It’s time for the U to connect to TRAX

By By Matt Homer

By Matt Homer

Although the U touts four TRAX stations along its periphery, the university lacks an adequate link between these stops and central campus. This is a problem that should be addressed by the university in its formation of a long-term master plan–a process that is already underway.

TRAX first came to campus in 2001 and then expanded to its current configuration in 2003. Since that time, the U has benefited greatly from mass transportation. Thousands of students ride TRAX daily, and the U’s housing is a more attractive place to live.

As the university has shifted toward becoming an urban community, its “front door” has also moved. South Campus Drive has replaced University Street, and TRAX stations have become new entry points for students and visitors.

With these realities in place, the new campus blueprint should establish mass transportation as a primary entrance to campus. Most students who ride TRAX use three stations–Stadium, South Campus and Fort Douglas. Of these, South Campus (the station nearest the Huntsman Center and the LDS Institute of Religion) is perhaps most ideal because of its relatively close proximity to central campus and its level terrain.

Unfortunately, students and visitors who enter from this station must make their way through a maze of industrial buildings, gas soaked asphalt, snowplows and a series of parking lots before reaching the core of campus–not exactly the best environment for a front door. Although there are alternative paths, this is the quickest and most direct.

Due to its ideal location, this station should be given a position of pre-eminence in future plans. One option might include moving the university’s industrial complex–University Services, Motor Pool, Building and Grounds, Public Safety and the Physical Plant and Water Plant buildings–to Guardsman Way or Research Park. This would make room for the university to establish a central corridor from the TRAX station directly to the center of campus. A wide promenade that cuts straight to the heart of campus would be an ideal entrance and a much-needed link.

Such a plan would create a new front door to campus–a 21st-century Presidents’ Circle. The pathway could be lined with academic buildings and a large, open interior–the U’s version of the Washington Mall. If such an ambitious plan is financially unfeasible, it might be sufficient to create a simple path that winds its way through the U’s industrial heartland.

Luckily, a steering committee has been formed to create a vision for the U’s physical future. One of its top priorities should be to create a strong connection between central campus and the South Campus station. TRAX has connected to the U; now it’s time for the U to connect to TRAX.