Monday, January 21, 2013

Public Transportation Know-How (Part 1) #Frontrunner Saga

It took me exactly 5 days to fully tweak my 75 mile route from home to work and back.  I have decided that I don't want to drive that round trip every day.  Since I moved to Sandy, UT from Provo, UT I have become a commuter.  I had it so easy before the move.  My work was MAYBE 3 miles from my home.  Now it's considerably longer.  But I like my job--I work at a the only alternative high school in Utah County, a school for kids who for one reason or another can't hack it at a regular high school. I am fond of the kids, the teachers, the staff, and the administration.  We all work together to do a good job in helping the students get the help they need to graduate and have the skills they need to flourish after high school.  

The first 3 months of commuting were fine.  The weather was generally good, it was still light in the mornings, and although I-15 was under construction, I left early enough in the morning that it really didn't affect me too badly.  December came along and for awhile it was even better because the construction ended.  But then came the first few snowstorms.  I don't like driving in the snow. Plus my car registration expired and the wear and tear on my vehicle tells me that it might take a lot to get it passed. 

Luckily we just got our new FrontRunner train system running into Utah County and back!  It is a high speed, 3-level train that runs from Provo all the way north to Ogden. We even took our class to Salt Lake City on it.  They all loved it and I was thinking in the back of my mind how nice it would be if I found a way to commute to school using this system!

That's me thinking this.  The one who has never used public transit.  The one who thinks a bus schedule is written in ancient Sanskrit because it looks so foreign.  But on Monday, January 14th I made the leap.  I left home and showed up at what I thought was a reasonable hour in front of what I thought was a Frontrunner Station. I found a guy who looked like he was waiting too. Why read a schedule that I couldn't figure out anyway?  I asked him, "Are you headed South?"  He answered in the affirmative.  I further queried. "What time does the train leave?"  He told me that it doesn't go south from here, only north.  I could have sworn that Frontrunner stopped in South Jordan and made stops all the way down to Provo.  But I didn't say anything, for fear of looking stupid. I should have said something.  I later found out that this wasn't even a  Frontrunner Station.  It was a Trax Station.  Totally different rail system.  He said that the next bus would take me to Lehi and there I could hop onto the train from there.  Mind you, it was the coldest day so far of the year, with near record-breaking cold.  We stood there for another 15 minutes.  I was only wearing 2 shirts, a thin pair of gloves a wool sweater and a neck warmer.  I almost froze!  Finally the bus came and I felt I was finally on my way.  I thought the worst was over. But I was wrong.
A few remaining brave souls before the train pulled in
 When the bus pulled up in Lehi, the Frontrunner wasn't there.  As a matter of fact, it was very late. So I and maybe 20 other poor souls stood in sub-zero temperature, ready to succumb to the cold.  I, of course, didn't know if the next train was heading north or south.  But at that point, I didn't care.  I was getting on the next train, just to keep warm.  The train finally came.  It was about 30 minutes late and most of the poor, freezing souls who had cars there, had already left.  Fortunately for me, the train was headed south.  I got on, visibly shaking. The train arrived in Provo and my next problem was to get to the school. 
I took this shot while waiting for the train.
  There were buses waiting, but I didn't know what bus to take.  So again, I started asking.  I finally found the bus that passed closest to my school. I got in and was thankfully shielded from the cold.  But it wasn't leaving.  I was already quite late to work and this was delaying it even more.  But I waited....   

I finally arrived at the closest stop to work and started hoofing it.  I had only gone a few feet when Brian, a fellow co-worker who was transporting some boys on the work crew, saw me.  He asked me if I needed a ride and I hopped in!  I arrived at school 2 1/2 hours late. 

Now to get home!  That was fairly easy.  At least at first.  My friend, Diana, came and picked me up and kept me at her house until the next train arrived.  (I decided to try and decipher the schedule this time.  Probably a good idea.)  We had a great time and caught up on news and happenings. I got on the train fine, along with her son who was headed to Salt Lake and still not realizing that I hadn't left from a Frontrunner Station, got off at the South Jordan Station.  I walked around trying to find my car, but couldn't locate it.  This station looked really different than it had this morning.  It was still freezing cold.  Again I asked a knowledgeable Public Transit traveler.  This time I was a little more forthcoming and confessed that I didn't know what the hell I was doing.  I couldn't even find my car.  I then, with her help, realized that I had parked my car at a Trax Station and my car wasn't even there!  No wonder I couldn't find my car.  (The cold did more than freeze my butt, it apparently froze my brain!)  So I waited for the next bus going to the Trax Station.  In the cold.  I was so done.  The bus came, delivered me to the Trax Station, I found my car with ease, and drove home.  

I had been gone for 12 long hours, at least 2 of those in absolutely intolerably freezing cold conditions and I needed to go to bed.  I took a really hot shower, and fell into bed.  But I wasn't giving up.  The next day....(Stay tuned for Part 2)


Anonymous said...

That is love for a job or love for where you live, either way it is crazy and you are way more dedicated. I would either move back or find a new job. Good luck at finding a better system.

Rose-Marie said...

I'm laughing and horrified at the same time! I've commuted by bus, in the bad weather a couple of times I've had to wait hours for the bus home, and then end up taking a snowmobile ride the last few miles. I recall a couple of times it took over 6 hours what is normally 45 minutes. I don't have a car now, and pretty much walk or take a bus. I try to plan my route extremely carefully, to help make sure i don't have to walk in bad neighborhoods, change buses 3 times, etc. The bus schedule is soo strange, some runs are every 10 min. in one direction. The other direction takes a side jaunt, so that what would take you 10 min driving, would take 2 hours by bus, so I don't assume anything. I would think if you can get all the wrinkles out, it might still be better than driving, 75 miles is a long commute to drive, but what happened to you is horrible, I'm 60 yrs old now and can't take the punishment that I could when I was younger, ie the snowmobiles, etc.

A GAL NEEDS... said...

lol, yes when we are younger sometimes the very hardship is the adventure! Commute by snowmobile sounds REALLY adventurous!

Marti Tabora said...

Wow. I've never had to take a bus or any kind of public transportation, I'm so lucky I live close to my job.

Heather! said...

Wow! Not fun at all. I can sort of relate, at least a little. I recently tried to figure out the bus system in Dublin. I guess it's fairly straight-forward, if you're accustomed to public transportation. I'M NOT. It was really nerve-wracking! I knew that, no matter where I might end up, I'd be all right, and that I could always jump into a taxi if I had to do, but it was really a bit scary, all the same. I really do wish I knew how to read bus and train schematics better, and had the confidence to use them more effectively. Good for you for trying, and for sticking it out under such uncomfortable conditions!

Donna George said...

While I hat e that you were so cold and uncomfortable, I had to laugh. I'm the kind of person who would have had the train schedule memorized, the google map printed and in my purse, the list of alternate routes and tzax numbers, etc.

amy m said...

I use public transit every day, and sometimes it's just no fun. I had a complete meltdown this past winter when a city bus sped past me on one of this coldest days of the coldest cold snap in memory. My tears froze. No joke.