Transportation in Salt Lake City

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Transportation in Salt Lake City consists of a wide network of roads, an extensive bus system, a light rail system, and a recently introduced commuter rail line. Although Salt Lake City, Utah is a traditionally car-oriented city (as are most other cities in the United States), the rapidly growing public transit system has a high number of riders for a city of its size, and public transit is widely supported by the populace.

All public transit in the city is operated by the Utah Transit Authority. In addition to operating the bus system, they also operate the TRAX light rail system, which contains three lines, the first of which runs from downtown south to Sandy (but soon to Draper), the second runs from University of Utah southwest to South Jordan, and the third from downtown Salt Lake City southwest to West Valley City and west to the Salt Lake City International Airport. (By August 2013, the extension from Sandy to Draper is expected to open for service.) A recently completed commuter rail line, called FrontRunner, runs north through Davis County to Pleasant View in north Weber County and south to Provo in central Utah County. The road system is also extensive, with 3 interstate highways and an additional state freeway. However, the geographical constrictions of the valley, as well as its rapid growth, has led to severe congestion problems.


The "Spaghetti Bowl"

Two major interstate highways, Interstate 15 and Interstate 80, intersect just west of downtown. I-15 comes in from Davis County on the north and heads straight south through the Salt Lake Valley to Utah County. I-80 comes in from Tooele County on the west and passes the Salt Lake City International Airport before merging with I-15 west of downtown. The merge continues south for about 3 miles (4.8 km) before I-80 splits east again. It passes through largely residential areas through northern South Salt Lake and the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City before entering Parley's Canyon and then entering Summit County.

Interstate 215, known as the "Belt Route", forms a 270° loop around Salt Lake City and its first-ring suburbs. It enters the Rose Park neighborhood in northwestern Salt Lake City from Davis County (where it recently split from I-15) and continues south, intersecting I-80 and State Route 201 before turning east in Taylorsville, intersecting I-15 in Murray, and turning north in Holladay. From there it parallels the Wasatch Range through the affleunt residential eastern suburbs before ending at I-80 at the mouth of Parley's Canyon. This belt route largely serves as a commuter route for the suburbs.

The 2002 Winter Olympics prompted an urgent acceleration of the already planned massive overhaul of I-15, from 600 North in Salt Lake City to 10600 South in Sandy. The interstate was expanded to 10 lanes, including 2 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV/express) lanes. Portions of I-80 and I-215 were also reconstructed.[1] Since original construction, the HOV lanes have been evolved to what the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) refers to as Express Lanes. These Express Lanes, also known as high occupancy/toll (HOT) lanes are for use by vehicles with two or more persons (including buses), motorcycles, and clean-fuel vehicles. Other vehicles can also use the lanes if they use an Express Pass. The Express Pass allows for automatice electronic toll collection. Tolls vary by distance driven in the lanes and current traffic congestion.

State Route 201, known locally as the "21st South Freeway" or as "201", is a freeway that heads westward from the southern I-80/I-15 junction, known as the "Spaghetti Bowl", along the border of Salt Lake City and West Valley City. This is a largely congested route that serves much of the west side commuter traffic. As it dips southward into Magna, it is downgraded to an expressway, although it is eventually planned to be upgraded to a freeway as traffic from Tooele County increases. It continues westward to I-80 near the Tooele County line. In addition to serving the westside of the valley SR-201 also serves as a commuter freeway for Tooele County and an alternative to I-80 when needed.

Bangerter Highway (State Route 154) is an expressway that serves the quickly growing west and south sides of the valley. It begins near I-15 in Draper then heads west through Bluffdale and Riverton before heading north along the west side of the valley through South Jordan, West Jordan, West Valley City, and Salt Lake City before crossing over I-80 and ending at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Another expressway, that will eventually become a freeway, is the Mountain View Corridor ([SR-85] and a section of the Legacy Highway project) which will run from Utah County along the west side of the valley until it reaches I-80. So far only the frontage road portion of the section that runs from Redwood Road (SR-68) at about 16000 South north to 5400 South (SR-73) at 6400 West has been completed. However, these frontage roads will function as a four lane divided expressway until the freeway is completed.

