Much more, potentially.
The main thrust of the $79 million BRT proposal, in the works for years, is overhauling and upgrading the UTA bus route linking the transit center, the Weber State campus and McKay-Dee Hospital southwest of the college. As is, it’s one of the busiest UTA lines in the county and the changes aim to make travel in the busy corridor quicker, more reliable and more convenient.
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But those involved, including UTA officials and leaders from Ogden, Weber County and Weber State, envision more. The faster, more modern system, linking UTA’s FrontRunner station and some of the key destinations in Ogden, could help jump start and revitalize the neighborhoods along the 5.3-mile corridor.
“The corridor becomes more attractive because you have more options to get around,” said Hal Johnson, a UTA project manager who’s helping guide the BRT plans here. What’s more, he maintains, its eye-catching stops, some akin to light-rail stations, and other attributes will get people outside and drum up interest in the area, potentially drawing in new development.
To be sure, the BRT proposal — similar to UTA’s Utah Valley Express BRT line in Utah County, launched last August — doesn’t contain funds earmarked for neighborhood revitalization. That sort of change would come more from the private sector or city initiatives meant to encourage development, like zoning changes, perhaps. “That’s driven by the city itself,” Johnson said.
“There’s been a huge revolution along the corridor, 400 South,” Johnson said. The injection of private sector funding after the TRAX extension has transformed the roadway into something of a destination and commercial corridor, expansion dubbed transit-oriented development, or TOD, by planners.
“Transit-oriented development is about creating an environment where housing is accessible and affordable and where everyone can walk or ride safely to the park, school, work or go shopping, all without needing to drive,” reads Ogden Onboard, a February report by BRT boosters on the BRT plans. “Achieving this for the Ogden/Weber State corridor requires a vision that inspires local leaders, developers and neighbors to think creatively about the possibilities of what the corridor can become.”
Indeed, Greg Montgomery, planning director for the city of Ogden, thinks the BRT system could create interest in higher-density development along the corridor, like apartments and other multi-dwelling structures. Like Johnson, though, he said it would fall to city leaders to revise city rules and regulations to allow for such change.
The BRT route here, connecting 13 stations in all, would extend east from the transit center at 2350 Wall Ave. along 23rd Street to Washington Boulevard and then turn south to 25th Street. It’d continue on 25th Street east to Harrison Boulevard and then go south to Weber State and McKay-Dee Hospital.
The plans, also aimed at reducing congestion and pollution by encouraging use of the BRT system, have been in the works for years, and construction is tentatively scheduled to start next year and be done in 2022. Much of the $79 million for the new system would come from the feds, though they have yet to definitively commit to the project. UTA, Weber State and local governmental entities plan to pitch in money as well.
DEDICATED LANE ON HARRISON
Though city efforts and initiatives would be key in spurring parallel development along the proposed BRT corridor, Montgomery and Johnson point to attributes of the system that also might help.
The BRT stations will be “more than just a sign at the corner and here’s where the bus stops,” Montgomery said.
They’d be noticeable, more like a light-rail stop, with means for off-board fare collection. “We’d love to see things happening around the stations, like art,” said Johnson.
The system is to be quicker and more reliable than traditional buses. On Harrison Boulevard south of 32nd Street, the BRT system would travel on a dedicated lane that autos probably wouldn’t be able to enter, down the middle of the street. Moreover, UTA plans to install a transit signal priority system along Harrison that will help time traffic light changes to keep BRT buses moving, a system used by the TRAX system in Salt Lake City as well. BRT buses will also run fairly frequently, aiming to encourage use.
As is, the UTA bus line that travels the rough corridor where the BRT will travel, route 603, carries around 1,700 passengers a day, according to Johnson. With the BRT system, he expects that to jump to 3,100 in relatively short order, with another 2,000 to 3,000 using the parallel system to be developed to haul people around the Weber State campus.
The UVX system in the Provo area, connecting Utah Valley University, Brigham Young University and more, has shown results. The traditional UTA bus line along the route had hauled around 2,000 to 3,000 people per day. But since the changeover to UVX, Johnson said, the figure has jumped to 11,000 a day.
As they await final word from the feds on funding, UTA officials have sought bids for development of the Ogden BRT system.