Navigating Provo without a car

Ryan Turner
Students often struggle to find parking spots in Provo, especially near the BYU campus. (Ryan Turner)

This story has been updated to correct an error regarding the BYU ID card and UTA. We originally published that the BYU ID covered ski bus fare; this is incorrect.

Do you really need a car in Provo?

Maybe you don’t have a car, or maybe you do and can’t decide if you should bring it back to Provo in the fall. Gas is expensive. Repairs are expensive. Parking passes are expensive. Finding parking in Provo is one of the nine rings in Dante’s Inferno. Plus, you care about the environment, right?

It’s becoming easier and easier to get around Provo without a car, and BYU students especially have so many options beyond bumming rides off of friends. Here are four car-alternatives that are better for your health, your wallet and the environment.

1. Walking

It appears that 93% of all single student housing in the BYU Student Housing Guide is within one mile, or about a 20 minute walk, of the Harold B. Lee Library on campus. That is the time it takes to listen to “The Git Up” by Blanco Brown about six times. Or, I guess, the length of one General Conference talk.

The gray shaded area represents a one mile radius circle with the Harold B. Lee Library as the center point. The plotted points are the apartments and condos listed in the BYU Student Housing Guide. (Joseph Carson)

2. Cycling

This is perhaps the most fun option on this list and my personal favorite. Biking around Provo is super convenient. There are bike racks everywhere, and there are all sorts of resources for cyclists around town. To top it all off, it’s also great exercise. No one ever got toned thighs from driving a car. Here are some places to check out if you want to get into cycling.

  • Deseret Industries (1415 N State St, Provo UT). Here you can get used bikes ranging in price from $25 to $75. Who knows what you might find? These second-hand bikes might require some TLC, which brings me to my next point:
  • The Provo Bicycle Collective (397 E 200 N, Provo, UT). For the cost of $10 an hour, you can bring your janky old bike in and repair it yourself, which for me means asking the staff every thirty seconds if I’m doing it right. You can also purchase refurbished old bikes here for $100 to $350, and it’s a great place to volunteer!

    Cycling is a cheap and efficient alternative to driving a car. (Chris Bunker)
  • KSL Classifieds are is great place to search too. I found bikes ranging in price from $20 to more than $4000, so use discretion.
  • BYU Bike Sharing is a great option too. For Fall and Winter, the price per semester is $45, which includes a bicycle, lock and free maintenance. Pick ups and returns are done at BYU Outdoors Unlimited, everything else is taken care of on the website.

One thing about helmets: seriously, wear one. You won’t need one until you do. The data varies, but some sources show that 83% of people killed in bike accidents weren’t wearing helmets. They can’t protect against everything, but could save your life.

3. E-Scooters and Bike Sharing

“Spin” electric scooters from company Zagster (similar to the Lime and Bird scooters in Salt Lake City) are now available around Provo. Shared bicycles are coming in a few months too.

According to Austin Taylor, Provo parking and sustainability coordinator, Zagster rolled out a couple hundred of the scooters on launch day and will scale up to 500 over the next couple months. The scooters cost $1 to start and 15 cents per minute of riding.

4. Public Transportation

Utah has a nice public transportation system. UTA is efficient, cheap and clean. You can get almost anywhere along the Wasatch front, from Ogden to Santaquin, for very little money. With your BYU ID card, the local and express bus system, TRAX rail line, FrontRunner train and S-Line are completly free. (Some services like the ski bus are not covered by a BYU ID. More information can be found here.)

  • The easiest way to find public transportation routes is by using Google Maps. After putting in your destination, click the ‘transit’ tab that looks like a little train and you should be able to narrow your search by when you want to depart or arrive. You can even specify what types of public transit you prefer.
  • You can find all the bus and train schedules and specific regional maps here. This map specifically covers Utah County, including the areas around BYU and UVU.

    BYU ID cards can be used to swipe on to UTA buses and trains. (Addie Blacker)
  • Using the bus and trains is as simple as tapping your student ID on the panels located on buses or at train stations. You should hear a beep. Remember, tap on, tap off.
  • Some places where UTA can take you include the Provo Airport, Provo Towne Centre, The Shops At Riverwoods, both temples, Costco and even buses up to the ski resorts in the winter (*note: the ski bus fare is not covered by your BYU ID). Using the FrontRunner train, you can get to downtown Salt Lake, the Salt Lake City International Airport, Lagoon and more.

Whether or not you’re totally ready to ditch your car, alternative methods of transportation can be inexpensive, healthy and even a little fun. It is kind of hard picking up dates on a bike though.

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