Salt Lake City Lines

This page was last updated on October 1, 2006.

Motor Bus Society
By Van C. Wilkins and Eli Bail

(Digitally scanned from Motor Coach Age, Volume 29, Number 3, March 1987)

Pacific City Lines purchased the transit operations of UL&T. The UL&T retained ownership of power facilities which had been leased to Utah Power & Light in 1915. On December 31, 1944, UP&L assumed ownership of these UL&T assets (along with responsibility for remaining UL&T liabilities) and then UL&T ceased to exist. Thus UL&T sold only its transit operations to PCL. Both UL&T and UP&L were owned, through a subsidiary, by Electric Bond & Share Co.

At the time that Pacific City Lines purchased the transit operations of UL&T, it was an Oakland-based holding company which controlled 12 properties in 3 western states -Montana, Washington and Califonria. PCL's wartime earnings allowed the purchase of the Salt Lake property just a few months after acquisition of the utility-owned transit system in Sacramento, the capital of another western state, California. National City Lines had held a substantial interest in PCL but had relinquished control during a major refinancing in 1940. Management and operating methods were, however, little changed, and except for equipment numbering practices, there were few external differences between PCL and NCL properties.

When ownership changed, Dale W. Barratt became assistant general manager of Salt Lake City Lines. Barratt had started with UL&T in 1934 as a streetcar operator, soon advancing to dispatcher and supervisor. In 1936, he was put in charge of traffic and scheduling and later became superintendent of transportation. Dale Barratt's fortunes would remain intertwined with those of Salt Lake City Lines until it would cease to exist some 36 years after he piloted his first streetcar.

Given the wartime conditions and the strains on public transit, there was little that Salt Lake City Lines could do immediately to improve services. There were things, however, that could be done to impress on the public that a new management had taken over and had good intentions.

General manager Glen Stanley stated to the newspapers that a new logo and a new paint job of orange and white with black trim would be applied to all buses as soon as possible. New concrete benches painted orange were procured and placed at bus stops, and new buses began to arrive in the form of one TG-4006 and 14 TG-4007, delivered between September and December 1944.

Adjustments in routes and schedules from the 1943 pattern were made. Some had been instituted by UL&T, while others were SLCL changes. It should also be noted that determining changes in the various routes with respect to the areas served has been reasonably easy. Determining which lines were through-routed is another matter. It appears that there were frequent changes in such pairings, especially under UL&T.

A number of routings in the downtown were changed, probably as a result of changes in pairings of through-routed lines.

Route 10 - Sugar House/ Highland Drive, which had had two branches in the vicinity of Sugar House, was rerouted to eliminate the branches, while still serving the same areas. It was also extended west along 33rd South from 11th East to 9th East.

A new Route 18 - Fairgrounds was established to serve part of the area previously reached by Route 19 - West 4th North In the same area, service on route 18 - Airport was changed from a 15 minute headway to hourly service.

Route 16, which had earlier served the Ordnance Plant, was cut back to its former territory and was given its old name of Poplar Grove. Route 17 - West 2nd South was extended to Redwood Road, on which it ran south to 21st South, serving the area formerly reached by route 16.

Salt Lake City's first diesels, 16 model TD-4007, arrived in April of 1945. Later in the year streetcar service came to an unplanned end. This occurred as the result of a heavy cloudburst on August 19th, which washed out some track. Since for all practical purposes the war was over, there seemed no real reason to repair the damage, and the eight remaining streetcars were retired. Route 5 buses returned to the downtown area.

Airway Motor Coach Lines was purchased and merged into SLCL on March 1, 1946, once again unifying urban transit in Salt Lake City. The transaction included 23 buses, operating rights and other assets; the purchase price was $125,000. April brought 30 new model TD-3609 buses, presumably to replace the Airway equipment as well as some of the oldest UL&T buses.

During the spring of 1946, National City Lines once again obtained voting control of its former affilliate, PCL, and equipment soon began to appear in the familair yellow, green and white colors which were to characterize NCL and PCL buses for many years to come.

The arrival of a second group of 30 model 3609 buses in July allowed the abandonment of trolley coach service. On September 21, 1946, poles were pulled for the last time on what had been the first large-scale use of the trolley bus in North America. This was at a time when other cities were converting their transit systems to the TC. The system had been well engineered; the equipment was durable. Of the 26 original electric coaches, all were still on hand in 1944. When service ceased, the oldest coaches -- the Versares -were over 18 years of age.

