Comments of Christopher Thomas, 2722 South 1000 East APT A, 84106, regarding the proposed Phase 2 streetcar alignment. April 23, 2012.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments to you this evening regarding the Phase 2 streetcar alignment.
Although I am the Chair of the Sugar House Community Council, and I have provided official Sugar House comments on separate letterhead, these oral comments that I am giving today reflect my personal thinking, and not the official position of the Sugar House Community Council.
First, I would like to express my appreciation to the City staff for their professionalism, and to the Mayor and City Council for investing time, energy, and money into the Sugar House streetcar. Without their time and dedication we wouldn't have a Phase 1 streetcar, let alone a Phase 2.
I also want to applaud the City Council's effort to devise a master transit plan for Salt Lake City. I believe that most City residents will only abandon their cars when there is a mass transit system that accommodates most of their daily travel in fewer than one transfer. Only then will you see massive conversion of car drivers to transit riders. That will take a lot of planning and dollars and some time, but I think it's a very worthy goal that will yield benefits in reduced traffic congestion, supporting development opportunities, and ultimately, air quality.
With that in mind, my preference is to wait until that master transit plan is devised before deciding where the Phase 2 streetcar alignment should be directed.
However, I know that Mayor Becker feels strongly that there is advantage in deciding on a preferred alignment sooner than later. If the Council agrees, and one alignment is chosen over another in advance of the completion of the City transit plan, then I favor extending the streetcar to the Shopko block, and then East along 2100 South.
The second phase of the streetcar isn't just about mass transit. It's about instituting a new kind of development, one that pairs mass transit with denser development. The denser development not only enhances the effectiveness of mass transit, but also affords a way to finance the streetcar, through property taxes. I believe the Shopko block will provide an anchor for this new strategy, affording new development opportunities for higher density residential and commercial enterprises.
In addition, I like the fact that many stretches along 2100 South have two lanes in each direction, more room to accommodate streetcar traffic.
Furthermore, I believe the Sugar House Park will be a popular destination along the proposed 2100 East alignment, one that was not fully considered in the City's ridership analysis.
Lastly, I believe this 2100 East leg should eventually be extended East and West, thus connecting the employment Center along the Western half of 2100 South with Foothill and ultimately the University to the East.
However, even with the 2100 South alignment, resident and business concerns remain:
Businesses wonder if the streetcar construction will destroy their businesses. Residents worry that the streetcar might cause their nearby properties to lose value.
I urge the City staff to release data and best practices learned from recent transit-related construction efforts in other parts of the City (400 South and North Temple) to better inform Sugar House businesses of the most recent data we have, and as a way of addressing these concerns.
In conclusion, I would prefer that the City wait to decide on a preferred alignment until after the City-wide transit plan is complete. However, if a decision is made before then, my personal recommendation is to connect the Sugar House streetcar with the Shopko block, and then to proceed East along 2100 South.
I believe this alignment creates the best opportunity for capitalizing on the advantages of mass transit and transit-oriented development, while respecting the concerns and wishes of many Sugar House residents and businesses.
-Christopher Thomas, Chair