Apr 27, 2023 - Transit

Utah Transit Authority's FrontRunner celebrates 15 years

Photo courtesy: Utah Transit Authority

The Utah Transit Authority celebrated 15 years since the FrontRunner commuter rail train began transporting passengers up and down the Wasatch Front.

Details: The FrontRunner currently spans about 83 miles from Ogden to Provo, with 14 stops in between.

  • Launched in 2008, it's served over 48 million riders, per UTA. More than 3 million people rode the train in 2022 — an average of 12,100 passengers per day.

Why it matters: State leaders say bolstering train ridership could prompt drivers to ditch their cars for public transit, leading to less traffic congestion and better air quality.

What to watch: State transportation officials have plans to eventually double-track additional sections of the FrontRunner line in an effort to ramp up the train's frequency.

  • Double-tracking the FrontRunner will cost nearly $1 billion and allow the train to run every 15 minutes during peak times and every 30 minutes during non-peak hours, instead of every 30 to 60 minutes.
  • The Utah Legislature in 2021 approved $300 million in funding for it.
  • Meanwhile, the Biden administration allotted an additional $316 million to put toward the project in next year's federal budget proposal, KUER reports.

The big picture: The investment comes as Utah's population is projected to more than double by 2060, per the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

  • "Our state is growing quickly, and as it continues to grow, we need to be making the right investments in our transportation system," said Teri Newell, deputy director of planning and investment for UDOT, during a Wednesday news conference at the Salt Lake Central Station.

What they're saying: "FrontRunner has also helped elevate Utah's quality of life by increasing access to education and economic opportunity," UTA board chair Carlton Christensen said. "It has decreased our dependence on personal vehicles and reduced traffic congestion."

The intrigue: Last year, UTA provided free public transit in February to help improve air quality.

  • The initiative prompted a study that looked into the viability of eliminating fares across the UTA system.
  • The report, released in January, found that making public transit free would increase UTA ridership by 36% and reduce one-third of lane traffic on I-15 during rush hour near the Point of the Mountain.

🔮 What's next: Just like Utah's population size, the FrontRunner has big plans to expand.

  • Last year, UTA added an additional stop in Vineyard, the fastest-growing city in America between 2010–2019.
  • State officials currently have plans for the train to run from Brigham City to Payson.
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