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Commuters want better bus service

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Residents from four Salt Lake Valley cities are crying out against the Utah Transit Authority, demanding more and better bus service in their quickly expanding communities.

About 150 men and women from Herriman, Riverton, Bluffdale and South Jordan signed a petition requesting additional bus trips to and from Salt Lake City last week, plus a new regular bus route that would have hourly trips to a light-rail stop.

"I would like to see regular bus service," said Jan Davis, who organized the petition. "That's all we need. It's not asking too much, either."

Davis is an office worker in the Salt Lake City compliance division. She moved to Herriman five years ago from West Valley City, where she had grown accustomed to relying on public transit.

The problem of too few buses has been important to Davis since then, causing her concern for personal safety and mobility and troubling her environmentally friendly conscience.

Every bus to and from the southwestern part of the valley is stuffed to capacity, leaving standing room only even in 65 mph traffic, UTA and Davis agree. Except for commuting times in the morning and evening, no bus service in the southwest valley is available.

Mayors of southwestern cities have taken note of the problem, even borrowing a van from UTA in 2006 and 2007 to run their own transit system during daytime hours. When as few as one rider per day rode the van, the service was shut down.

But Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth, who once rode a bus to the capital city daily, continues to work toward better transit options.

"The only kind of busing we have here, basically, is busing to move people downtown," he said. "It isn't adequate — they have focused on busing for the workers, but there's a huge hole in service for our people who are older or who do not have a car."

Herriman Mayor Crane Lynn has also taken a keen interest in the problem. Both men have pledged to meet with petitioners to explain city efforts and to work toward solutions.

"It may take us some time but the plans are in place to make sure that what they want happens," he said.

UTA is aware of the problem, said company spokeswoman Carrie Bohnsack-Ware. The quasi-public corporation is planning to add a fifth bus traveling to and from the area on weekdays beginning Dec. 14.

Beyond that, funding for improvements is unavailable due to a $7.5 million shortfall in sales tax revenue, Bohnsack-Ware said. Future plans could include extending the planned Mid-Jordan light-rail line into Herriman.

"It's quite difficult because of the area — there is a lot of low density housing in the southern end of the valley," she said, explaining that fares only pay 16 percent to 17 percent of operation costs but that minimum ridership would be necessary for a new route.

UTA does not know how much a new bus route in the area would cost, but a new bus line on Wasatch Boulevard costs about $1.1 million to operate annually, plus about $400,000 for every new bus, Bohnsack-Ware said. The Wasatch Boulevard line serves about 1,700 people per week on seven buses.

Wasatch Front Regional Council, which manages regional transportation planning, hopes "park-and-ride" lots will be included with the construction of the Mountain View Corridor, which will run along 5600 West. WFRC also hopes bus rapid-transit lines will eventually be added to the southwest cities, but didn't include that in their priority funding list for 2030.

"We are all paying sales tax for UTA," Applegarth said. People in Riverton pay that sales tax, but they don't receive that service."

For more information, visit rideuta.com

Contributing: Laura Hancock

E-mail: rpalmer@desnews.com