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Making the best of public transportation

“I didn’t bring a car to college. How can I get around?!”

Many students don’t bring a car when moving to college. It’s expensive, time consuming, and simply not necessary when living on campus. Besides, most of the places we need to go are just a 10-15-minute walk away. But what about the times you want to go explore the city, or go out with your friends off campus? Of course, there are other ways to get around! Some of these include Uber or one of the speedy scooters you see on just about every sidewalk. The only issue with these options is that unless you have an endless allowance, they might be too expensive to ride multiple times.

So how are we expected to get around town?

Well, as a benefit of attending the University of Utah, all students get free public transportation passes! This means we have unlimited access to Utah Transit Authority (UTA) buses, light rail train (TRAX) and commuter train (FrontRunner) It’s simple: your pass is in your UCard. There is no need to pick up tickets to ride or worry about paying for it. Even better, it’s very easy to plan and ride on demand, meaning you can find a train or a bus going where you need it to, when you need it to. In summary, you can get transportation around the city for free, without hassle, and in a timely manner.

How does it work?

Step 1) First, download the UTA transportation app called “Transit”. It should look like the image shown to the right.

UTA Transit App

Step 2) Open the app and tap the green banner at the bottom of the screen that says, “Where to?”. Type in the address or the name of where you would like to go and choose the option most accurate to your destination that appears on the screen. This should auto-fill the starting point with your current location (you can change this if you’d like to input a different departure location).

Once you have a start and end location set, you will see a couple different “paths” or modes of transportation, depending on where you are trying to go. There is an option to set a departure or arrival time, and this can be useful if you need to be somewhere for an appointment that is time-based. This way, you know exactly when you will get to your destination according to the UTA schedule.

Step 3) When you are ready to start walking to the designated pick-up location, be sure you are in the right spot. If you are riding a bus, there should be a UTA sign that has the bus route number on it. When the bus arrives, make sure it is the right route number. If you are riding the train, be sure it is going in the direction of your destination (northbound or southbound).

Step 4) When you get on the bus/train, scan your UCard at the kiosk (there is one at both doors of the bus, and one at the train stop).

And that’s it! Be aware of your surroundings, know which stop you need to get off at, and have fun! My additional tips for riding UTA are included below (trust me, I had to learn some of these the hard way)!

How far can I ride UTA?

TRAX will get you from campus and around downtown Salt Lake and surrounding areas. However, our free transportation is not only limited to the Salt Lake area! This means you can get a free ride to any of the surrounding areas that are supported by UTA. The commuter train (FrontRunner) will take you as far south as Provo and as far north as Ogden. There is also a stop at Daybreak which is in South Jordan; this route takes you southwest. To navigate simply where you’d like to go, use the Transit app. For a more detailed guide on where you can ride, visit www.rideuta.com.

Tips to consider while riding:
  • When riding a UTA bus, make sure to pull the yellow line to signal a requested stop. Do this about 10 seconds before the bus reaches your stop.
  • When riding a UTA train, there is no need to signal a stop. The train will automatically stop at every designated stop location, but be sure you are ready because the doors are quick to close after they open.
  • If riding alone, be aware of your surroundings. Each bus and train should be camera-monitored, but it is always safer to stay awake and cautious. As usual, practice social distancing and follow guidelines set by UTA.
  • Arrive at least two to three minutes prior to the bus/train pick-up time. The Transit app should tell you exactly what time to start walking to the pick-up location, but it’s easier to leave a couple minutes early than to miss your ride.
  • Be sure to tap “Go” when using the Transit app (do this when you start walking to the pick-up location). This will cause the app to give you updates when there is a detour or when you are approaching your stop.
  • Make sure your phone is charged before you leave! It is your main tool when using public transportation, and it can be very helpful if you need to find a ride quick. The worst feeling is when your phone dies right when you need to find a bus or a train (trust me, I know from experience!)
  • Be open to a new experience. It may be confusing and frustrating to first use public transportation, but it gets easier as you go. I encourage you to ride UTA with friends, especially at first! Who knows, you may just stumble on a cool new place by mistake!
Sydney Myers
Outreach Housing Ambassador

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