Liz Stevenson does not have a car and has to be creative in the ways to get around. Depending on how far she wants to go, she can walk, ride a bicycle, get a friend to drive her, or take a bus. However, with the Utah County Commission recently authorized the sale of $52 million in bonding to repay a loan to UTA, Utah County residents, like Stevenson, may be able to add “catch the train” to that list come December.
Catching the train sounds good to Liz Stevenson. Originally from Montana, the elementary education major has extended family in Salt Lake City. She likes to visit them at least a couple times each month via the 811, a UTA bus with a long route that takes an hour and 20 minutes to get to the TRAX station in Sandy, where sometimes an aunt will arrive to pick up Stevenson, or Liz will ride TRAX. When FrontRunner South opens, Stevenson’s travel time to Salt Lake will be reduced by about half an hour, and the route won’t have so many stops. The Provo station is currently under construction just a few blocks north of the Provo Town Center mall at 650 S. Freedom Blvd.
“It will be worth going to the Provo station if I can take a UTA bus there with a transfer ticket for the same price,” Stevenson said.
Currently, a one-way ticket to ride FrontRunner, UTA bus or TRAX costs $2.25. Commuters can request a transfer ticket which will apply the ticket price to fare for the train. In addition to a base fare, FrontRunner requires riders to pay an extra $.50 per station (excluding the one where they get on). The base fare will increase to $2.35, with the per-station fee rising to $.55 in April. Eventually, UTA plans to have eight stations on the route from Provo to Salt Lake City, including Salt Lake Central Station.
Commuting BYU students will be able to catch a bus from the Provo station directly to campus and vice versa, following existing UTA routes. The train will arrive every 30 minutes. The site will also have park and ride spots for Provo-area commuters heading north.
“The station will be an intermodal hub, so it will have access to UTA, Amtrak and maybe Greyhound,” said Gerry Carpenter, the spokesperson for UTA. “We still don’t know exactly what the bus service will look like. We may reconfigure some existing routes and times to match FrontRunner better, to make it more convenient for riders to transfer.”
Although it may not be economical for students to ride on a pay-as-they-go basis, it can be cost-effective for students who bought a semester-long pass. Also, UTA provides fast and convenient public transportation for many other Utah residents who do not have far to go. The company originally built FrontRunner as part of a 2030 long-term public transportation plan by the Wasatch Front Regional Council, the metropolitan planning organization for the Wasatch Front. The commuter rail trains boast double level passenger cars pulled by diesel locomotives with a top speed of 79 mph. FrontRunner has been operational since 2008 in Salt Lake, Weber and Davis counties. The line has proven convenient for countless commuters on their way to work, school, or downtown Salt Lake City.
Nancy Henrie drives her 20-year-old son Joshua to the Layton FrontRunner station three to five days a week so he can take it to Lagoon, where he works. The station is about a five- or 10-minute drive from their house. After buying a ticket, Josh rides the train to the next stop in Farmington, where he boards the Lagoon shuttle to work at the amusement park. Josh said the arrangement works well for him.
Graigry Henrie, a Lehi resident and UVU student, said FrontRunner South will provide fast and convenient transportation for him and other students to and from school once it’s completed in 2015.
In addition to finishing the extension to Provo, UTA is currently working on several other projects. One that may prove especially useful for BYU students is a new TRAX line directly to the Salt Lake City International Airport. Chance Cromarty, a physiological and developmental biology major whose family currently lives in Kentucky, said it will be nice to be able to get to the airport without driving or having his roommates drive him.