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How to Make Public Transportation Work for You

By Jared Fry

Frontrunner train (pictured) is a popular method of public transit for those commuting to Salt Lake

Frontrunner. Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons vxla

My name is Jared Fry, and I commute 100 miles via public transportation every weekday. To be honest, the purpose in sharing my story is to help promote the use of public transportation and help improve air quality in Utah. My wife, Amy, and I moved to Utah County in October 2015 from Silverdale, Washington. We decided to make the move to pursue our education and employment opportunities. Before we could make the move, we had to sell our car. Being left without a car, we didn’t know how we would get around. Fortunately, we are living, at least temporarily, with Amy’s parents and have close access to the bus system. On the day we moved in, we purchased Utah Transit Authority (UTA) FAREPAY cards from Macey’s, and I have been using mine ever since.

I used the FAREPAY card for most of my transportation until April 2016 when I switched jobs to work for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Utah Division of Air Quality. I was given an Eco Pass to help with my transportation needs. It was perfect for my long commute. It allowed me to get to work and back with very little trouble. By using public transportation, I’ve been able to bypass highway traffic, congestion, road work, and accidents.

In 2016, we purchased a house in Springville, Utah. Amy’s parents have fallen on hard times, and, as a turn of events, are living with us in the new house. We still don’t have a car of our own, but it hasn’t been much of an issue. We worked out a system to coordinate the use of my in-law’s car and public transportation. As a result, I’ve been routinely using UTA for nearly 1.5 years. It may seem tedious to many, but it has been a pleasant experience for me.

Author Jared Fry sometimes sleeps on public transit. In this photo, Santa took a selfie with a sleeping Jared.

Santa and me on the train. “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”

While commuting on the FrontRunner from the Provo Central Station to North Temple in Salt Lake City, I’ve met many kind people. Whether it is the train host making his or her rounds or the passengers sitting nearby, I’ve made a few friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise. On one occasion during December, a UTA employee was dressed as Santa Claus to get his picture taken while promoting public transportation. I hadn’t thought much of it considering it was early in the morning. I dosed off while listening to my music and woke up to find him sitting near me with the photographer close by. They happened to take a picture while I was getting my routine snooze. It wasn’t a great picture, but it sure made for some fun conversations.

The way I use the UTA website to plan my trips is by using their Trip Planner or by viewing the schedules of the bus, train, and light rail. It is pretty simple when you know the address of where you want to go.

In the spirit of clean air, DEQ joined in the Clear the Air Challenge. It was easy for me to participate considering I was taking public transportation. After logging the trips online, I was able to see that my small sacrifice was beneficial for the air. For those who are interested in the technical aspect of calculating emissions from their vehicles, visit Fueleconomy.gov and Dieselnet.com.  To calculate the emissions you can save by consolidating trips or using public transportation, go to cleartheairchallenge.org.

Now I do have to put in a word for those who don’t benefit from the use of public transportation on a daily basis. To get the most out of public transportation, it does depend a little bit on where you live. Some people live so close to their work or destination that it isn’t always a logical choice to take public transportation. However, for those who do long commutes, this is worth it. I’ve taken some time to see how expensive it would be to commute from Springville to Salt Lake City, and I felt that even with a gently used car, the overall cost would be too great. I hope that companies will promote public transportation for their employees.

The Division of Air Quality is hosting the second installment of its Employer-Based Trip Reduction (EBTR) Webinar Series on March 30, 2017, from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Tickets for this free event are available at Eventbrite. The webinar, available in-person and online, will explore UTA’s Vanpooling and public transportation ECO Pass programs. Employers can learn about the benefits of these programs and how their employees can take advantage of them.

I am an Office Tech II in the Division of Air Quality. I received my General Associate’s degree from Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington, and am currently in the BYU-Idaho Pathways online program. I enjoy reading fantasy, particularly Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, as well as non-fiction philosophical books. I enjoy playing Pathfinder with my wife Amy and my brothers, building computers, watching Korean and Japanese TV shows, and trap shooting. I’ve been playing the piano for over 17 years, but I’m still not great at it. I also have two cats.