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Commuting to and from Weber State University might get easier with potential expansions in public transportation in the Ogden and WSU communities. Utah Transit Authority employees met with the WSU Environmental Issues Committee to discuss the various expansions, most imminently the integration of an express bus between the Ogden Transit Center and WSU.
“We think that we can create some more ridership if we instituted a fast bus, and so we’re looking at doing something from downtown, the transit center, to the university,” said Kent Jorgenson, a UTA marketing employee who met with the Environmental Issues Committee. “We think this would be really exciting and would cause lots of students to be able to access transit.”
The fast bus now has several proposed corridors, either via 30th Street or 36th Street. The fast bus would help to alleviate some of the crowding and travel time facing bus routes heading to and from WSU. Jorgenson said that depending on how things go, the bus might be available as early as next fall.
Using the fast bus as a jumping-off point, the group also discussed other transit options in the WSU and Ogden community, some of which include light rail, streetcars and Bus Rapid Transit. Bill Knowles, project integration manager with UTA, said most people he talks to seem more interested in rail or streetcars.
“Rail’s sexier than buses,” said Knowles, but he added that some bus options are just as sleek and stylish, especially Bus Rapid Transit systems, systems similar to light rail on tires.
An example of a similar project situation would be the highly beneficial expansion of public transit surrounding the University of Utah. A 2006 study found that since expanding services to that campus, roughly 37 percent of the campus population — more than 10,000 people — now use transit to commute to campus, compared to just 21 percent of the campus population in 2002.
“The benefits out of that Salt Lake project and the university project there can’t even be overstated. It was just huge,” Knowles said. “It’s just an incredible transformation for that campus with the transportation system.”
Transit expansion entails both economic and environmental benefits. More public transit means fewer vehicles and vehicle emissions and more parking spaces, and Knowles said economic growth has blossomed around the rail corridors, and it’s important to look at the economic end result, not just the cost of a project.
WSU is also interested in furthering transit expansion. Kevin Hansen, an ex-officio member of the Environmental Issues Committee, said the university has put up money for studies and been working toward acquiring properties.
“The university’s doing a lot to support this,” Hansen said. “The university’s behind this. I just think we need to keep the students aware that we’re pursuing this and anxious to see it happen.”
The expansion is still in the works, though, and meets slow going in the face of getting everyone on board.
“The process of getting one of these systems started is the killer,” Knowles said. “The construction time, when you get to digging and starting to put these things in, that’s the shortest time frame.”
But there’s still a lot of hope for Ogden transit expansion. Knowles said the Ogden area is one of the most attractive and most sensible for UTA projects to increase public transit availability and ridership.
“We’re seeing this whole Wasatch Front — in the future we can see it all connected, and this remains one of the last places in terms of getting that link started beyond the current bus system,” he said.
UTA and the Environmental Issues Committee would like to get students involved and promote discussion and awareness about the potential project. Having support behind the project can ensure the project goes through.