In a previous post, I suggested that if you’re an urban- and transit-minded person visiting a city you don’t know much about, you should deliberately get off the beaten path in that city’s transit system. The idea is that doing touristy or business traveler-y stuff, you get a distorted idea of the city. You’ll learn more about LA transit riding the 720 or the 207 than you will trying to get from the airport to Union Station.
Early this summer, I had a little free time in Salt Lake City. I didn’t have enough time to make it all the way to one of the ends of the lines (other than the airport, which doesn’t count), so I picked Fashion Place West. This station is about halfway out the lines south of Salt Lake City in Murray, where the Red Line and the Blue Line merge together. The UTA light rail system is heavily branching – three lines converge onto a single corridor – which can make providing frequent service to the ends quite difficult. This may not be a huge issue in a place like Salt Lake City, where a single central business district dominates. Anyway, off we go.
Like many western US cities, Salt Lake City is blessed with amazing natural scenery that encourages you to enjoy the long view. From the station, the dark mass of the Oquirrh Mountains rises above the interchange of the 15 and the 215 in soft twilight.
To the east, the much larger Wasatch Front rises in the distance down Winchester St, which leads to the Fashion Place mall, half a mile from the station. This street won’t win awards, but they do have bike lanes and decent sidewalks.
Transit-adjacent barn. It’s not that the density tapers off quickly away from the station; there’s very little to begin with.
Unfortunately, the route to the mall takes you across the 215. That view though.
Still, it’s not a long walk to the intersection of Winchester and State, which has a lot of commercial development.
As you’d expect for a newer US suburb, it’s auto-oriented development, which makes for a little longer walk to get to the actual stuff. It would have been nice to explore further north on State, including some of the nearby residential neighborhoods, but it was getting late, so I grabbed a drink (and food, because Utah) and then headed back to the station.
This is admittedly a difficult area for walkability. The light rail line takes advantage of an existing freight rail corridor, but that means some nearby development is industrial. The 15 and the 215 freeways break up the built environment. There are mixed-use districts and a TOD district in Murray, but at stations further to the north. Most of the land between the Fashion Place West station and State is zoned R-1-8, for single-family houses with minimum 8,000 SF lots.
In places like this, a light rail line may almost be acting like a commuter rail line – albeit one with very good frequency! The parking lots around the station will no doubt drive many urbanists crazy, but they’re probably a necessity to make the line practical for a lot of users. The station has a bus loop, which seems like overkill considering the frequencies on the two routes serving it, though it is the end point for both routes.
I only had a little other free time while in Utah, and I ended up using it to see Temple Square. The next installment of this series, whenever it is, will take us back to Seoul.