David Rodeback's Blog

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I Actually Like Public Transit

Most of the time. It served me well today.

It doesn't matter, for the purposes of this post, that I was on my way from American Fork to the University of Utah campus. It doesn't matter that I was going to a proof-of-concept event to which a number of area bloggers, political and otherwise, were invited, and where US Congressman Chris Cannon was on the grill. (No, he wasn't serving food. They were serving Congressman.) For some discussion of that, see my next post. Here, I report on today's experience with UTA.

My Trip

I took the Trax connector bus from American Fork to the end of the Trax line in Sandy, leaving American Fork at about 6:45 a.m. The bus wasn't terribly crowded. I sat in a seat facing the aisle, not facing forward, whipped out my trusty laptop right away, and worked steadily and reasonably efficiently until my bus approached the Trax station. At no time in the trip, which was no smoother than the usual city bus trip, did I fear my laptop was about to leave my lap and become a high-tech victim of the low-tech laws of physics.

My transfer from the bus served as my train ticket, and I transferred painlessly to a train bound for the university, took my seat, pulled out my laptop, and got back to work. A few minutes later, the train departed. I worked until the train was leaving the station immediately prior to my destination on campus.

My return trip at mid-day reversed the route. It differed in a few respects:

  • The ticket vending machine at my end of the Trax station near Rice-Eccles Stadium was only accepting coins, and I didn't have $1.50 in coins. In the minute or so it took me to get to the machine at the other end of the station, my train came and went, so I waited another 15 minutes for the next one. (This made no difference in my arrival time at my destination.)
  • Trains between the university and Sandy run only at the ends of the day, and this was roughly 11:15 a.m., so I took the train to downtown, where I transferred to a Sandy train and was southbound within minutes.
  • Once I got to the Sandy station, I had to wait 40 minutes for the bus to Utah County. (I'd have missed the previous one even if I hadn't missed the first train at the U.) So I found a bench to sit on and just enough shade to allow me to see my laptop screen and keep working.
  • The train cars on the return trip had seats in facing pairs, like restaurant booths but without the tables, instead of sections of seats facing all in the same direction. This is good; using a laptop is easier if there isn't a seat back in your lap.

I observed only one real danger en route, and it was a pleasant one. The transfer station between the downtown and university lines, Gallivan Plaza, is directly in front of Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore (254 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City), where I have spent more than a few pleasant hours. I only barely managed to resist the temptation, because I had to get back to the office.

The Numbers

My trip from home to campus, including my walk to the bus top in American Fork and time spent finding the right building on campus and the right room in that building, was under two hours. About 75 minutes of that was between boarding the bus and exiting the train, and I spent about 70 of those minutes working. Total cost: $1.50. (At no point did I have to look for, or pay for, a parking spot. Also, as my family enjoyed pointing out, I didn't have an opportunity to run a red light and get pulled over by a campus cop who doesn't deserve the trouble I might take to choose just the right adjectives. So no traffic school this time.)

My trip from on-campus meeting to my office in American Fork ran about 145 minutes, about 115 minutes of which was was between boarding the train and stepping off the bus, including 40 minutes at the train station, waiting for the bus. Total cost: $1.50.

(My total cost figures here are the total immediate costs and do not count my mandatory but unspecified contribution to UTA as a state and federal taxpayer.)

My Point

So what's my point? Simply this: For a very reasonable fare, I traveled to and from a meeting in Salt Lake City via public transit. On the way, I got a lot of work done (especially if you generously consider blogging to be work). It wasn't as fast as driving, perhaps, but I didn't have to battle traffic or look for a parking spot. And it was relatively comfortable.

I admit, it takes a little extra planning. And it wouldn't have been quite as pleasant if the weather had been inclement. (Nor would a drive have been.) And one guy on the bus ride from Sandy hadn't bathed in, oh, weeks, and it was hard not to notice. But no one was put out enough to open a window, so it can't have been too bad.

Some folks in the West don't believe it, but it's not un-American to travel by some means other than personal motor vehicle. Someday, perhaps, I'll be able to ride a similar light rail line to Provo. Maybe I'll even be able to board a commuter train in American Fork, work or nap or read for an hour and a half or so, and get off the train in Ogden or at Hill AFB, where I sometimes work on computer systems.


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