The Wheels on the Bus go round, and round, and round, and round

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As part of our Better Air/Better Utah project, I decided to put the Utah Transit system to the test. In past attempts at using transit, the amount of time versus my other responsibilities (i.e kids) just didn’t make it feasible. But considering the air quality, or lack thereof, I felt it was time to try the transit system for a day.

I used the trip planner on rideutah.com to plan my routes. Turns out I live in an area of Salt Lake City that is not just underserved, but actually unserved by transit. Despite living off a major thoroughfare and on a direct route to Parley’s Canyon and the eastside I-215, there are no bus stops close to my street. Apparently there used to be a stop just around the corner but it was eliminated along with ALL the stops on Parley’s Way Blvd.

I started my journey at 7:58 by walking 9-10ths of a mile, uphill, to the bus stop and in order to go from 2300 East/2100 South to 1100 East/7000 South, I have to take a bus to the University of Utah–I know, seems like the wrong direction. The bus stop had no place to sit, no shelter, and the bus was 12 minutes late. Off to a good start.

I had to transfer to a different bus at the football stadium and rode the second bus all the way out to my destination, about a block from the office, at 9:46 a.m.

Total time from doorstep to the office: 1 hour and 48 minutes

Approximate drive time: 15 minutes

I plotted my next route to a lunch appointment at the Gateway in order to make all my connections I had to leave the office no later than 10:50, so after spending an hour at the office, I left on my next journey and walked to my next bus stop.

Just an aside about this particular bus stop. It is right next to an In-n-Out Burger and I’m pretty sure their grills vent directly on the stop. Even as a vegetarian, I was thinking those burgers smelled awfully good by the time the bus arrived.

The bus was 8 minutes late which had me just a little bit worried since I had to make my Trax connection, but I arrived at the Midvale Trax station with several minutes to spare. My appointment was at noon but In order to arrive on time I would have had to catch an earlier bus and an earlier train which would have put me at the Gateway at 11:45 but would have meant leaving work almost 25 minutes earlier, so I opted to being a few minutes late. Trax was late so I reached my destination at 12:09.

Total time from 1100 East/7000 South to Gateway: 1 hour 19 minutes

Approximate drive time: 20 minutes

I had to detour to the City Creek mall so I missed my pre-planned route. I used a computer in the Apple Store to plot my new route but the UTA website kept timing out. After fifteen minutes, I gave up and decided to make it on my own–something I imagine those relying on transit have to do quite often. I took Trax to the Courthouse station, transferred to the University Trax line, figuring I’d do a modified reverse trip from my originating route. Although I had to run to catch Trax, I didn’t cave in to the temptation to run across the trax, but in that initial moment of panic over missing the train, I totally understood why people think that’s a good option. Just for the record–it is NEVER a good option.

As I exited the train at the stadium it started to rain–so much for a cool but pleasant day. I put on my rain jacket and zipped up my bag and stood (again, no seats or no shelter) in the rain waiting for the bus. My 9-10ths of a mile walk home was lovely in the torrential rain but at least it was downhill.

Total time from City Creek to Home: 1 hour 24 minutes

Average drive time: 20 minutes

If I had to grade the whole experience I’d give it a C-

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This was a test, I didn’t have to rely on transit, I chose to. With our air quality, I’d like to have the option but I can’t imagine how people do this on a daily basis. I spent a total of 4 hours and 41 minutes on the bus/train, the same journey by car would have taken just under an hour. If I had to do this on a regular basis, I’d have to leave a lot earlier and stay much later, significantly impacting family and childcare commitments.

We’ve come a long way with transit but we have a long way to go. UTA needs to spend less on over-inflated executive salaries, end board members’ schemey land deals, and refocus their attention on providing realistic bus service to the underserved, and unserved areas of the valley. I may not depend on it, but a lot of Utah citizens do.

Perhaps the UTA folks need a day on the bus.

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