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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson realized that her son had to have his wisdom teeth removed during the tail-end of her experiment spending a week only commuting on public transportation. It made her think about what would she do if her son’s only option was to take the bus to the dentist for that procedure and only had to that option to travel home afterward.
“It makes me sad when you think about it,” she said, standing outside of the Salt Lake County Government Center on Friday morning. However, those are the experiences and thoughts she said she wanted from an experiment she conducted.
For the past week, Wilson walked, rode TRAX, buses and other forms of mass transportation from home to work and to various meetings. The goal was to better understand Salt Lake County’s public transit system and who uses it.
As the week concluded, she said she enjoyed the week for the most part, even if her commute time from her home near the University of Utah campus and the government building in South Salt Lake doubled. She found ways to work on TRAX and also get exercise from walking to fill in some of that time.
On Friday, as the week ended, she said the Utah Transit Authority is doing a good job overall, but called for more frequent and reliable transit, especially on the weekends. UTA doesn’t run its FrontRunner train that runs from Ogden to Provo on Sundays and all bus routes have longer intervals between buses during the weekends.
We still have issues with Sunday service and people who need to get to work or just church, or to even their grandma on a Sunday.
–Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson
Wilson added mass transit can be difficult for those who may have disabilities but don’t qualify for UTA’s paratransit services.
“It’s harder for (aging people) and people who may not have an extreme disability to use our system,” she said. “We know there are areas that are developing like the southwest quadrant, where transportation systems haven’t come up. We still have issues with Sunday service and people who need to get to work or just church, or to even their grandma on a Sunday.”
In terms of public transit, there have been some recent changes in Salt Lake City to fix some of the issues Wilson brought up. City government officials cited concerns about a lack of buses during evenings and weekends, as well as not having many routes that connected the east and west sides of the city before agreeing to a deal with UTA to expand service in Utah’s largest city.
Those routes went into effect in August, when the agency made other changes to routes across Salt Lake, Davis, Ogden, Utah and Tooele counties. Officials also tested a microtransit service between Herriman, Riverton, Bluffdale, Draper and South Jordan in southeastern Salt Lake City as part of a pilot program for new ways to expand services.
"We know folks want even better service than what we currently provide and so we're looking for ways to do that within what we can afford," Carlton Christensen, chair of the UTA Board of Trustees, said in an interview with Wilson on Thursday, which was provided to the media.
Wilson added she hopes more investment goes into public transit in the future, especially as a way to make sure people are moving where they need to go in Salt Lake County as efficiently as possible and to help with the area’s air quality.
“I really think about the large number of cars we have on the road and the growth we have coming,” she said, “and I think it’s important we take active measures to get cars off the road.”