When the Salt Lake City Council meets Tuesday evening, it has a chance to make a nearly immediate impact on the lives of many city residents, for good or ill. In deciding on the next leg of the Sugar House Streetcar, the council should choose the route that will provide benefits, both short-term and long-term, for the greatest number of people.
They should take the streetcar east on 2100 South.
After weeks of debate, much of it published in this newspaper, it is clear that the alternative route, north along 1100 East, is not the best choice right now. The first phase of the streetcar line will be completed this year from the TRAX Central Station at 2100 South and 200 West eastward to Fairmont Park. The logical second phase should take the line east on 2100 South to 1700 East.
Eventually the 1100 East line probably should be added to connect to the TRAX route on 400 South, but right now an extension on 1100 East connects to nothing. However, an eastward route would have two natural destinations in Sugar House Park and Highland High School.
While Westminster College students would have easier access to the campus from an 1100 East route, the college and its students would also be served by an eastbound line. The eventual extension of a 2100 South route to Foothill Drive and the University of Utah TRAX line would create a more useful loop with more ridership than one on 1100 East.
The 1100 East route championed by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker has prompted vocal protests from a large group about 200 attended a public hearing on the alternatives of business owners and residents of the many single-family homes that line the narrow street. Their opinions should be taken into account.
They are rightly worried that the streetcar line would change the character of their neighborhood. While property values might go up, as Councilwoman Jill Remington Love says, that would undoubtedly change the neighborhood, and many people like it just the way it is. It would be better to choose the alignment that puts the streetcar on already more heavily commercial streets.
The worst choice of all would be to do nothing until the city adopts a citywide transportation plan. Such a plan is needed eventually, but this section of a connecting system of transit modes is already under way. There are only two feasible options for extending it. Waiting for months or years would jeopardize the federal funds the city needs to move ahead.
Go east, Salt Lake.