When You Don’t Have a Car: Using Public Transportation

6266333529_aa8537bc61_mWhen you’ve been in a car accident, there are often lengthy repairs to perform on your vehicle, and unfortunately, you may not be able to get a rental car right away. In addition, many people who have survived car accidents are not physically or emotionally able or ready to drive a vehicle–even if there is one available to them. What do you do if you are in one of these situations after an accident?

For many people who are used to relying on a car for day-to-day life, not having one or not being able to drive may seem hopeless. Luckily, there are a few options you can utilize in Utah to get from place to place and to still complete your daily tasks. Some of those options include taxis or ride-share services, but one of the best options you can take advantage of in Utah is the public transportation service provided by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA). This article will discuss the benefits of public transportation, why public transportation is so underused in the United States, and the facts about UTA services and how you can utilize them.

The many benefits of public transportation

Public transportation is an excellent way to get around and, according to many studies, even improves physical and mental health. John Mickey lists six benefits of public transportation in his article, “6 Health Benefits of Public Transportation.”  He includes the fact that

  • buses are much safer than individual vehicles,
  • public transportation saves the rider money,
  • paying for gas is often ore expensive than purchasing a monthly pass to take public transportation, and
  • public transportation is more environmentally friendly than individual vehicles.

According to a policy research document produced by the American Public Transportation Association in 2009, public transportation benefits the economy and the environment by:

  • Saving energy. Public transportation use will save the U.S. the equivalent of 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
  • Keeping our air clean. Public transportation in the U.S. saves 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.
  • Reducing traffic congestion. If more people are riding the bus or train, there’s going to be less congestion on the roads.
  • Boosting the economy. More public transit projects adds more available jobs to the nation’s economy, providing a source of livelihood for more people while also promoting a sustainable society.

Why some people still avoid public transportation

Reading the benefits brings up a question: If public transportation really is that beneficial, why do so many Americans still choose to drive their own car? According the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 survey report on commuting in the United States, 86% of American workers opt to commute to work using their own personal automobiles rather than ride a public vehicle.

An Economist “Why don’t Americans ride trains?” also explores why the country with the largest rail network in the world doesn’t use trains for passengers. The simple answer is that for many Americans, driving their own personal car is easier and appears to have no negative outcomes—at least, not visible problems.

One Salt Lake City blogger explained his personal reasons for not taking UTA buses, saying that even though he is in favor of public transportation, UTA bus maps are much too cumbersome to interpret.

But for those who do not have a car and do not want to spend an excessive amount of money, UTA provides many beneficial and efficient services that make it easy to get around Utah. Sometimes finding the information for the services can be cumbersome, so this article breaks it down a little. The most popular services are described in more detail below in order to give you a better overview of what is available to you, depending on where you want to go and what you need to do. 

What’s the difference between the bus, TRAX, and the FrontRunner?

The bus. The bus is a cost effective alternative to driving. UTA has buses that run all over Utah, in most counties.

TRAX. The TRAX is a light rail system that goes only throughout Salt Lake County. A one-way fare is $2.50 and a round-trip TRAX ticket is $5.00. If you are a senior, a minor or even riding as a group, you can get discounted fares.

The FrontRunner. The FrontRunner is Utah’s first commuter rail train. It starts in Provo and has stops all the way up to Pleasant View, at the following locations:

  • Provo
  • Orem
  • American Fork
  • Lehi
  • Draper
  • South Jordan
  • Murray
  • Salt Lake Central
  • North Temple
  • Woods Cross
  • Farmington
  • Layton
  • Clearfield
  • Roy
  • Ogden
  • Pleasant View

The cost for the FrontRunner depends on where you are starting and where you are getting off. These tables explain how much tickets are. It depends on if you are going one-way or getting a round-trip ticket.

Payment. While you cannot get onto the bus without paying a fare, many people slip onto the TRAX and/or FrontRunner thinking they can get away with not purchasing a ticket. Be warned: you will pay the price for trying to ride sans ticket. It is not worth receiving a ticket that is generally about $150 because you did not purchase a $5 ticket.

If interested in exploring other discounts, you can visit UTA’s more extensive list of UTA fares and discounts.

What do I need to do before I ride?

The TRAX and FrontRunner stations all have multiple signs indicating how long till the next train to your destination. All around the TRAX station, you will be able to find maps detailing the different directions each TRAX line takes. You can purchase your ticket at the designated pay stations at TRAX and FrontRunner stations if you don’t already have a pass. You can use cash, credit or debit card.

If you remember the aforementioned SLC blogger’s complaint, bus stops are a little bit trickier because they do not have such clear instructions or maps. Below is a list of instructions for riding the bus. Hopefully, it makes your trip go more smoothly.

Find bus information.

  • The cost of one-way fare is $2.50. The bus will not give you change, so make sure you have the exact amount. You can also buy a Pass Online, but they will not be shipped out until the next business day and you cannot use them your receipt as proof of confirmation.
  • If you need more information, go to ride.uta.com or call UTA at (801) 743-3882 (RIDE-UTA). Customer service will also help you if English is your second language.

Plan your trip.

  • UTA has a very handy trip planner that will help direct you from point A to point B. Additionally, you can also use Google Maps to see what buses or other services you’ll need to take and use.
    • See exactly what side of the road you will need to be on, as well as what times the bus will arrive. Additionally, look at the reverse, and make sure you know how to get home.
    • Not every single stop is listed on the schedule on the UTA website. This why the UTA trip planner, Google Maps, and UTA’s phone service come in very handy.

Always go to the bus stop several minutes early.

  • You don’t want to miss your bus and have to wait—it’s good to be overly cautious, just in case.

When you see the bus approach, make sure you check to see if it is the right bus number.

  • If it is, step forward to the curb in front of the designated bus stop so the driver can see you and let you board.

When you get on the bus, pay your fare.

  • If you know you will need to be boarding another bus, ask for a transfer slip.
  • If you want to double check to make sure you are headed in the right direction, you can confirm with the bus driver.
  • When you are approaching your stop (generally one block before), pull the cord that runs above the windows or in between the windows. This will alert the driver to stop at the next stop.

Riding public transportation can be tricky, but with the right tools and resources, it becomes easy, efficient, and cost-effective. Additionally, understanding how to use public transportation can be very beneficial even if you have not been in an accident—for example, if you have to take your car to a shop for a few days and you do not have another mode of transportation. While there are some setbacks, public transportation in the long run is better for the environment and, depending on what kind of car you have or how much you drive, your budget.

Photo copyright to Garrett


Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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