Alex Cragun first saw the flyer on his Neighborhood app.
Someone received it in the mail and shared it on the social networking app, which connects people in their immediate communities.
The flyer showed UTA’s new bus route plans for Salt Lake City avenues, which go into effect Aug. 7.
“The new bus line will affect you!” reports the unofficial flyer. It lists concerns that might be expected, such as busier streets and increased noise. And a few might not be, including that the new routes would reduce housing values and the buses would bring “homeless residents” to the area.
Cragun, who describes his interests as “music, public policy, politics and public transit” on the social media network, was upset. And he shared the flyer on Twitter.
Respondents expressed frustration with people on the avenues who have NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) attitudes.
“My neighbors are honestly so troublesome. Something really terrible seems to be happening at the elevation of 11th Avenue,” one wrote.
Cragun said there were “lots of inaccurate and incorrect claims” in the leaflet, and that people have treated public transport as a second tier for decades.
“People who use public transport, whether out of necessity or a conscious decision to do so, are often seen as less than teenagers,” he said.
But Laurie Holland, an Avenues resident who helped create the flyer, said she’s not anti-busing at all – in fact, she’s been on the bus for years.
She said her biggest concern is that her neighborhood hasn’t been told enough about the changes.
The other points in the flyers — such as housing values or homelessness activity — were added by others and do not represent his own views, Holland said.
“I felt that as an advocate of democracy, open government [and] transparency, if you’re going to make a major change…that people should be informed and allowed to provide input and tell decision-makers how it would affect them,” she said.
The public comment period
The Utah Transit Authority held a 30-day open comment period from March 2 through April 1.
UTA Service Planning Manager Eric Callison said UTA implements service and employee contract changes three times a year, usually in April, August and December, but tries to make major changes in August.
“We’re not trying to harm your community in any way,” Callison said. “We are trying to meet the needs of people who rely on our transit services in this region.
During the recent public comment period, UTA received both positive and negative feedback on the new Avenues routes, he said.
A number of those comments were to the effect of “any street but mine,” he said.
Those comments can be difficult, Callison said, because no matter what UTA does, residents on one street or another are unhappy.
“We have certainly … tracked people who have filed these types of complaints,” he said. “Part of it is an education piece to let people know [that] transit will not be a constant presence.
This isn’t the first time UTA has been pushed back of this nature during transit changes in a neighborhood. But he hopes people will remember that the Avenues sees several hundred bus boardings a day and that the new services will benefit the neighborhood.
Salt Lake City Council member Chris Wharton, who represents District 3, which includes the avenues, also sent comments about the upcoming changes — nearly 100 by email, he said, and almost all opposed to the new bus lines.
He said he can understand why his constituents have concerns (although he stressed he does not have the power to stop UTA).
“Nobody wants to know after the fact that something is going to happen … that’s going to be right in your front yard or on the street outside your house, and feel like the decision has already been made,” Wharton said. “I think that’s the room I’m most concerned about on behalf of my residents.”
UTA officials have been invited to the Greater Avenues Community Council meeting on June 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Corinne and Jack Sweet Library, where they will speak with residents about the upcoming changes. But the official comment period is closed.
Holland, however, says his neighborhood was not given enough advance notice of the comment period: “Obviously the only way you heard about the public comment period was from a bulletin you received if you are a bus driver.”
She said she and other community members have created a “compromise proposal” which they will present to UTA at the meeting, asking for fewer buses for shorter periods of the day.
She is not optimistic that the community meeting will change routes.
“My goal at this time is to publicize an issue for which inadequate public comment was provided,” Holland said. “I’m offended that [the] the government makes decisions without giving people a voice.
The new plans will replace Route 6 (which includes South Temple, N Street and 6th Ave.) with Route 209: serving downtown with north/south connections.
UTA is also introducing Route 1, which will connect downtown Salt Lake City and the University of Utah via South Temple Street.
Callison said the UTA is in the process of determining ideal locations for bus stops, especially for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Major destinations along the New Avenues roads include LDS Hospital and Smith’s at the corner of 6th Avenue and E Street.
Buses will run every 15 minutes, compared to current routes which run every 15 minutes to every 30-60 minutes.
Callison said the 15 minutes between buses seems like a much longer time frame than it looks.
He also said that UTA’s buses use clean diesel fuels or are electric vehicles.
“That image people may have of a bus driving away with a cloud of black smoke behind it hasn’t been true since the 1980s,” Callison said.
Avenues resident Jacqueline Anderson said her biggest concern with the new bus routes was safety. She said people walking to nearby Smiths have to cross E Street and cars going down E sometimes go up to 50 miles an hour.
When drivers reach the blind spot of the hill, they sometimes don’t see pedestrians in time, she said. If UTA adds buses to that mix, “I think people are going to die,” Anderson said.
E Street is wider than other streets north/south of the avenues, allowing buses to pass safely in opposite directions, according to UTA, and Callison said UTA bus operators are trained to watch. pedestrians.