We live in a city that undoubtedly cares about public transit. Since the 2002 Olympics, UTA’s expanded their network to include TRAX lines to the airport, West Valley, Draper, and Daybreak; the FrontRunner to Ogden and Provo; the new S-Line streetcar to Sugar House; and future plans for additional streetcar lines downtown and on 900 South. And with the new $30/month Hive Pass for SLC residents, we’re running out of excuses.
TRAX, Front Runner, and the S-Line Streetcar get a lot of love. Understandably too, they’re sleek, sexy, and easy to coordinate your trip with. But what about the ugly ducklings of SLC transit—buses?
With almost 100 separate bus lines in Salt Lake County alone, these ugly ducklings are unquestionably the workhorses of our public transit system. Yet, in the immortal words of Harvey Dangerfield, they get no respect! I’ve found that many residents—even many people who frequently ride public transit—are intimidated by navigating all these bus routes. So I decided to take a bus-only neighborhood trip around Salt Lake.
In just a few hours, I visited many of our city’s far-reaching neighborhoods: Marmalade, The Capitol, Broadway, Main Street, Poplar Grove, Glendale, Nueve y Nueve (900 South 900 West), Ballpark, Central Ninth, Sugar House, 21st & 21st, Foothill, University, the Avenues, State Street, Liberty Park, and 9th and 9th.
- Bus 470 from 200 South State to North Temple and Main
- Bus 500 from North Temple and Main through Marmalade, around the Capitol, and to the FrontRunner station at North Temple
- Bus 516 from the North Temple FrontRunner station through Poplar Grove, Glendale, and Ballpark to the 1300 South TRAX station
- Walked to Central Ninth and then to 900 South State
- Bus 200 from 900 South State to 2100 South State
- Bus 21 from 2100 South State through Sugar House, 21st & 21st, Foothill, and the University to the Medical Center
- Bus 6 from the Medical Center through the Avenues to North Temple and State
- Bus 200 from North Temple and State to 900 South State
- Bus 9 from 900 South State to 900 South 900 East
- Bus 209 from 900 South 900 East to South Temple and State
The best part was that I never waited longer than 15 minutes and I got all my directions from asking bus drivers (if you ever feel lost, just ask a bus driver).
If trains are the arteries of public transit, buses are its capillaries.
Aside from being less respected, buses offer a slew of short- and long-term benefits. Namely, they’re cheaper, they can basically work off of existing infrastructure, and they’re malleable.
Think about it. How much would it cost to build train lines through all Salt Lake’s neighborhoods? And even if we had a bottomless pit of money to work with, where would the trains go? Sadly, our city’s residential neighborhoods aren’t blessed the same wide streets and existing railroad lines that UTA has been able to use for TRAX, the S-Line, and FrontRunner.
Finally, what happens in 5, 10, 15 years as demographics shift and current transit routes no longer serve our community’s needs? Good luck moving train lines… But buses can easily be adapted as needed.
Don’t get me wrong here; this isn’t an either/or buses vs. trains issue. It’s simply an issue of destigmatizing and demystifying bus riding, and helping people realize that you can get almost everywhere in Salt Lake by riding buses.
So get your Hive Pass and explore the neighborhoods of Salt Lake—on a bus. It’s easier than you think!