Man, do I ever stand corrected.
Who knew? All these years, I've been operating under the false assumption that mass transit in this state was a joke, and it turns out to be the envy of the civilized world.
So, when you think about the top public transportation systems for commuters in this country, which cities spring to mind? New York City, right? Or Washington, D.C., or Chicago, maybe?
Well, would you believe Salt Lake City? That's right, according to a new study, Utah has some of the best commuter mass transit in the country.
Color me floored.
The study came from the prestigious Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit "think tank." Well, it sounds like somebody needs to change the water in the tank.
The Bookings study ranked 100 metro areas for their ability to connect people to employment. And apparently, public transit in this state is doing a better job than in the vast majority of cities.
How much better? Salt Lake City ranks third in the country. Third! Not only that, but Provo clocks in at No. 9, and Ogden is not far behind at No. 11.
If you believe the report, all three Utah cities place well ahead of traditionally strong mass transit towns like New York City (13th) and Washington, D.C. (17th). Why, even San Francisco, with its famed cable cars and BART train system, couldn't fare any better than 16th.
Sorry, but if Utah is the poster child for the very best this country has to offer, public transit is in a world of hurt.
Many years ago, as a young married couple, my wife and I went to visit an uncle who lived in the suburbs outside Washington, D.C.
That first morning, the three of us decided to do some sightseeing in D.C. As we left the uncle's condo and started down the street toward the bus stop a block away, we could see the bus approaching.
Having been raised on Utah Transit Authority's notorious bus schedules, my wife and I both broke into a dead run -- until we realized something was missing. We looked back. Uncle Wayne stood there on the sidewalk, regarding us with amused curiosity.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"We'll miss the bus," we both said in breathless unison.
A laugh. "It's OK, there'll be another one along in five minutes."
True to his word, almost before the one bus had disappeared down the street, here came another along the very same route.
Now THAT'S mass transit.
Look, nobody wants to take public transportation. That's why they call it public transportation. Indeed, near as I can tell, the only time people regularly ride the bus is when A) they have to (no vehicle, vehicle in shop, etc.); or B) their employer subsidizes the monthly UTA pass to the point that it's cheap or even free.
I tried making public transit work. I really did. But consider the logistical gymnastics I'd have to perform just to become a regular 8-to-5 commuter on UTA:
I live in Farmington, and work at Business Depot Ogden. By private vehicle, it takes just under 30 minutes to make the 23-mile commute. In other words, I can leave my house at 7:30 a.m. and be loafing at my desk by 8.
Not so if I take public transportation.
My best option for getting to work on time via UTA is to leave my house by 6:30 a.m. to catch the 6:46 FrontRunner train in Farmington -- which arrives at the Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at 7:16. I then have a 14-minute wait for the bus (to pass the time I like to count the cigarette butts, as well as the disgusting slime spots left by spitters, on the intermodal plaza), which takes me to BDO. A short walk to work and I'm at the office, wasting time on Facebook, just before 8 a.m. Total commute time: 81 minutes.
But that's the good news. Because getting home is a bit more problematic.
Currently, there are no buses that go through BDO after 5 p.m. So I would have to leave work early enough to catch the 4:39 bus, which delivers me to the Ogden FrontRunner station at 4:54 p.m. I then wait 22 minutes for the train, which departs at 5:16 and delivers me to the Farmington station at 5:46, and I'm home by six. Total commute time: 89 minutes.
Of course, if I miss that 4:39 bus thanks to a phone call from yet another satisfied (read: "angry") reader, then it's a long walk over to Wall Avenue to wait heaven-knows-how-long for another bus to the transit center.
And for that privilege, I get to pay the relatively steep price of $7.50 per day? No, thank you.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't envy the Utah Transit Authority's obscenely overpaid executives. What with how spread out we are here in the West, it's gotta be hard trying to please everyone when it comes to schedules and routes. But the least they could do is stop calling it mass transit.
Because, particularly here in Utah, it's anything but.
Contact Mark Saal -- well before 4:30 p.m., please -- at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.