SOUTH SALT LAKE — Rich Sheya doesn’t always ride the South Salt Lake S-Line, but when he does, he said there’s always a bit of a wait.
“It’s really convenient,” he said. “The only drawback is the wait time between the trains. Getting off of the S-Line and getting onto the Red Line that takes you downtown is easy duty. But coming back the other way — getting off the TRAX at Central Pointe and getting on the S-Line — you’ve got a minimum of a 15-minute wait.”
Sheya works as the general manager at the Salt Lake Culinary Center, a home cooking school next to the 300 East streetcar station.
“It all depends on their scheduling,” he said. “If you get there just in time to see the S-Line leave, then you’ve got a 20-minute wait.”
Now those lengthy wait times are scheduled to change.
On Tuesday, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams announced that an additional track will be added to the S-Line that will reduce wait times by 25 percent.
“We want to make it as easy or easier than driving a car,” McAdams said. “If you want to increase the speed of trains, you’ve got to get this double track in.”
The double track will run two blocks from 300 East to 500 East, allowing trains to pass each other without pausing. With the current single track, trains pull to the side at different stations to allow other streetcars to pass.
The extra track will increase the frequency of service from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes.
“Five minutes makes all the difference,” McAdams said. “If you know that every 15 minutes a train’s coming, so it’s not that long of a wait, people are going to make a conscious choice to get out and ride the train rather than drive a car.”
Salt Lake County and the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program are funding the $6 million project.
“Public transit is great for our air quality. If we can get people out of cars and riding transit, it’s less pollution in the air,” the mayor said.
He also hopes the faster streetcar service will help create a strong tax base for South Salt Lake.
“This area of the Salt Lake Valley is booming,” McAdams said. “The investment of this transit line is really the end goal of building a strong foundation for the economy in South Salt Lake.”
Several housing developments are already investing in real estate near the S-Line, including apartments directly across the tracks at the 300 East station.
“The S-Line was a big part of why we selected the location in the first place,” said Mark Isaac, a representative for Westport Capital Partners. “We oriented our building, our lobbies, our sales center, our public space, it’s all oriented to the streetcar line.”
The 2-mile S-Line track averaged 1,262 riders per day last year, according to Utah Transit Authority 2016 statistics.
“We have had steady increases in our S-Line ridership since we opened,” said UTA CEO Jerry Benson. “We increased almost every single month, and we’re up 36 percent since we opened that line.”
UTA officials said preliminary construction will begin as early as the end of this year and actual rail installation will finish in early 2019.