Students Jump on TRAX

By , , and

Michelle Farnsworth’s alarm clock went off before 5:30 a.m.

She quickly got ready for school in order to catch the 6:26 train at 4500 South to arrive at the Social and Behavioral Sciences Tower by 7:30 for class.

She boarded the north-south TRAX line which was packed with construction workers and peppered with students.

In downtown Salt Lake City, at the Gallivan Center transfer station, she waited for a university line train to take her up 400 South to the U. When the train arrived, she climbed into the car full of other U students and staff members.

“It was so early and still there was standing room only,” she said.

She grabbed her bag, got off the train and hurried to her class.

Less than two hours later, she was back on a train and headed home.

Her only complaint, “I wish they would have finished it sooner, December was a joke.”

Last semester Farnsworth spent “hours” searching for parking spots located near her classrooms.

Not only is it more convenient to ride, it is also economical, she said. Farnsworth estimates that riding light rail will save her more than $20 a week in gas.

Saving money was one idea that sophomore Josh Hoopes couldn’t turn down.

Yesterday was his first ride on TRAX. From his house in Sandy he rode, transferred and made it up to the U in time for his 9:10 a.m. accounting class.

“I feel good about the experience,” Hoopes said.

He was also excited about the money he saved by not purchasing a U parking permit.

Most of the riders agree that TRAX doesn’t work for everyone. Work schedules and living location may not be convenient for many students.

However, for Hoopes light rail is a perfect solution.

He works nearby a TRAX station at 6400 South, and lives by one in Sandy.

The U needs 1,000 students like Hoopes to ride light rail in order to get through the parking crunch (3,200 lost spaces) sacrificed to the Olympics, said Alma Allred, director of transportation and parking services.

Allred’s office closely monitors the parking lots at different hours of the day. He was happy to report that at 9:30 Thursday morning?peak time at the U?there were 500 empty spots across campus.

“I’m very pleased with that part of the equation,” he said.

He was also excited to hear that TRAX trains arrive on campus with standing room only. This news gives him hope that the U can survive the parking hassles created by the Games.

Since Dec. 15, the official opening of the university line, Utah Transit Authority officials have kept a close watch on the number of riders.

They also counted the number of riders at different stops along the university line yesterday, but the statistics were not received early enough for publication.

In the space of an hour, more than 60 people poured out of the two car trains at the stadium station. The majority of the riders were students, but each train carried seven or eight staff or faculty members who also gave up their Buicks and Honda’s for the smooth gliding cars of TRAX.

One such staff member was Cindy Kiel.

She enjoys the extra time the ride gives her to review her work schedule or scan a newspaper.

In 1995, Kiel graduated from the U College of Law. For the past four years, she has worked as a staff attorney negotiating research funding agreements for the U.

She loves how relaxed she feels getting to work without having to worry about the traffic.

For U student Brittany Brems TRAX is the only solution.

“I don’t want to have to spend all morning looking for a parking spot,” she said.

Brems used to leave her house an hour and a half early for her class to ensure she could find a parking space.

Until the stadium lot closure on Nov. 25, Brems always parked there. However, through finals week in mid December, she had to park “inconveniently” in the engineering lot on the opposite side of campus.

She plans on riding TRAX for the bulk of the Spring Semester to save time and money. From her home in Murray it takes her 20 minutes to get to the transfer station near the Gallivan Center. From there it is another 15 minute ride to the U.

It’s extra time Brems plans to spend studying her chemistry. Two years from now, she wants to be teaching chemistry and math at a high school.

She said she hopes that more students will give light rail a try. She told her brother about the convenience of light rail, but he was not convinced.

She said, “TRAX is really not for everyone. A lot of people don’t have 15 minutes to wait around in the cold for a train.”

In addition to waiting in the freezing temperatures, Brems also complained about the small number of cars they have traveling the rails. East west trains traveling the university line have only two cars?relatively small when compared to their north-south counterparts of three and four cars per train.

“It’s a good start, I just hope [UTA] is still planning on making some adjustments,” she said.

[email protected]