The bi-polar express

A year and a half ago, I packed up my life and moved to Salt Lake City to attend the U. Coming from Colorado, I really did not expect to deal with culture shock.

Within two weeks, I knew how wrong my prediction was. I hated everything about Salt Lake so much that I reapplied to CU Boulder, got accepted, and reserved a quaintly antiquated dorm room with a coed, communal bathroom down the hall. I was ready to move back to reality.

But then it snowed. I decided that maybe I should try a whole year.

After all, the Big Cottonwood Canyon already had four times the snow of Summit County, Colo.

But recently I have begun to question the way municipal services are organized. Why, if it is paid for with public tax dollars, does TRAX only run until 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends? Do people in Utah actually believe that no one goes out after 8 p.m.? Salt Lake City attempts to market itself to the rest of the world as a “World Class City.” Name one world class city that does not have a public mass transit system running at least an hour after last call.

Statistics have proven time and time again that given the choice, people who have been drinking will take TRAX rather than drive themselves.

The most notable benefit to the community is that roads become much safer in the hour after last call. This protects not only the drinker, but also other citizens on the roads.

Economically, keeping TRAX open later creates jobs both in the short and long term. Additional hours create the need for more engineers and support staff to run the trains. The local economy would also be stimulated. More people would be encouraged to socialize downtown, thus spending money and supporting local business. With the increase in capital flowing into local companies, the economy will stabilize and more jobs will be created.

Utah’s tourist industry would benefit as well. Why spend money to ski in Utah when for one third the cost you can go to British Columbia and enjoy friendlier and less confusing liquor laws, and a social scene that never rests? If TRAX were to stay open later, it would be more convenient for tourists to explore the city and spend their money.

Between civic taxes and the tariffs levied on alcohol in this state, there should be more than enough to pilot a program extending TRAX’s hours on the weekends until 2 a.m. The money earned from alcohol taxes at the bars would take over any expenses after a year. The program would quickly reap economic benefits for the entire state.

Why does TRAX shut down so early when the obvious benefit of it staying open would be a reduction in drunk driving? Perhaps the Utah State Legislature thinks that if they make it difficult for people to drink, they will stop drinking.

However, ignoring a behavior will not make it go away. Utah’s government needs to recognize this. Students need to be educated early and often about the dangers and facts associated with drinking. It is the state’s social responsibility to provide services to safely transport those who choose to drink, whether they are of age or not.

Utah and its habit of ignoring social behaviors it finds distasteful are decidedly quirky.

What I will never understand is why civic leaders choose to ignore the problems facing citizens. By refusing to utilize tools and money to educate and assist citizens, state leaders are creating an unhealthy and antisocial atmosphere in Salt Lake City.

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