In 1947 the PCL practice of numbering equipment by year of purchase was stopped, and a new route numbering system was in place as well. The old system had in a sense numbered destinations, rather than routes. On through-routed lines, vehicles carried one number while running in one direction and another when returning. In the new system the same number would show in both directions. Names of destinations were little changed.

Following is a summary of the new system. The new route numbers appear at the left:

Under the new system Routes 1 through 14 had been Salt Lake City Lines service, and 15 - 19 were former Airway Motor Coach routes. The dividing line between SLCL and Airway had been 33rd South.

Except for the former electric coach routes, it is not possible to say which through-routings represent new pairings and which were unchanged in the renumbering.

With a few modifications, this route pattern would remain in place until 1970. At first, changes were mostly to accomodate the growth of the city in a southeasterly direction, and then in later years they were designed to cover more territory with fewer buses, reflecting losses of ridership.

Ridership had topped out at 33,000,000 in 1946. As new cars became available after the war, fewer and fewer residents used the buses. Between 1947 and 1952 patronage dropped at a rate of about five per cent a year, with a drop of 15 per cent in 1950. It then dropped 28 percent between 1953 and 1956. Finally by 1958 it seemed to level out at about 12,000,000, where it held for several years.

From this time on, the history of Salt Lake City Lines would be one of constantly declining patronage until the sale in 1970 to the Utah Transit Authority.

Equipment replacement continued. Thirty new TDH-4008 and 15 TDH-4507 buses arrived in September and October 1947. Even with the decline in patronage after the war, some of the UL&T buses were still on the property. They would remain in service for at least another year.

By January of 1948, NCL had liquidated the securities of Pacific City Lines, but PCL continued as a separate entity to administer the eight remaining western properties. In March, the equipment of each subsidiary was renumbered into a scheme where the first digit identified the property and the second digit, the capacity of the bus. Salt Lake City Lines' equipment received the prefix "3" and all remaining postwar buses were renumbered accordingly, in some cases duplicating the numbers of NCL equipment.

The year 1948 saw Route 4 - South Temple given a more circuitous route to Fort Douglas in order to better serve the area east of 13th East, including the University of Utah. By 1952 alternate buses on Route 3 - Third Avenue served the Shriner's Hospital. The 13th East branch of Route 5 was extended to 3150 South and the 19th East branch now reached east along 21st South to Wyoming. The 9th East leg of Route 7 now ended at 33rd South. Route 9 - East 21st South, was discontinued. Its route was adequately served by other lines.

Both ends of Route 10 were extended. In the northwest, both the West 4th North and Fairgrounds lines were extended to serve new suburbs. At the opposite end of the route South 8th West now reached Redwood Road and 21st South. Route 11 --West 2nd South, which had previously served this area, was discontinued.

Route 12 - Airport buses were rerouted from North Temple tc leave downtown via 2nd South to Redwood Road, then north on Redwood Road to North Temple, where they turned west again to 23rd West and the Airport. Some continued north on Redwood to 4th North.

Dale Barratt had left Salt Lake City in 1945 to manage the newly-acquired PCL property at Spokane. He returned to Salt Lake City as manager during 1950, and when NCL realigned control of its western properties, he became a regional manager, responsible for Spokane as well as Salt Lake City.

Five new TDH-4509 buses arrived in September of 1951 partially replacing TD-3609 models shipped to other NCL -controlled properties. They were further bolstered in 1952 by 25 refurbished TD-4502 and eight TD-4505 buses from Los Angeles Transit Lines, also controlled by NCL. Some of the model 4505 did not stay long, being transferred almost immediately to Long Beach. Buses acquired after this time were numbered in the NCL, rather than PCL, equipment series sequence.

Additional TD-3609 buses were subsequently transferred to other NCL properties leaving 29 among a fleet of 122 buses in 1954. In Febraury of 1955, Dale Barratt once again left Salt Lake City, this time to succeed his long-time friend and associate Skip Pratt as president of the Baltimore Transit Co., also an NCL holding.

By 1955 more route changes were in place. Route 18, which served State Street below 33rd South as far as Murray, with branches beyond to Midvale and Sandy, was combined with 5 -State Street. Route 7 - 9th East now extended to 11th and Elgin. Its opposite end (4th East) now reached 27th South and 3rd East via 21St South, 3rd East, 24th South, 5th East, and 27th South. On Route 8 - Sugar House/Highland Drive the Sugar House branch was discontinued, and the line's designation changed to "11th East."

