Regional transportation planners want to remake Foothill Drive to help carpools and express buses speed students and workers to and from the University of Utah. It's not enough for some Salt Lake City Council members, who heard the plan Tuesday but said they want light rail -- and not just up Foothill, but all the way to Park City. "Anything that encourages more cars is short-sighted and yesterday's planning," Councilman J.T. Martin said.I don't know if I would say yesterday's planning, more like Highway Era. If we go back a little further, we did do it right. But semantics aside, he's got the right idea. But then here comes the study.
Martin and others said the plan focuses too much on moving cars through. Switching to light rail could help reshape land uses, leading to denser housing and new development east of the road, they said.
"What a wasted opportunity," Councilman Luke Garrott said of the Wasatch Front study. He agreed that the plan would cement the current landscape and promote cars instead of using light rail to reshape a major gateway to the city.
But in its study, the regional council dismissed light rail for the foreseeable future, partly because current land uses wouldn't support it, said Wasatch Front Deputy Director Doug Hattery.So which is it? Will light rail shape the gateway or is the land use insufficient for light rail? In my experience it's both. If they put light rail there and hope for growth without any other interventions in land use or development policy, the train will end up being a worthless park and ride route to the city and university (Congrats Utes BTW).
But transportation decisions drive development policy as well. If there is no light rail, there is no reason to get away from business as usual in development. The organizing principle and parking reduction impetus is gone. Express buses and buses in general are land use serving. That is, they will follow the development instead of shaping it. I'm not sure if there is enough of a ridership base to support light rail in this corridor so don't count me committed to one opinion yet and I really don't like light rail in freeway medians, but if they design intelligently with the future in mind, or figure out a way to get what they want, they'll smartly come out of it with something better than business as usual, scrambled eggs and chicken soup.