This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
What image comes to mind when the words "Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker" and "transportation" are combined? It may be him often bicycling around town, pushing for more bike lanes or promoting the city's GreenBike rental program.
A new Salt Lake Tribune poll has mixed news for him about those efforts.
The good news: A plurality of 35 percent says the city is giving the "right amount" of attention to bike lanes and related issues, while 26 percent say this area is given "too little" attention. But 31 percent said the issue is given "too much" attention.
The bad news: Another question allowed residents to choose from four options for what the city should focus on most to improve mass transit. Adding more bike lanes came in last, at 11 percent.
Adding circulator buses came in first place at 32 percent, while creating the city's own bus system was chosen by 16 percent meaning a combined 48 percent preferred some sort of focus on improving bus service. Also, 23 percent chose adding streetcars, and 18 percent were unsure.
That is according to a poll for The Tribune conducted by SurveyUSA from July 13-21. It surveyed 662 registered voters in Salt Lake City, and has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
Salt Lake City conducted its own poll in June that shows a slight majority of residents 53 percent rarely if ever use bike lanes or bike trails in the capital. One in five use these amenities at least weekly.
Robin Hutcheson, transportation director for the city, said the city does not overly focus on bicycles while that may be a misconception because "recent improvements to bicycling facilities have received a lot of attention."
She adds that efforts to improve cycling "are well-balanced with other modes. Over the past few years bicycle-related projects have received less than 10 percent of overall transportation funds."
Hutcheson adds, "We are working to improve all modes of transportation in Salt Lake City. Underway now is the city's first Transit Master Plan, which will provide a strategy for the city to improve public transportation in and between all of our neighborhoods."
Hutcheson said the poll questions are narrowly focused on biking and mass transit, and said that is only a portion of the city's transportation work.
"By asking people to choose among streetcars, circulator buses and bike lanes, the poll may be skewing results because people are asked to pick only a single top priority, she said. "In many cases we hear people want more choice overall, which could include all of the options listed."
Hutcheson said she is not surprised to see that additional bus service is the top-ranked priority, "and the city's efforts on the Transit Master Plan are well timed and provide a framework for those improvements."
The city's recent poll found 51 percent of residents rarely, if ever, use mass transit. A slight majority (52 percent) also said buses and trains don't run late enough at night.
About other work, she said, "We are addressing pedestrian safety by installing approximately 20 new projects," costing $4 million. "These projects include several traffic signals which help to provide visibility and safety for all roadway users."
More bike lanes are also being added downtown.
Becker has campaigned, in part, by pointing to improvements in transportation.
On his campaign website, he writes, "We've expanded bike ways and developed light rail lines. We've built new trails and made transit more affordable [with city-subsidized passes]. We've created walkable communities and brought back streetcars."
Some other candidates have criticized part of that.
Jackie Biskupski, for example, earlier this year called the new Sugar House streetcar "a train to nowhere that isn't anything like what we were led to believe," and opposed plans to expand it on routes opposed by neighbors. She called for a circulator bus in Sugar House to help alleviate traffic problems.
Candidate Luke Garrott, chairman of the City Council, has also called for the city to create its own transit system, instead of relying on the Utah Transit Authority.
He writes on his campaign website, "UTA's service leaves much to be desired, and a city-run transit company can supplement and coordinate with the existing UTA system in ways that will ensure convenient and reliable transportation in every SLC neighborhood."
Candidate George Chapman, in testimony this week to the Salt Lake County Council against a proposed sales tax hike for transportation, took a shot at the transit master plan coming from the Becker administration.
He predicted it will "come out and say we need a whole bunch of streetcars downtown" and "three new rail lines for downtown."
He said "that's a recipe for disaster," and says what is needed instead is improved bus service.
Candidate Dave Robinson, on his campaign website, slams Becker's support for studying transportation options in Wasatch canyons including "a train running up Little Cottonwood Canyon and digging a 2-mile tunnel through the mountain into Big Cottonwood."
Robinson says that could harm the city's watershed. He suggests that a simpler and better solution would be to increase bus service there.