Route 10 - West 4th North was redesignated "North 5th West" reviving a name that had disappeared at the beginning of World War II, when Routes 18 and 19 were combined. The reason for the name reversion is somewhat hard to understand, as the routing itself was unchanged, and still ran over the eight blocks on West 4th North and the four blocks on North 5th West as it had done before.

There were major changes in Route 15. It was renamed "East Mill Creek/Canyon Rim." At its eastern end the three branches were replaced by two serving approximately the same area. One retained the "East Mill Creek" designation. The second was named "Canyon Rim." Its exit from downtown was shifted from Main Street one block west to West Temple, and Route 13 - South West Temple was discontinued. At its northern end, Route 15 absorbed the Wasatch Springs portion of Route 13. It now ended at 15th North and Beck, instead of looping in the downtown area.

Fifteen more used buses appeared in 1956, sent from Northern Indiana Transit, recently acquired by NCL. The five TDH-4509 and ten TDH-4512 buses were welcome additions. Between 1958 and 1962 ten new TDH-4512 and fifteen new TDH4517 buses arrived. The TDH-4512 types replaced the 10 South Bend buses which were transferred to Spokane. The average age of the fleet, however, was 14 years, and it continued to rise, reaching 18 years in 1968. The TDH4517 buses would be the last new equipment for Salt Lake City under NCL management. The fleet stabilized at about 110 buses during the mid-1960's.

Dale Barratt had acquired Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines (which ran between Salt Lake City and Ogden) as a personal investment while he was at Salt Lake City in 1954, and he retained it after he moved on to Baltimore. He left there to become president of the troubled Eastern Mass. Street Railway in May of 1961. During the next year, he was instrumental in the Eastern Mass. purchase of the neighboring Union Street Railway Co. (New Bedford, Mass.) from local interests.

In 1965, Barratt sold Lake Shore to Salt Lake City Lines, which soon disposed of the shops and garage in order to consolidate operations at its own facilities. The Lake Shore fleet was still maintained in its own colors,and the line was run independently from SLCL operations. On busy weekends however, Lake Shore charter service was augmented by buses from the SLCL fleet.

As the 1960's began, ridership continued to decline. In1963 it was sliding toward 10,000,000. By 1965 it was down to seven million. By 1969 it stood at 4,180,000. The financial situation had deteriorated accordingly; SLCL was caught in the vicious circle of having to raise fares and reduce service, which in turn reduced riders. In the process maintenance suffered badly.

There had been a small operating loss in 1963. The next three years were in the black, perhaps due to the acquisition of Lake Shore, but earnings from operations plunged in 1967. National City Lines indicated in the course of a strike in that year that it wished to be relieved of the obligation to provide mass transit in Salt Lake City.

Ridership at this point was virtually all captive, composed of those who had no other alternative for transportation. And even the captives seemed to be dropping, as they managed to find other means. It appears, too, that there were a large number of citizens who felt that the system might as well die, or who had no feelings one way or the other. Nevertheless, the city realized that the perhaps four per cent of its residents who used the service would have to be accomodated in some way. Talks began with the company on proposals that the city take over the system.

Downtown businessmen were especially concerned about the effect of loss of service. From time to time proposals for some kind of circulator service were floated. In 1967 a pair of specially painted TDH-4008 buses were used to set up a loop service on Main, South Temple, State and 4th South.

Relief for the problem would soon arrive, but from an unexpected source. In October of 1966, Dale Barratt was appointed general manager of the Southern California Rapid Transit District; he remained a director of the Eastern Mass. When it was sold to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in March of 1968, he remained associated with the subsidiary Union Street Railway which was not involved in the transaction. Barratt left the RTD in July after having taken the presidency of the Union Street Railway Co. He soon approached representatives of the city about the troubled transit situation in Salt Lake City.

As an interim solution to the problem of maintaining service, the city in August 1968, reached an agreement with Barratt that the USR would acquire the stock of SLCL and operate the system for two years. Salt Lake City agreed to provide a subsidy of $210,000 over the period. Much of the money would go to increase wage rates, which at this time were among the lowest in the country. The city also obtained an option to purchase the system at the end of the two-year period.

USR took over SLCL operation on September 1, 1968. At that time, Barratt indicated that there were no plans to buy more buses, nor would the fleet be completely repainted. He did, however, promise a stepped-up maintenance program.

