A look at Salt Lake City's LRT system offers inspiration and ideas about how Hamilton's LRT could work.
By Larry Strung
Published August 24, 2012
Last week, I attended a conference in Salt Lake City. With all the discussion about Light Rail Transit (LRT) for Hamilton, imagine my delight to see these fresh, modern trains rolling down the boulevard outside my hotel. Needless to say, I just had to slink off from the conference one morning to ride the rails.
Being primarily a photographer, I have assembled a small set of a dozen images with captions that provide an overview of this system. If you squint, see if you can imagine Hamilton in any of these pictures:
Former Train Station
Salt Lake City's Light Rail Transit System train passes in front of the repurposed former train station. The building is now part of a shopping mall complex called the Gateway that includes the former train station, along with sympathetically styled modern buildings arranged to create an attractive outdoor (car-free!) courtyard.
Business for the Gateway complex comes from the many downtown hotels and conference centres that make up the refurbished inner city core. The blend between historic buildings and modern ones helps create a sense of history but with an air of progress as well. People come to Salt Lake City to do stuff, the aesthetics of the historic buildings is a bonus -‐ not the reason why people come to the city.
Downtown LRT station
In the core, where the real estate is a premium, the tracks run down the centre divide between the lanes of car traffic. There are three lines - blue, green, and red. The Trax system is not just a show-piece for the city centre, but a functioning transit system that extends to the suburbs. Future developments already planned include extending the line to the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Trains are airy and clean
The trains are airy and clean, and bicycles are permitted in designated areas in each car. The trains are free to ride in the immediate downtown core - like linking the hotels to the Gateway Center. Beyond the city centre, fares can be bought per destination. I bought a day pass that allowed me to travel the full length of the system - hopping on and off the train as much as I liked - for $5.
Bike storage box
Along the route I noticed these bike boxes - a step up in terms of security compared to the usual bike-wrecking racks you find in many cities, if you find bike racks at all. There weren't a lot of them, but it's a step forward and a clear commitment to using bikes as alternative transportation to the car.
Viable alternative for commuters
Commuters from the suburbs have a viable alternative to driving into the city centre.
The southern end of the red line concludes at Daybreak Parkway.
Where the sidewalk ends
At the south end of the red line the population is sparse indeed. Perhaps the city has planned the Trax system in advance of future land development and continued urban sprawl.
While on the return run from the southern end of the red line, I noticed the maintenance depot. The quantity of trains there - presumably to support peak traffic volume - confirms the commitment made to this transit system.
University of Utah
The north end of the red line concludes at the University of Utah. Here the modern buildings are set back from the road far enough to permit the rails to run alongside the main road.
A lovely and elaborate bridge allows pedestrians to cross safely over the busy road.
2002 Olympic Games monument
A monument to the 2002 Olympic Games, hosted by Salt Lake City, at the base of the bridge suggested to me a link between the creation of the light rail system and federal funding for the Olympics. That wasn't the case, as the plan and funding was already in place before the Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.