Saturday, January 6, 2007

Salt Lake City to Portland: Our TOD is Better than Yours

Salt Lake City shows that even a conservative town can be a haven for good transit. As one of the success stories of the transit revolution, the city basked in the glow of exponentially higher than expected ridership and the success of the 2002 Winter Olympics. So it comes as no surprise that this city which completed its first light rail line in 1999 would be a major competitor in the transit space race. Not only are they just competitors, they are taunting the other teams.

Case in point yesterday's article in the Salt Lake City Tribune. The article, about the Depot TOD to be envisioned around a Trax expansion to the intermodal hub showed that the city is pulling no punches in an effort to show everyone who they think is boss. Van Turner, Chairman of the Salt Lake City Council, had this to say.

Parks would take the place of backyards, and galleries, clubs, grocery stores, coffeehouses, restaurants and other retail would create the kind of neighborhoods cities such as Portland, Ore., have built along with their transit systems. City officials have visited Portland many times for inspiration, Turner said. The Depot District, he said, will someday draw the same kind of attention. "These old railroad yards are where we can build the city we want to be," he said. "Portland may be the model now, but soon we'll be the model."

Portland are you gonna take that? I'm not sure if Salt Lake is going to surpass Portland's transit system though. Portland has 4 operational light rail lines and one that's about to be under construction, a commuter rail line under construction, and an operational streetcar. There are also 3 possible streetcar extensions and another planned light rail expansion...not to mention a possible extension over the bridge into Washington.

Compare this to Salt Lake City which has two Trax Lines and a commuter rail line under construction and a small Trax expansion under construction. They just passed a sales tax for four more Trax expansions
(Mid Jordan, West Valley, Airport, Draper) and a commuter rail expansion so they are up and coming. All of this and a planned streetcar could put them up with Portland. It's a very exciting time and I hope they do build a better TOD, perhaps even gloat about it. Because if they do it will just make other cities want to be that much better...which is in the best interest of all of us.

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