Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Riders board the FrontRunner train in Salt Lake City for the free ride to Provo, Saturday, December 8, 2012. The public was invited to ride the new FrontRunner line linking Provo and Salt Lake City starting at 10 a.m.
FrontRunner debut turns a bit bumpy
Transit » UTA says the bugs are being worked out.
First Published Dec 11 2012 02:11 pm • Last Updated Dec 13 2012 01:55 pm

Crowds riding the new FrontRunner extension between Salt Lake City and Provo had their experience derailed by a variety of foul-ups and delays in its first couple days of operation.

Problems included vending machines that would not dispense tickets, promised Wi-Fi Internet access sometimes not functioning, confusion about which side of platforms trains would arrive at and slow-loading crowds and mechanical breakdowns creating delays.

At a glance

Crowds flocked to free fare day

During a “food for fare” offer Saturday, 32,300 people rode the new FrontRunner South extension to Provo. That is about five times the 6,800 riders expected on a normal weekday.

Utah Transit Authority spokesman Gerry Carpenter said waits were up to two hours to board a train in Provo, and all trains were full including use of all standing-room-only space. UTA even brought in buses so people waiting in line could get out of the cold.

Carpenter said 25,324 pounds of nonperishable food items for food banks were collected in lieu of fares that day.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Social networks also carry plenty of griping from some Utah County riders who have longer commutes than they did with now-canceled express buses and from some FrontRunner North and TRAX riders who have somewhat-reduced service to help pay for the new FrontRunner South.

But the new rail line also has its cheering fans.

"We’ve had some growing pains," acknowledged Utah Transit Authority spokesman Gerry Carpenter. "There is always a settling-in period with a new line. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and ask for their patience."

An example of problems as the new line opened Monday was that ticket vending machines quit accepting credit cards for payment. A station in South Jordan lost power, so ticket machines there did not work at all. Carpenter said problems were resolved, and transit police allowed people to ride without tickets because of problems.

He said another problem is that the many new passengers using the line "are taking longer to board than typical," and operators were "exercising extra caution as they approached the new stations." That led to peak-hour delays of seven to eight minutes on most trains, and some delays of 15 minutes or more.

"Hopefully, over the next couple days, the customers and our operators will get used to how the new system works," Carpenter said, "and we’ll be able to stay closer to our posted schedule."

On Tuesday, a train broke down in Kaysville in a section where only a single track is used. It had to be towed to Layton, and the ripple effect created long delays in all FrontRunner sections for hours.

"You do all the testing you can to make sure everything is working in functional order," Carpenter said, "but the real test is when passengers start using it."

story continues below
story continues below

Twitter posts showed some confusion among riders about which side of platforms trains would arrive — because it is opposite from most TRAX stations. FrontRunner’s southbound trains use the east side of platforms, and northbound trains use the west side. UTA Twitter posts noted that is standard for most heavy rail lines and said it will work to improve signs to make that clearer.

Matthew Flitton filed a Twitter post typical of many Utah County residents complaining about longer commutes on FrontRunner than on former express buses. "You guys almost doubled my commute, 60 minutes to 110," he wrote. "I bought my house for proximity to bus and you took it away. ... I’m driving now."

Carpenter said while FrontRunner now makes many former express bus riders transfer, increasing their commute times, the train can carry far more passengers than buses. "We believe we will carry many more people between counties on FrontRunner than we ever have been able to do with express buses, and it is also an investment for the future."

Some FrontRunner North riders complained that service every 30 minutes is now limited to peak hours, and even some peak-hour trains disappeared. D. Young posted on Twitter: "Would’ve enjoyed riding the train today but you removed the morning route that would get me to work on time," the northbound train from Clearfield at 6:01 a.m.

And some complained about cuts in TRAX to help afford other service. That includes starting TRAX an hour later on Saturdays (the first blue-line train departs Sandy Civic Center at 6:36 a.m.), and ending Sunday service 90 minutes to two hours earlier (the last train now leaves Salt Lake City Central Station at 8:12 p.m.).

"I spent $50 in the taxi because no TRAX at 9 p.m." on Sunday, Daniel Lopez Garcia posted on Twitter. He said he was aware that ending times were earlier and he arrived on time, but he and others were left waiting for a train that never came.

Still, amid the glitches, several people expressed glee at the new FrontRunner. For example, Katie Farr Harmer tweeted, "Dear UTA, the FrontRunner is awesome. Makes my commute 100 [times] easier."

Carpenter said "very preliminary" estimates show 6,700 people rode FrontRunner South on Monday, about matching the 6,800 a day that UTA has estimated would ride it daily at opening. He said the figures could be revised upward as data is examined.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.