Exploring the Salt Lake City Region
The Wasatch Front Regional Council hosted SACOG board and leaders
August 16, 2022: In June 2022, the Wasatch Front Regional Council invited SACOG board members and guests to tour the Salt Lake City, Utah, region and learn how their long-range planning has taken shape for the growing region.
The Salt Lake City region has many similarities to the Sacramento region. A cluster of cities are nestled in a valley between the Great Salt Lake and the base of the Wasatch mountain range, which provides a stunning backdrop for residents and visitors. Salt Lake City and Sacramento both grew at a rate of 8 percent from 2010 to 2020. Leaders juggle residents’ priorities and balance growth while working to preserve the beauty and character of the area.
During the two-day event, participants visited cities throughout the Salt Lake City region and were fortunate to be welcomed by elected officials, transportation planners, developers, and community leaders. The 30-plus speakers shared their insights and ideas of what a thriving and vibrant community looks like for them.
Getting around the region
Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is the region’s public transportation provider. Attendees had the opportunity to ride TRAX (UTA’s light rail system), FrontRunner (commuter rail system), and the Utah Valley Express (a bus rapid transit system operating a 10-mile line in Provo and Orem).
UTA planners discussed strategies that have allowed the agency to build up transit-oriented developments that easily connect residents across cities, reducing the reliance on single-occupancy vehicles.
Placer County Supervisor and SACOG Board Member Bonnie Gore attended the tour. “One takeaway for me was considering transit as a part of infrastructure for development just like we consider roads,” shared Gore. “Both are expensive, and we don’t get full cost recovery when they are provided; however, they are necessary as we build needed housing. If we can invest in the right type of transit for a community, it will reduce the traffic on our local roads and highways.”
Creating experiences and activating spaces
Tour attendees walked along several pedestrian-focused corridors that connect residents and visitors to retail, parks, and restaurants. Speakers emphasized the importance of building a place that feels good to be in and walk around in. Just having ground-floor retail doesn’t always equal foot traffic if people don’t feel good in the space.
Regionalism drives a shared vision for Salt Lake City
In the late 1990s, a group of leaders and citizens formed a nonprofit organization known as Envision Utah. The organization “engages Utahns in collaborative, bottom-up decision making,” according to the website, which helps to drive collaboration for growth. Envision Utah’s work inspired SACOG to undertake a similar visioning process, which turned into SACOG’s 2004 Sacramento Region Blueprint. The organization continues to lead the way in ensuring the shared vision stays the course.
“They have a regional economic development plan that lives at the 30,000-foot level, and everyone understands it and buys into it for the most part,” said Sacramento Metro Chamber Chief Executive Officer Amanda Blackwood, who attended the tour. “Heads of organizations may change, leadership may change, but the long-term vision of what the region will look like lives outside it and allows for change,” she added.
Interested in exploring more?
Yuba County Supervisor and SACOG Board Member Gary Bradford attended the tour of Salt Lake City and a tour of Northern Virginia earlier this year. He shares his insights and how some of these concepts could be applied to areas in his jurisdiction.