Another major roadway through the valley is State Street, which is the portion of US-89 that shoots arrow-straight south through the valley from Downtown Salt Lake City to Draper, before connecting with I-15.

Public Transit[edit]

There are several modes of public transportation, all of which are operated by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA).

A TRAX train in downtown Salt Lake City.

Light Rail (TRAX)[edit]

Main article: TRAX (light rail)

TRAX is a 50-station, 45-mile light rail system (officially called "Transit Express")[2] that serves Salt Lake County. In anticipation of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the system was approved in 1995. The first line began service on 4 December 1999[3] and currently links downtown with Draper, and another line to the University of Utah was completed in 2001,[4] with an extension to the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in 2003.[5] Extensions to West Valley City and to South Jordan were opened in 2011. An extension from downtown to the Salt Lake City International Airport opened in April 2013. The extension from Sandy to Draper opened in August 2013. There are also eventual plans for a TRAX line to connect the Airport extension to the South Jordan extension (roughly along the path of the Mountain View Corridor). In the far future, light rail might also be extended into southern Davis County[6] and northern Utah County.

Commuter Rail (the FrontRunner)[edit]

The FrontRunner at North Temple Station at it passes under the North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe TRAX Station (which takes riders to center of Salt Lake City and to the Salt Lake International Airport).
Main article: FrontRunner

The FrontRunner (so named because it runs down the Wasatch Front urban corridor), is a 16-station, 88-mile commuter rail line that runs from Pleasant View to Provo through Salt Lake City.[7] By 2020, it is expected to extend from Brigham City in Box Elder County to Payson in southern Utah County, the approximate extents of the Wasatch Front. The first segment, between Salt Lake City and Pleasant View (just north of Ogden) began construction on 10 August 2005 and was opened on 26 April 2008.[8] The FrontRunner was finally extended to Pleasant View on 29 September 2008, with just morning and evening service (Ogden serves as the de facto terminus most of the day). Construction on the FrontRunner South extension south to Provo (in central Utah County) opened for service on 10 December 2012.


A UTA bus

UTA also runs the bus system in the Salt Lake City area. The bus system reaches almost everywhere within Salt Lake City, and many points in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond, serving the entire length of the Wasatch Front. Other services provided by UTA include a paratransit service, which has curbside pickup for disabled riders, express buses running between Salt Lake City and its major suburbs, and winter service to the ski resorts in the Wasatch Range.

Transit service (bus and light rail) is free within Downtown Salt Lake City and the adjacent area up to the State Capitol, this area being referred to by UTA as its Free Fare Zone.[9]

Bus Rapid Transit (MAX)[edit]

Main articles: MAX (UTA) and 3500 South MAX

The UTA's first bus rapid transit (BRT) line (called 3500 South MAX) runs along 3500 South in Salt Lake County, running from Magna to the Millcreek TRAX station via West Valley City. Several other MAX lines are in the planning stages, including Taylorsville. MAX lines differ substantially from regular local bus service and have been described by UTA as "light rail [TRAX] on rubber tires".[10]


S Line trains in Salt Lake City.
Main article: S Line (UTA)

For several years city officials have been studying the idea of building a modern streetcar line,[11][12] a lower-speed and lower-capacity type of rail system than the TRAX light rail, and similar to the Portland Streetcar and Seattle's South Lake Union Streetcar, both of which have been visited and studied by Salt Lake officials in connection with this proposal. The S Line (formerly known as Sugar House Streetcar) began service in December 2013.[13] The S Line connects the Central Pointe TRAX station in South Salt Lake with the Sugar House business district, running along a two-mile section of 2300 South.[14] This developed from an earlier proposal for a heritage streetcar line. The estimated cost was $40 million to $50 million, but officials predict that the line would generate much new property development in the areas through which it would run and would raise the value of existing development.[12] The city of Salt Lake is providing $2.5 million and has requested money from the federal government to have the line complete by 2012.[15]


Destinations with non-stop service from Salt Lake City International Airport in 2014.

