The speed, permanency, reliability and environmental friendliness of a $75 million bus rapid transit system in connecting southern Davis County with Salt Lake City, using a fixed guideway, has the Davis County Commission giving the project the nod over a less expensive "enhanced bus service."
The two alternatives are part of the recently completed year-long Utah Transit Authority Davis-SLC Community Connector study.
The study area, which takes in south Davis County, up to the Woods Cross FrontRunner rail stop, reveals two strikingly different concepts in which UTA can enhance public transit service between Davis County and Salt Lake City.
Alternative A consists of an "enhanced bus service" through 12.1 miles of corridor, at a cost of $13.9 million, with the local share being about $7 million, according to Jamie White, UTA engineer.
Alternative B consists of a BRT line, described as light rail on rubber, through a 11.8-mile corridor at a cost of $75 million, with the local share being about $37.5 million, White said.
On Tuesday, UTA officials presented their findings to the commission, which adopted a resolution supporting the locally preferred Alternative B, which by including a guideway accomplishes their goal of increasing mobility, connectivity and travel choices; as well as supporting local and regional land use initiatives, while promoting economic development and improving environmental quality.
Construction of a fixed guideway system within the Davis — Salt Lake community connector transit study corridor would substantially benefit the residents of the county and city sponsors by increasing access to a public transit system to more residents and job sites, the county's resolution reads.
The construction and operation of a fixed guideway will also reduce the reliance on vehicles, improve air quality and reduce the growth of vehicle miles traveled, the resolution reads.
"The next steps in the process are to find ways to fund the next phase of the project, which are conducting an environmental process to study the proposed alignment more in-depth and ultimately engineering and construction," UTA spokesman Marc Bowman told the Standard-Examiner on Wednesday.
Davis County is one of six entities that financially participated in the study, contributing $7,500 toward the study cost. Other entities participating are Bountiful, North Salt Lake, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake City and UTA.
Alternative B is much more costly based on speed of service, reliability and the need for the 11.8-mile corridor to include 5.6 miles of guideway for public transit, Bowman said.
Both North Salt Lake and Bountiful city councils have already expressed their support for Alternative B, Bowman said.
The permanence of BRT also creates more of an economic development component, he said. Which based on the commission's adopted resolution, was a big selling point for the county.
The bus service corridor, Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn said, provides "things that you can build around."
Bus rapid transit also has higher ridership numbers than enhanced bus service, with 400,000 more riders annually, UTA officials said.
Enhanced bus service had 601,460 total riders in 2013, versus the 1.035 million that rode bus rapid transit services.
The UTA study included soliciting input at public hearings and through social media, Bowman said.
"The people that live there want it, and that is what we should be doing," County Commissioner John Petroff Jr. said.
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