I have mixed feelings about the new bus route to Salt Lake City. On one hand, as a commuter I’ve fantasized about how nice it would be to sit on a bus and read the paper or prepare for my work day. There are 26 stop lights between my house and the parking lot at the University of Utah, and there have been many days over the last ten years when I’ve found myself hovering for a parking spot before I could actually get out of the car. Since I’ve usually been driving up and down the canyon during peak hours, the trip was often frustrating and it feels like a massive waste of time. It’s great to know that if I was still commuting to the U, I could spend the trip checking and responding to emails, prepping for work, and possibly reading the paper.
On the other hand, now that I commute to Westminster, there aren’t as many stop lights and the trip is quicker. There are no parking problems on this campus, and I commute during off hours now. Although I am a big proponent of conserving energy, my car gets 35 miles to a gallon, so it’s relatively inexpensive to drive to Sugarhouse. It costs me about $7.00 (plus insurance and wear and tear) to drive from my place on Rossi Hill to the lot at Westminster. A round-trip ticket on the new bus costs $11.00. That seems like a reasonable option for one or two days a week, but if I decided to commute 5 days a week, the bus would cost an extra $20, or $80 a month.
Although the extra $80 a week might be reasonable, I’m not sure that I could justify the extra time it would take me to commute by bus. I figure that it would take me about an hour and 20 minutes to get from my house to my office at Westminster College, about 45 minutes longer that it would take me to drive. Multiple that by 2 and we’re talking about adding an extra 90 minutes of commute time each day. I’m not sure if I could justify the extra time and money that it would take to commute via our new bus system. The better solution would be to carpool.
The other thing that occurs to me about the new bus route is that it is probably a better deal for employers who want to import cheap labor from Salt Lake City, than it is for workers even if they have to pay for gas. An employer who is paying a worker $8 an hour, plus $220 for bus service 5 days a week, would still be saving $100 a month (not including taxes etc.) than s/he would have to shell out if the employer gave the employee a $2 an hour raise to $10 an hour. If the same worker has to pay for transportation to the Trax line or for a UTA bus, the worker’s cost increases and s/he still has to give up the extra 90 minutes or so in unpaid time.
Of course none of the above calculates the carbon emissions saved from reducing auto travel, but the best option for low wage workers would be paid a living wage and to have the option of an employee sponsored bus route benefit. Still, at least the new route offers commuters an option.
I’m more worried about the fact that approximately 70% of the homes in Park City and the Snyderville Basin are vacant for most of the year. I’d like to see policymakers address the issue of how we can increase the number of full-time residents in the area, rather than making it easier for businesses to import low wage workers from out-of-town.