Salt Lake City should support local business growth and limit traffic congestion by extending the Sugar House streetcar line along 1100 East as soon as possible.
Our community is growing and with that more people need to get more places. The Salt Lake City Council wants people to get to all the places they need and expand the choice of how to get there. The goal is to feed the city's appetite for travel trips without increasing traffic congestion.
When you simply need to be there without carrying much, streetcars present an easier and more comfortable transportation alternative than a car.
Drivers should celebrate the arrival of the streetcar which will reduce the congestion of regular cars in the street.
A streetcar is powered by overhead wires but is much smaller than a TRAX train. Streetcars roll on smooth rails embedded in the street and share traffic lanes with passenger cars and trucks. Streetcars travel at the speed of traffic and allow walk-on boarding from roadside platforms. The street does not need to be widened. Lighter, smaller streetcar vehicles mean quick, low-impact construction.
I support the 1100 East route the same one the experts recommended which is cheaper to build and supports the most local businesses.
Local business is the heart and soul of Sugar House. My most notable early memory of 1100 East was having my first bad cup of coffee at the old Kosta's Café. Now, many more homes along the street have been converted to small, local businesses (with better coffee).
The businesses on 1100 East are the kind of businesses that do not require a car: salons, cafes, dance and yoga studios, a post office. They are all essentially low-impact services. You will not find car washes, drive-thrus or mega-mart shopping centers that require cars as an essential part of the experience.
Once the streetcar is built, local businesses will see a surge in foot traffic. By extending the route on 1100 East, we preserve the character of the Sugar House community.
In a recent op-ed column for The Tribune, my colleague, Luke Garrott, argues we should wait to expand the Sugar House streetcar (or trolley) line, even if only by a few blocks, until the council adopts a comprehensive streetcar plan.
There is no good reason why the extension as proposed cannot be integrated into a citywide plan at a later date. The proposal as it stands has been thoroughly reviewed against other alternatives. Plus, an immediate decision allows city staff to start seeking grants and partnerships to fund the extension.
Salt Lake City recently commissioned a study to identify the best way to extend the Sugar House streetcar beyond its current ending point. The transportation consulting firm, Fehr & Peers, concluded that the best possible extension continues the route north from the former Deseret Industries building along Highland Drive past the Sugar House Monument to the corner of 1100 East and 1700 South. Beyond the technical analysis, the consultant worked with the community through public workshops, institutional stakeholder workshops, community councils, online surveys, and more.
To identify the best route, the consulting firm reviewed all possible directions that the streetcar could go. In making their final recommendation, the consultant investigated how each route would benefit Sugar House from high ridership, limited traffic impacts, low cost per mile, low environmental risks and community compatibility.
Of all the alternatives studied the route going north on 1100 East rises above. The best choice is to get on board now and ride this train to grow our local prosperity.
Kyle LaMalfa represents District 2, the west-side neighborhoods of Glendale, Poplar Grove and Fairpark, on the Salt Lake City Council.