Tricia Saldanha lives in downtown Salt Lake City and often takes TRAX–the city’s light-rail line–to go shopping or run errands. It’s easier to hop on and off than to drive, and parking tickets aren’t a concern. But when Saldanha, 26, visits family in Provo, about 45 miles south, she bypasses the commuter-rail link between the two cities and takes her car. “I’ve done the calculations, and it’s still cheaper to drive,” she says.
Convincing Saldanha and other Utah urbanites otherwise is the job of Robin Hutcheson, Salt Lake’s head of transportation, who as you might expect often uses public transit to get to work. “We’ve got to change the mind-set here,” Hutcheson says as we wait to catch the 209 bus on a recent weekday morning. That change looks daunting: cars have been the main way to get around Salt Lake and the Wasatch Front region since they replaced the horse and buggy. Fifteen years ago, no commuter rail linked Salt Lake with nearby Ogden or Provo. Light rail didn’t connect the growing neighborhoods within those cities. In 2007, Salt Lake’s bike-lane budget was $50,000.