Transit Adventures

The Two Month Old FrontRunner South including the two train stations in Provo, across a grade crossing from each other.

Today was my one full day in Salt Lake City. I spent it rail fanning the new FrontRunner South extension who’s service is luckily fully interlined with FrontRunner north. The day though was rippled with delays from waiting to meet late trains going the other direction on the numerous passing sidings. This is somewhat expected on a single track railroad but seems inexcusable for FrontRunner because, except for the two trips per day extension to Pleasant View, FrontRunner has its own exclusive ROW to the side of the Union Pacific Line used by freight trains as well as Amtrak.

I wake up to a hazy and hazy, cold day in Salt Lake City. There is terrible air pollution from an inversion. This is caused by the mountains trapping all of the air pollution into the Wasatch Valley. I am undecided if I would actually finish FrontRunner South with just hourly service. I start by stopping at customer service for timetables. They were out of the most useful ones.

I then walk up to North temple, a new infill station that will soon connect to the Airport TRAX line but the escalators/elevators up to that platform are still under construction. I buy my group day pass, I think that’s the cheep est option still for $14 and board the 10:04 train. Its fairly crowded and a good deal of the car gets on and off at Salt Lake Central with the train heading south noticeably less busy.

We zoom through snow covered fields along the UP line that Amtrak used when I headed north yesterday. We also go beneath highways and past a large freight yard. The train leaves Salt Lake City between factories. We follow I-15 with its express toll lanes. We rise up onto an overpass before South Jordan and switch from the east to the west side of the Union Pacific Tracks

We go through the super neat Jordan Narrows, following the Jordan River. I decide to start with the easy two stations for doubling-back to and get off at the generic Park & Ride American Fork Station arriving at 10:45. I have half an hour there before doubling back on the 11:14 train to the much more interesting Lehi (Thanksgiving Point on the internet timetable) station with an underpass connecting down to both sides of the single island platform. It is the only FrontRunner station without any pedestrian grade crossings.

I take the 11:38 train down to Orem at a busy transit center with nothing nearby, arriving at 11:56. I photograph a northbound train going by at 12:05. I then correctly guess when the one route in Utah County, the 830 that runs every 15 minutes will leave to take me down to Provo. The rest of the buses (some with more direct faster trips) have all left the transit center, all pulsed after FrontRunner arrived.

The bus leaves and goes a short distance before we pull up in front of the bus depot and for the first time (I can remember) outside of New York I experience a driver change. The bus also has take one barf bags with a sign “for customers not feeling well” My fellow bus passengers change at Utah Valley University and one takes the last bag. On the bus along University Avenue, in strip mall land I see a California institution, In-n-out burger. I decide that’s the place for lunch and get off the bus for a berger, fries and a shake for less than $7 for my lunch. I take the next bus a half-hour later down to downtown Provo where I get off just before the bus goes over the FrontRunner Station and back around to enter what is presently the southern terminus of FrontRunner.

At that point I have 20 minutes in Ogden before the next train. This city lacks any historical train infrastructure. Just a modern AmShelter and a standard FrontRunner island platform, that are a block apart from each other and on opposite sides of the tracks since Amtrak uses the UP tracks and FrontRunner its own, newly built tracks. I get virtually everything done in my 20 minutes (although it would have been nice to get FrontRunner passing the Amtrak platform) but that doesn’t seem worth spending a full hour in Provo to get.

I take the next train at 1:57 up to South Jordan arriving at 2:35. There I have about 20 minutes before the next trip of bus route 218. This takes me to Sandy Civic Center. From there I catch the TRAX Blue Line to Murray Central.

At Murray Central I have 15 minutes for photos of the newly built FrontRunner platform before taking the 3:46 train back south to Draper where I arrive at 4:00. This station is at a new suburban office park location mostly under construction but fills with businessmen men during my half-hour there waiting for the two trains that have a timed meet in the station station. The platform is still under construction with workers still putting the finishing touches on the second story of the station’s parking garage and the north grade crossing closed. The northbound train comes in at 4:30. A wheelchair is getting on but doesn’t go towards the bridge plate the train host (as there vests say, not the conductor) is grabbing. She says “Some don’t want it.”

I decide I want to have half an hour in daylight to get some photos of the new signage at Salt Lake Central as well as at North Temple. I get distracted at Salt Lake Central, including photographing the next southbound train heading south towards, Provo passing the Amtrak platforms. I start walking up to North Temple and end up having to run for the train, just catching it.

I just make the 5:27 train at North Temple on my 30 minute downtown layover up to Farmington, the one FrontRunner Stop with a pedestrian bridge. This train has nearly every set of seats taken, with many passengers standing. All the FrontRunner seats are in the facing seats layout and not the theater, rows layout. People don’t like butting knees with strangers and most sets of four aren’t fully taken with folks standing.

I arrive in Farmington at 5:46 for a half hour at dusk. The lights from the overpass and shopping mall next to the station make it the perfect place for dusk photos. I get on the 6:16 train and we get the waiting for the northbound train to arrive announcement. We creep out at 6:21, and the northbound finally passes at 6:25 at the southern end of the siding.

The train host comes through the car and verbally tells us the train will go out of service at Salt Lake Central, I don’t hear anything over the PA about this, as we pass the chemical refinery. We stop again before finally arriving at North Temple. I get off and get a few nighttime station photos, including of the TRAX connection, boarded up but with its lights on. I then head back to my hotel to meet my Dad for dinner, happy Utah on the SubwayNut will be complete again until April with the Airport extension opens.

Tomorrow were off on TRAX to the SkiBus to go skiing and stay at Alta for 3 days, the main reason for this trip to Utah.