The Public Service Commission approved an increase in fare from 25 to 30 cents, authorized a monthly pass for $12, and allowed other fare adjustments.

Operation of Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, sold to SLCL by Barratt earlier, now presented a problem. After Lake Shore had been purchased its maintenance and management were merged with Salt Lake City Lines. The subsidy from Salt Lake City could not be used for support of operations outside of Salt Lake County. Since Lake Shore's route to Ogden took it into Davis and Weber Counties, the contract required that SLCL and Lake Shore be separated. After considerable legal maneuvering, Lake Shore was sold to Cook Transportation in May 1969.

Salt Lake City Lines had made a number of changes in routes in attempts to stem the flow of red ink. The process was continued by the new management. Changes in place by June 29, 1969 were as follows:

Route 1 - 6th and 9th Avenue was changed into a loop, with 9th Avenue buses operating clockwise and 6th Avenue counter-clockwise. Even before the loop was established, 9th Avenue runs had been altered to include service to the hospital area reached by Route 6, which was discontinued.

Evening service on Route 4 - South Temple was discontinued, but service to the University of Utah was taken over by Route 3 - Third Avenue.

A few rush-hour runs on Route 7 - 4th East were extended to Union, and Route 17 - Union was discontinued.

Route 10 - Poplar Grove and South 8th West were combined in a loop, with South 8th West running clockwise and Poplar Grove counter-clockwise. At the opposite end, Fairgrounds and North 5th West were also combined into a loop. Service on Route 14 was limited to rush hours, with but a single run on South 2nd West mornings and evenings.

On 15, only rush hour service was provided north of 8th North and Beck. Service to Riverton (Route 19) was discontinued, as well as service to the airport.

Base service on the busiest lines was now on a 30-minute headway through downtown, with hourly service on branches at the outer ends. There were a few added runs in rush hours. Evening service was curtailed, and all Sunday service ceased on the seven of twelve routes which had offered it. At this time, the city was paying a monthly subsidy of $6,250. to SLCL.

In June of 1969 forty model TDH-5103 buses dating to 1950 and 1951 were obtained by Dale Barratt from the Southern California Rapid Transit District in a transaction that would subsequently result in considerable controversy. These buses would make up the bulk of those needed to operate the system in what would be its final period of operation as Salt Lake City Lines.

The City and County had asked the state legislature to pass legislation allowing the establishment of public transit districts. The legislature did not do so in the 1969 regular session, but in a special session later that year it passed the Utah Public Transit District Act. This authorized the establishment of transit districts which overlapped political boundaries if approved by the voters in the proposed districts.

Voters in Salt Lake City, Murray, South Salt Lake and Sandy approved the establishment of the Utah Transit Authority in the November 1969 elections. Residents of other areas in Salt Lake County also approved the district in a 1970 vote.

With his two year operating contract coming to an end, Dale Barratt offered in the spring of 1970 to sell Salt Lake City Lines a price of $572,000; the City Commission countered at $472,000. Two subsequent offers by Barratt of $652,000 and $571,200 were also rejected, and he volunteered to continue service on a month-to-month loss-reimbursement basis after the July 1 expiration date, if a settlement or a sale price could not be reached.

The City Commissioners confronted with the option date and facing a monthly subsidy payment which had grown to $11,250 plus reimbursement of additional losses, voted on June 17 to purchase Salt Lake City Lines for $530,000. Some $390,000 in municipal funding was made available with the remainder to be provided by a federal grant.

An application for a grant of $907,419 in federal funds was prepared and submitted to the Urban Mass Transit Administration to cover the purchase of SLCL and establish a base for UTA. The grant was to be matched with local funds of $453,710 from Salt Lake City and other municipalities within the UTA boundaries. The grant application was approved and UTA took over operation of the former Salt Lake City Lines on August 10, 1970. No real estate changed hands in the sale, so UTA moved the 68 remaining buses to temporary facilities north of the city pending completion of its new shop and office complex


Those that aided considerably in the preparation of this series are: Eli Bail; Mrs. Juanna F. Frisby, UP&L; Walter R. Jones, University of Utah; Arthur J. Krim; David Meade, UP&L; Harry Porter, NATTA; Russell Powers; John P. Hoschek, Cecil O. Sharp II, SLC Library; Albert E. Meier; Robert A. Burrowes; Ms. Lynn Tilfort, UTA; Van Wilkins; Steven R. Wood, Utah State Historical Society; and Stanley F. X. Worris.