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The best bus ever
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Monday, January 15, 2007

SLC loves its light rail

From The Arizona Republic, a story on Salt Lake City's embrace of light rail:

When light rail opened here seven years ago, people lined up around the block. From the first day, the trains carried more people than were forecast for 2025.

Seats are still scarce as the boxlike trains thread through downtown. On a bitter cold day last month, they filled up with office workers heading north and construction workers and retail clerks going south. Lines of trains waited for Utah Jazz fans. Families flocked back from a downtown mall with armfuls of gifts.

Residents of the Salt Lake area have embraced light rail to a degree that few imagined. ... The area has voted for five light-rail extensions, including to places that once shunned rail. One was a suburban county where 88 percent of voters backed President Bush in 2004. The first time they were asked to vote on rail, 60 percent backed it.

So far, Salt Lake has invested $2 billion in local funds as part of a plan to build 50 miles of light rail and 120 miles of commuter rail.

Over the next 75 years, suburbs are planning to put residents of big luxury homes into trains, while uranium plants and Superfund sites are becoming stations and station communities.

This is a slightly longer version of the story that ran in the Idaho Statesman today. Read it all here. One of its lessons: It really helps if some big players get behind the idea. (In SLC's case, these included the LDS Church and auto dealer/Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller.) If Boise State or Micron did the same thing here - teaming with Valley Ride and encouraging and subsidizing employees to take transit - who knows what would be possible?

Light rail seems to be a ways down the wish list for Treasure Valley transportation advocates, but it's certainly good to see it succeeding in another area that's "conservative, tax averse and fond of the open vistas and open roads."

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