I had the honor of serving on a working group for President Carter, with the assignment to study public transportation in Europe. The design philosophy of the century-old Paris METRO had withstood the test of time and technological change.
Its roots were in the French Alps, where thousands of small streams reach high into the mountains and drain the water into ever-enlarging waterways until it merges into rivers. To French engineers, it was simply a challenge to provide the buses and street cars to "drain" the suburbs and deliver the population to merge points where fast trains and subways speed them to their metropolitan destinations, all without the need for automobiles or even bicycles.
That philosophy is clearly understood and employed throughout Europe. From my ancient apartment complex on the southern edge of Vienna, I crossed the street to board a bus that came by every 15 minutes. Seven minutes later, I entered an underground train station, and 12 minutes after that I stepped on an escalator that emerged on the opposite side of that spacious city, within one block of the gate to the United Nations building and my office. My only task during that quiet trip was reviewing a briefing or the morning paper. Comparing that with the terrifying auto commute of about the same distance from my home south of D.C. to the Pentagon, that took over twice as long, I realized that Europeans arrive at work far less stressed than Americans!
But the real advantage is that, in nine years, I never experienced "smog" in Vienna (or Munich or Oslo, or even Budapest). The American refusal to abandon their security blanket of an automobile will eventually lead to their demise. If they survive the traffic chaos (if you're born in Utah, you are eight times more likely to die in an auto accident than if you're born in Austria), they will surely choke on their own exhaust fumes.
Upon arrival in Utah six years ago, to avail myself of the VA medical facility named after my friend George Wahlen, I searched for a house in Roy within walking distance of a bus line. Unfortunately, the sporadic connections and erratic schedules were such that it was quite impossible to make any hospital appointments earlier than late afternoon. My joy at witnessing the expansion of the FrontRunner was short-lived, when the bus route change to accommodate the remote location of the Roy Station moved the bus stop two miles from my home.
Utah's attempt at "mass transit" is obviously based upon politics and not population. FrontRunner is running empty because there's no bus network to fill it! There is apparently no philosophy in existence and no perceived motivation to create one. What is readily apparent is a multitude of existing situations just waiting to be rectified: i.e., Roy is the bedroom for many of the 20,000 civilian workers on Hill Air Force Base, almost all of whom individually drive gas-guzzling smoke-belching autos to and from work. A cooperative busing program between the Air Force and local government could get them all to work on time, without damage to their (our) lungs nor bodily injury in traffic accidents. A very similar situation existed at a US Army base in Munich, Germany, and it worked great!
Financial limitations? There are very few school buses in Europe; almost all locales have "mass transit" that fills that need in a safer and more practical manner. Such huge savings could also be realized in America. However, it does seem that we won't discover public transportation until "Hell freezes over." But isn't that exactly what we have in Utah right now. What did you see out of your window?
Schaffert lives in Roy.