For Weber State students and Ogden residents, transportation to and from key locations across town could soon become more convenient.
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the city of Ogden, Weber County, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), Wasatch Front Regional Council and McKay-Dee Hospital are partnering with Weber State University to study and develop new public transportation routes through the Ogden-WSU Transit Project Study.
This study is looking into new ways to connect the Ogden Intermodal Center and Frontrunner Station, Weber State University and Ogden McKay-Dee Hospital through a new, price-friendly route.
An open house to explain the project will be held July 7 from 4 to 6 p.m. followed by an Ogden City Council meeting where UTA officials will make a presentation on the plan. Residents will have an opportunity to comment.
The idea stemmed from Wasatch Front Regional Council’s Long Term Plan for 2004-2030. The plan suggested a route to connect the Wasatch Front region with the popular points in Ogden.
Weber State also has an additional reason to invest in the possibility of a new route.
“Weber State University has very limited space,” said Weber State Vice President Norm Tarbox, who is involved in the project “Our options are to get people that come to campus to more frequently take alternative modes of transportation or start building parking structures.”
Because building parking structures is difficult and expensive, it is not believed to be within the best interests of the university. The solution is to have more people take UTA routes.
The project kicked off with a public open house at Ogden High School in June 2014. Two more open houses have been held at other locations, including one that targeted Spanish speakers. Since then, two prospective routes have been established.
“These open houses gave us a chance to interact with the public and helped us get a general sense of what the public wants and needs from a transit project,” said UTA spokesman Marc Bowman. “They also helped us determine public preferences regarding mode of transportation and alignment.”
Both prospective routes travel through the Ogden Intermodal Center, WSU campus, McKay-Dee Hospital, Washington Boulevard and Harrison Boulevard. They differ in that one travels down 25th street and the other travels down 30th Street.
A study is being conducted to evaluate how a new transportation route would affect the surrounding environment. A project assessment like this must be completed in compliance of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a national policy that requires considering environmental impact.
This evaluation study is projected to be completed by December or January. If the study’s results are approved, actions will be made to construct and establish the route.
Both the study and project are intended to “improve regional connectivity” and “provide high quality transit service that is affordable, enjoys wide public support and encourages local partnerships,” as the official UTA website reads. Another benefit is creating more jobs in the city.
Besides evaluating environmental aspects, the team is also gathering public input for the new route. In addition to holding community focus groups and conducting telephone and online community surveys, the group has a comments section on the UTA webpage concerning the study.
“Public involvement has been a key component of the study since day one. It’s one of the key evaluation criteria we’re using to help determine a locally preferred alternative,” said Bowman.
Other evaluation criteria includes ridership, times of travel and cost.
A transportation mode for the route has yet to be determined, but a streetcar is the primary method the team is looking into, with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) being the alternative. Regardless of which method is chosen, it is not planned to have longer than a 15 to 20 minute frequency between each bus or streetcar.
“BRT is essentially a bus-based system that is made to look and feel as much like a permanent streetcar as possible,” said Tarbox. “One of the things about buses is that they can be there one day and gone the next. We’re not going to organize our lives around something that’s temporary.”
Both the Streetcar and BRT system have a more permanent appearance, with designated rails or lanes, helping solve that problem.
The streetcar option would require fixed rails lining the route, whereas the bus would have a specially designated lane in which to travel.
Without factoring in the cost of constructing the route, the study alone will cost approximately $750,000. This cost is being picked up by UTA and its partners.