If there was ever a place tailor-made for effective mass transit, you'd think it would be Utah's largest single-site employer.
With an employee population of some 20,000 and occupying a contiguous geographic space of 7,000 acres, Hill Air Force Base is bigger than a lot of Top of Utah cities — but a quick examination of the filled-to-capacity parking lots on base and the long lines of stacked, idling vehicles coming into and out of security gates, it's clear Hill has room for improvement in the transit realm.
Currently, the only transit to speak of at Hill is the Utah Transit Authority's Rideshare Program — a vanpooling program where UTA provides around 100 large passenger vans to base employees for carpooling purposes.
Kent Nomura, chief of operations support for Hill's 75th Civil Engineer Squadron, said just under 1,000 Hill employees, or about 5 percent of the employee population, use Rideshare to commute to and from the base.
But Hill and UTA say the transit situation at Hill is about to change.
Nomura said in December 2013, Hill leadership and UTA performed a basewide survey to find out the level of interest employees had in mass transit.
Upon completion of the survey, the two entities figured Rideshare alone just isn't cutting it.
"We found out there was enough interest to start a new program," Nomura said.
The program Nomura speaks of is a new bus service that would operate Monday through Friday with two buses that originate from the Clearfield FrontRunner Station, 1250 S. State St.
UTA spokesman Remi Barron said one bus would enter the south gate on State Route 193 and service the east side of the base, while the other would enter the west gate at 650 North and service the west side of the base.
Barron said that based on the analysis of survey data, the bus program would operate at peak service times.
"We recommended operating the service from about 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.," Barron said. "But that could change."
The service is tentatively expected to begin on April 14, but that date, like the times of service, is subject to change pending public hearings and approval by the UTA Board of Trustees.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Clearfield Community Art Center, 140 East Center St. in Clearfield.
Hill will also host an open house at the Base Theater from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Feb. 20.
Newspaper headlines about the base and its subsequent impact on air quality and the local environment haven't been so positive lately.
Last week, 4,000 Utahns stood on the steps of the Capitol, protesting for government intervention in the fight against air pollution. Hill was one of many institutions condemned at the rally for open-air burning.
In October, the Utah Air Quality Board announced it would up industrial emissions controls for any source of 100 tons or more of emissions a year. That included oil refineries, Hill and companies like Nucor Steel and Kennecott Utah Copper Corp.
Nomura and Barron both said as air quality becomes a growing concern along the Wasatch Front, the importance of a properly functioning, efficient mass transit system for Hill and its 20,000 employees cannot be overstated.
"We don't have the means to provide organic, in-house mass transportation services to our population," Nomura said. "But (we're) committed to finding solutions to help improve air quality, reduce our carbon and energy footprint, our local traffic and parking congestion — all with the ultimate goal to improve the quality of life for all people living on or near Hill Air Force Base."
Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.
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