This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
SOUTH SALT LAKE - Utah's newest transportation option arrives here Monday, a bus called MAX that moves people faster from Magna through West Valley City to the Millcreek TRAX rail station.
Bus rapid transit, a series of buses that act more like light rail with their own dedicated lanes, is popular in Europe and South America, and fast gaining ground in North America. The Utah Transit Authority's first line travels mostly along 3500 South Street from Magna past Valley Fair Mall to TRAX at 3300 South, with one arriving every 15 minutes. It makes only 14 stops east of Magna, helping shave a half hour or more off of a route that now takes up to an hour and a half, depending on traffic.
When the state finishes construction and utility work on 3500 South next year, the new buses will have their own lanes down the middle of the street, saving up to 20 percent more time. At that point the covered bus stops will move to the street's center.
MAX buses have three doors, including one by the rear seat, and riders will purchase tickets from vending machines before entering the bus. As on TRAX, riders will be on an honor system and transit cops will spot-check for fare payment.
"The main concept is to get people on it and off it quickly," UTA spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware said.
The agency will wait to evaluate the popularity of this and a similar line planned to shuttle Provo riders from Brigham Young University to FrontRunner commuter rail when that train reaches Utah County, then decide whether and where to build more dedicated bus lanes. But the regional planning authority, the Wasatch Front Regional Council, is banking heavily on the concept in its 30-year transportation plan.
Bus rapid transit is planned for routes that have heavier ridership projections than conventional bus routes but not enough to justify light-rail construction, Wasatch Front spokesman Sam Klemm said. By 2030, regional officials expect to have bus rapid transit going south from the University of Utah on Foothill Drive, north from Salt Lake City into Davis County, and south from the airport along 5600 West, among other, shorter routes. The council may switch to streetcars instead for Davis County, because local officials favor that, Klemm said.
The next bus rapid transit line likely will be along 5600 West, in conjunction with Mountain View Freeway construction. Ultimately that line would be converted to light rail, closing a TRAX loop from downtown to the airport and then south to the Mid-Jordan rail line now under construction.
The MAX system is tens of millions of dollars cheaper than a light-rail line would be for 3500 South. The total cost for seven buses, the stations and the dedicated lanes will be about $17 million, according to UTA, compared with $100 million for a TRAX line. It is funded entirely through local taxes. Local buses on the route will continue to run, making more frequent stops.
Las Vegas has run a federal demonstration project with 7 1/2 miles of bus rapid transit since 2004, netting 2.5 million riders last year, from downtown toward Nellis Air Force Base via Las Vegas Boulevard.
"We've heard great things from our riders and we like it so much we're creating a new system that will connect really the entire Las Vegas Valley," said Tracy Bower, Las Vegas Regional Transportation Commission spokeswoman.
Other cities developing rapid bus transit systems include Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., Cleveland, Eugene, Ore., and Kansas City, Mo.
* Buy a $2 ticket at any station.
* Push the exterior button to open any of the three bus doors, as on TRAX.
* Sit down. No need to show ticket to driver.
* Push one of interior buttons to request a stop.
* Push one of the door buttons to open and exit.
* Transfer with ticket to any UTA local bus route or TRAX train.
* If using a wheelchair, enter at the middle door to find four chair spaces.
* All bus stops in Magna loop, 8400 West-9200 West.
* 8400 West
* 8000 West
* 7200 West
* 6400 West
* 5600 West
* 4800 West
* 4000 West
* 3600 West
* Market Street
* Valley Fair Mall
* Decker Lake Drive
* Redwood Road
* 1200 West
* Millcreek TRAX station, 3300 South