InterRail Transit Update
From the Western Rail Passenger Review issue 02-02, February, 2002
Commentary by John Dornoff, InterRail Director.
This is a brief recap of what is going on with the transit systems around the InterRail territory. Also included are the web addresses of all the transit systems that have web sites set up and listed with the American Public Transit Association.
- Salt Lake City: Along the Wasatch front things are moving along. The University TRAX line is scheduled to open by the end of the year. In addition, five cites (West Valley City, West Jordan, South Jordan, Taylorsville, and Midvale) have formed a coalition to get the West Valley and West Jordan branches of the North South line started. The most likely next phase of TRAX would be the Draper branch since it would be an extension of the existing North-South line and would use existing rights of way. In addition the Utah Transit Authority has begun expanding bus service with funds made available from the tax increase that was voted in last year. The UTA has implemented Sunday service and plans other expansions of the bus service in a 3 Phase program. South of Salt Lake Utah County is going to vote soon to increase Sales Tax to expand rail service and help pay for the Payson to Salt Lake commuter train route. One thing that is going to hurt this service is that 2 years ago UTA cut bus service and implemented an efficiency bus network that caused a couple of cities to lose all bus service.
- Park City: Park City has planned to expand bus service to areas not being served. These expansions are independent of any service expansions for the Olympics. However, due to the drop off in sales tax since September 11, the proposed expansion has been put off for at least a year until sales tax revenue can recover.
- Cache Valley: In November of 2000 the Cache Valley Area voted to tax themselves to create a new transit district in an area that was not previously served by transit. This area is north of Logan.
- St. George: Last year the first transit service in the Dixie area of Utah was started with a loop around the city of St. George. Until September 11 it looked like the system would be expanded to provide useful transit service to the area. However, the grants and business donations have dried up since the attacks and the bus service may be shut down the next year unless a new source of funds can be found.
- Great Falls: Great Falls has been through an interesting time this past year. First of all it almost lost most of it's funding because the transit system did not apply for its grants for the year. At the same time there was disagreement between the head of the transit system and the transit board. The head of the transit authority has held responsible for the snafu with the grants and other issues and was fired. While all of this was going on the Great Falls Transit system did open up a new downtown transfer station that is in a former Greyhound station with Art Deco architecture.
- Billings: The Union representing the bus drivers of MET are trying to force the transit system to work the bus drivers a full 40 hours. At present most of the bus drivers work 35 to 38 hours per week. The transit authority says that it cannot afford to work drivers 40 hours due to lack of demand.
- Butte: Butte recently did a major revamp of its transit service. It ordered new small busses, is expanding service, and building a new transit center. This is one of the components Butte is using to revive itself.
IDAHO AND WYOMING
- Boise: Boise was studying a diesel light rail line running along the UP Boise Branch. Traffic is increasing in the city of Boise and major reconstruction is going to be needed on Interstate 84 so they are looking at the alternatives.
- Coeur D'Alene: The area around Coeur D'Alene is looking to form a public benefit district to expand transit options in the area. Currently the area is served by NICE, which provides limited bus service in Coeur D'Alene and the surrounding area.
- Spokane: Spokane County is moving ahead with planning of the proposed Spokane to Liberty Lake light rail line. Meanwhile the transit system cut service this past May as a result of loss of revenue from the passage of I-695 that lowered car tabs to a flat $30. The STA has to draw down on its reserves and more drastic cuts are expected in the future. Unlike other transit systems the STA isn't planning to put a sales tax increase on the ballot, at least until the light rail line is ready to go to a vote, which will be at least 5 to 10 years.
- Tri-Cities: (Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick) was planning to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot. However the decision by the transit board was to hold off until the March election to be better prepared. The Tri-Cities previously tried a ballot measure but it was defeated largely due to negative advertising by a group that wants transit service to disappear.