UT: UTA Says Weber Transit Service Would Have Many Riders

Sept. 03--OGDEN -- If a public transit service between downtown Ogden, Weber State University and McKay-Dee Hospital ever becomes a reality, the Utah Transit Authority says it won't be hurting for riders.

UTA officials met with the Ogden City Council Tuesday night to discuss progress on a nearly $900,000 transit study that is measuring the merits of a new transit system that would connect downtown Ogden to the campuses of WSU and McKay-Dee.

The study is being funded jointly by UTA, Ogden City, WSU, McKay-Dee, Weber Area Council of Governments and the Utah Department of Transportation.

The study includes two routes, with one heading up 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard, then up 25th Street to Harrison Boulevard, and along Harrison to the university and the hospital. A second route would go up 23rd Street to Washington, then up 30th Street to Harrison and finally to the school and hospital.

A streetcar system and a bus rapid transit system are being evaluated as the two possible modes.

Jim McNulty, a strategic planner with UTA, told council members that by the year 2040, ridership numbers on the system could ultimately reach 8,000 per day. Ridership estimates for when the service initially begins aren't available yet.

"We're finding that we would have the ridership there when we open it up," McNulty said. "We'll have more precise information (on early ridership numbers) in about a month, but it's looking good so far."

McNulty said UTA's new Sugar House streetcar system, which opened in December, is seeing about 1,000 riders each day.

"So obviously, seven to eight thousand (daily riders on the Ogden line) is a great number," he said.

McNulty told the council initial public hearings and meetings for the Ogden project have indicated that a streetcar is the preferred mode for the system.

"We keep hearing streetcar, streetcar, streetcar," he said. "Weber State has indicated that that's what they want, and we've heard that from (the public) as well."

But McNulty said a lot of work still must be done until a final decision on a mode is made.

UTA will continue to hold public meetings, meet with project stakeholders and interested members of the community, conduct surveys and focus groups, and then synthesize that information into the study. A "locally preferred alternative," including an alignment and mode, will be submitted by December 2015 or January 2016.

Later this month, UTA will conduct a telephone survey of 600 Ogden residents to gather opinions on the project.

McNulty said a research firm called Lighthouse Research will conduct the survey and will "keep calling until they get 600 responses."

UTA will also meet with WACOG later this month and with several other Top of Utah cities.

McNulty said once the Ogden transit project gets going, other regional transit projects will likely follow. UTA has already met with South Ogden, Washington Terrace, Roy and Riverdale to discuss future transit projects that could tie into Ogden's system. The agency also plans to meet with cities like North Ogden, Pleasant View and Harrisville.

"There is a lot of momentum behind this project because other cities want to jump on," McNulty said. "There is a lot of excitement in other communities (about possible connections to the main Ogden service)."

Contact reporter Mitch Shaw at 801-625-4233 or mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23.

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