TRAX turns 10

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SALT LAKE CITY -- On December 4, 1999, an impressive crowd showed up at the Delta Center stop for the inaugural run of a TRAX train, and Utahns have continued showing up ever since. TRAX ridership has essentially doubled since the first train launched 10 years ago.

"I think it's one of the best things that's happened to Salt Lake," says Holladay resident Tom Corrigan. "TRAX has really made this into a big town."

Salt Lake City resident David Curlee says, "Public transit, I think, is a really good thing for a community to have. It brings people together as riders and gets you from here to there."

When TRAX started out, it had about 600,000 rides the first month. Utah Transit Authority spokesman Gerry Carpenter says the trains are now averaging over a million rides per month, which in turn averages to between 40,000 to 50,000 riders per day.

A decade ago, TRAX was a much less certain proposition, with skeptics -- including a group called the Coalition for Accountable Government -- criticizing the original $300 million line as too expensive and inefficient.

"It does not reduce congestion. It does not reduce pollution. It does not increase development at stations. It's the tax subsidies that increase development," the Coalition for Accountable Government's Drew Chamberlain said in 1999.

According to Carpenter, even some UTA workers had doubts.

"You build this thing, you hope it's going to be a success, and you wonder the night before it opens: Is anybody going to show up?" Carpenter said.

But UTA insisted once built, the public would embrace the light-rail system.

"I think that what will happen, there'll be a public clamor," UTA board president Jim Clark said 10 years ago. "People in West Valley City and Draper and West Jordan, and even people in South Davis County will say, ‘When do we get ours?'"

That comment proved prophetic. New lines were added, and now UTA is building another 70 miles of light-rail track scheduled to be complete in seven years, with eventual plans for street cars, bus rapid-transit and expansion from Brigham City to Payson.

"Our goal is, by the year 2030, to have 90 percent of the Wasatch Front within 1 mile of a major transit stop," Carpenter said.

For a more detailed look at what the system will look like in five years, CLICK HERE.


Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Paul Nelson.

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