would ride if the buses were coming more frequently. That would help with roads and air quality.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to increase efficiency of the roadways,” Davidson said.

Financially, bus rapid transit is one-third the cost of TRAX, and it is far more efficient, Davidson added.

He said it comes down to, “Do you want to wait 10 years for bus rapid transit? Or 30 years for a TRAX system?”

“We know people will ride it along the State Street corridor,” Davidson said. “We feel confident people will.”

Transit is a vital part of the broader transportation network needed to accommodate growth in Utah County, the UTA press release said.

The county is projected to double to more than 1.3 million people by 2050 with daily vehicle trips forecast to double as well.

“Public input is essential to shaping the outcomes of the study,” the press release said. “The first public comment period for the study begins Feb. 20 and will gather input on the purpose and need for the study and the initial range of corridors.”

Two additional comment periods are planned for spring and summer 2020 and a Preferred Alternative will be identified later this year to conclude the study.

The study is a preliminary phase in exploring new transit options in the area. The Preferred Alternative will then move forward to a transit study process for further evaluation.

The public can sign up for updates and provide input in the following ways:

Visiting the website at http://centraltransit.utah.gov.

Calling the project hotline at (385) 355-3133.

Attending a public meeting in October 2020.

According to Mary De la Mare-Schaefer, UTA district manager, in about six months, initial looks will begin for transit between Provo and Payson.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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