Salt Lake City is serviced by the Salt Lake City International Airport and serves as a hub for Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection partner SkyWest Airlines.[16] The airport offers non-stop domestic and international flights to cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Tokyo, Vancouver, Calgary, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cancun, and Paris.[17] A regional airport, known as South Valley Regional Airport (formerly known as Salt Lake Airport 2), is located in West Jordan and serves as a general aviation and military helicopter training airport.

Passenger rail & bus[edit]

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Salt Lake City, (which is part of the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub) operating its California Zephyr daily in both directions between Chicago, Illinois and Emeryville, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area).

Greyhound Lines, provides interstate and intercity commercial bus service and operates out of the Salt Lake Intermodal Hub. Some of Greyhound's connections are operated in conjunction with Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach.


Three taxicab services exist in Salt Lake City: Ute Cab, City Cab, and Yellow Cab.[18] In 2004, a controversy sprung up between entrepreneurs wishing to enter the taxi market in the city, and the mayor's office, which has maintained tight restrictions on the taxi fleet. The controversy was fueled by Yellow Cab's advocacy of Mayor Rocky Anderson's re-election campaign by displaying the mayor's campaign ads wrapped around the company's taxis, and further by the decision by the mayor's campaign not to report this as a political in-kind contribution. Anderson drove a cab for Yellow Cab while in college.


  1. ^ "Facts About I-15 Reconstruction". (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 30 Sep 2012. [dead link]
  2. ^ "TRAX Name Selected". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). 3 Mar 1997. p. A1. 
  3. ^ Van Eyck, Zack (5 Dec 1999). "All aboard TRAX -- riders jam trains UTA overwhelmed by opening day response". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013. 
  4. ^ Culler, Leah L. (14 Dec 2001). "All aboard (Saturday) for U. TRAX". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013. 
  5. ^ Fattah, Geoffrey (30 Sep 2003). "UTA extends TRAX line to U. med center". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013. 
  6. ^ Daley, John (8 Sep 2008). "Planners explore possibility of TRAX north to Davis County". (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013. 
  7. ^ "FrontRunner Launches With Grand Opening And Massive Crowds". KUTV (Salt Lake City: Sinclair Broadcast Group). 27 Apr 2008. Retrieved 10 Sep 2008. [dead link]
  8. ^ "UTA Announces FrontRunner Grand Opening Date!" (ASP) (Press release). Utah Transit Authority. 26 Mar 2008. Retrieved 18 Jul 2008. 
  9. ^ Utah Transit Authority (Apr 2013) (JPG). Free Fare Zone (Map). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013.
  10. ^ "Bus Rapid Transit" (PDF). Utah Transit Authority. Retrieved 25 Mar 2013. 
  11. ^ "Mayor Becker's State of the City" address" (PDF). 13 Jan 2009. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b Falk, Aaron (30 May 2009). "Streetcars could roll in 3 years: Becker says plans for $50M route to Sugar House on track". Deseret News (Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 13 Mar 2013. 
  13. ^ Vo-Duc, Viviane (5 Sep 2013). "New streetcar S-line set to open Dec. 8 in Sugar House". Deseret News (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). Retrieved 17 Sep 2013. 
  14. ^ Sugar House Trolley blog
  15. ^ "SLC to put up money for streetcars in Sugar House". (Salt Lake City: Deseret Digital Media). 19 Aug 2009. Retrieved 19 Aug 2009. 
  16. ^ "Delta to Link Eight More U.S. Communities to Salt Lake City Hub" (Press release). Delta Air Lines. 19 Feb 2009. Retrieved 23 Aug 2009. 
  17. ^ "Downloadable Route Maps". Delta Air Lines. Retrieved 23 Aug 2009. 
  18. ^ "Salt Lake City Transportation - Taxi / Cabs / Light Rail / Trax / Ski Bus / Airport Shuttles / Limo's". Salt Lake at a Glance Visitor Guide. Retrieved 12 Sep 2008.