The Utah Transit Authority is proposing to change all of its bus routes in Utah County and many in Salt Lake City to allow better connections with the new FrontRunner commuter rail section between Salt Lake City and Provo that is scheduled to open Dec. 10.
That includes eliminating all express buses between Utah and Salt Lake counties, and creating or altering local routes to take riders to FrontRunner instead. UTA says that will allow local service circulating around Utah County communities to increase by 17 percent.
Many changes are also coming to downtown Salt Lake City, which is scheduled to open a second FrontRunner station in December at the North Temple viaduct on the present section of FrontRunner that runs from Ogden to Salt Lake, which will connect with the new section to Provo. The North Temple site also will connect to the new airport TRAX line when it opens in April.
Buses headed to northern parts of Salt Lake City will soon connect with the new North Temple station. Buses headed to the south will generally connect to the existing Salt Lake Central station hub at 250 S. 800 West.
The UTA board discussed the proposals Wednesday and set a series of five public hearings to take comment on them beginning next week. A list of proposed changes by specific bus route designed to take effect on Sunday, Dec. 9, a day before the new FrontRunner line opens is available online at rideuta.com.
Because intercounty commuters will now need to transfer from buses to trains, "There will be modest travel-time increases for some," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
An exception is that current express bus riders traveling to the University of Utah could have significantly longer rides. Carpenter said those riders may shorten commutes by exiting FrontRunner in Murray to connect to red line TRAX trains to the U. there, instead of traveling to downtown Salt Lake City where more transfers might be required.
While some commutes may be slower, Carpenter said the changes bring many other advantages. For example, service between the counties will now be available all day and into the late evening instead of only during peak commuter times.
Carpenter also said UTA expects ridership to more than triple from the 2,000 trips a day now on express buses to 6,800 trips a day on FrontRunner because of expanded hours, and because trains will allow more Salt Lake County residents to commute to Utah County. Currently, most express buses travel only at times and directions to help Utah County commuters go to Salt Lake County.
All-day service also "allows people traveling to special events or traveling recreationally to become riders, where they wouldn't patronize express buses," Carpenter said.
The scope of the changes is big.
"In Utah County, 100 percent of the routes are changing. Every single route there will be affected in some way. There may be minor routing changes, as routes are adjusted to meet up with the FrontRunner stations … or changes in frequency," he said.
UTA also is proposing to eliminate express buses to downtown Salt Lake City from Herriman and Riverton to instead expand local bus service there to connect to FrontRunner in South Jordan.
Meanwhile, UTA will also be changing and expanding bus service in the Rose Park area of Salt Lake City. Carpenter said many changes there are designed to connect with the new airport TRAX line when it opens in April, but changes are proposed in December to acclimate riders to changes earlier. Some routes will also reach deeper into neighborhoods than they currently do, he said.
The proposed elimination of the bus free-fare zone in Salt Lake City is not part of this round of changes. The city and UTA have been in negotiations that originally sought to eliminate that as early as December, but they have not reached an agreement.
Open houses on proposed UTA changes
• Aug. 15 from 5 to 7 p.m., Salt Lake City Main Library, Level 4 meeting room, 210 E. 400 South.
• Aug. 16 from 5 to 7 p.m., South Jordan Library, 10673 S. Redwood Road.
• Aug 21 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., American Fork Senior Center, 54 E. Main Street.
• Aug. 22 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Spanish Fork City Hall, 40 S. Main.
• Aug. 23 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Orem City Council Chambers, 56 N. State Street.