Washington City Council discusses SunTran expansion

Washington City, May 23, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY – SunTran bus expansion into Washington City continues to move forward as the City Council discussed route suggestions and possible costs Tuesday.

Fred Davies, transit manager for the City of St. George, presented preliminary data to the Washington City Council during a work meeting Tuesday night. The information he presented was based on a preliminary draft, he said, and details would change as the potential SunTran expansion received input from city officials and residents.

A draft is just that; a draft,” he said.

A map illustrating a possible route with a number of stops was shown to the council. Needing to provide connectivity with St. George, the proposed bus route will start at Deseret Industries and then make an irregular loop around Washington City.

“My hope would be this would give our residents an opportunity to get to St. George,” City Councilman Thad Seegmiller said. Davies repeated the same hope for people in St. George who wanted to get to destinations in Washington City.

Possible stops along the route include: Wal-Mart, the Washington City Offices, near BioLife Plasma Services, city parks, the area by Washington Elementary School and the Washington City Community Center, among others.

I know a lot of people who want to go to Wal-Mart and Home Depot,” City Councilman Kress Staheli said.

In order to include the Green Springs area in the route loop, Seegmiller suggested the bus run down Main Street, onto Buena Vista Boulevard and over to the Green Springs intersection.

The route would be around 40 minutes long, with possible 20-plus stops along the way like current routes in St. George, Davies said. The bus route would also run from 5:40 a.m. to 8:40 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Ticket costs are projected to be the same as St. George: $1.

Davies said routes in St. George are currently at capacity and the buses are full much of the time. Additional routes will likely expand as the demand for more public transit continues to rise. When SunTran started in 2003, 60,000 rides were taken in the first year of service. In 2012 that number swelled to 500,000 rides.

The anticipated cost to start a bus route in Washington City is around $818,000 based on the preliminary data, Davies said. However, federal grants will cover 80 percent of that cost. The same percentage will also be applied to the new bus needed for the route, which could run around $410,000, Davies said.

With federal grants covering the majority of the costs, Davies said the city would be looking at potentially spending somewhere around $223,000 to get the route going.

Once a bus is procured, it will be kept and serviced by the City of St. George. SunTran itself is administered through St. George and is gradually expanding service into neighboring areas, such as Ivins.

SunTran service in Ivins is anticipated to begin in January 2015. While an interlocal agreement between Ivins and St. George solidifying the expansion was approved in late 2013, it takes up to 18 months for an order for a new bus to be processed, built, and finally delivered.

Depending on how long it takes St. George and Washington City to finalize and approve their own interlocal agreement, SunTran service could begin sometime in the first half of 2016.

The longer we take, the longer it takes to get here,” Seegmiller said.

Jeff Starkey, Washington City’s counsel, said the process shouldn’t take too long. As Ivins officials had already laid down a ground work for such an agreement, he said, it shouldn’t be too hard to apply it to the city’s needs.

“(SunTran) is highly needed by the people who use it,” Davies said.

“We have an obligation to those people,”  Staheli said. “I feel good about this.”

Overall support for SunTran expansion into the city by the City Council was generally positive.

The route and cost of the route have yet to be determined, and will be subject to future input from the Washington City Council and residents at future dates yet to be determined.

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  • Bobless June 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Yesss!! So about time. With a good amount of retail and commercial areas located in Washington, this will be a great asset to the (metro) area.

  • My Evil Twin June 12, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I agree! In fact, I’d be interested in seeing it expanded even further. Lets try to clean up some of our traffic and some of our pollution!

  • Matthew Sevald June 12, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    “The anticipated cost to start a bus route in Washington City is around $818,000 based on the preliminary data, Davies said. However, federal grants will cover 80 percent of that cost. The same percentage will also be applied to the new bus needed for the route, which could run around $410,000, Davies said.”
    So if a new bus costs $410 k, what on earth about starting the route costs an additional $818 k??? Did I miss something? I’d appreciate a look into just what makes some new bus stop signs, setting them into concrete, the wages to do that, and time spent thinking up stop locations cost that much.
    Additionally, can cost be passed on to businesses with a tax for benefiting from the extra foot traffic or a fee for the benefit to have the bus stop put in their parking lot?

    • Mori Kessler June 13, 2014 at 8:26 am

      The cost estimates given at the meeting are preliminary and are subject to change depending upon what Washington City officials finally decide upon. While the numbers above put the start up cost roughly somewhere between $1.12 million and $1.23 million (route start up and bus combined), federal transportation grants cover 80 percent of the costs. The city’s 20 percent investment would be between $223,000 and $245,000 for the first year of service.

      The overall estimate figured in fuel, hiring new employees, maintenance, and associated costs based on preliminary numbers that may change as the process moves forward.

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