Better bus routes could change rural Utahns’ lives, advocates say. Here’s how.

Rural Utahns called on the Legislature to fund investment in public transportation at the Capitol on Wednesday.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The UTA Utah Valley Express (UVX), part of UTA's bus rapid transit system (BRT) between Orem and Provo. Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

For Anastasia Green, 26, getting around Price is unpredictable. Green has cerebral palsy and can’t drive. There also isn’t any public transportation in the small town in Carbon County. When Green signed up for night classes at Utah State Eastern, no one could give her a ride so she walked in the cold.

“I must rely on others to get transportation, which at times is unreliable,” Green said while standing at a podium in the Hall of Governors at the Utah Capitol.

She and other people from Utah’s more rural counties gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to ask the Legislature to set aside more dollars for public transportation, particularly in rural Utah.

“Transit would make it possible for me and people like me to go to a doctor’s appointment and community events,” she told the roughly two dozen people gathered. “Public transit would give me more independence and give people like me a chance to expand their world.”

In his budget recommendation, Gov. Spencer Cox reallocated about $45 million to the Transit Transportation Investment Fund. Overall he called for $122 million in air quality and transportation investments. The transit advocates gathered that day wanted the Legislature to adopt the governor’s request.

“We have cities that are large for us but small for the rest of the world,” said Christine Watkins, R-Price, who represents Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, and Grand counties. “And we don’t have any public transportation.”

People who need to get to medical appointments or attend rehabilitation programs struggle in the districts she represents, Watkins said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Price, Utah in Carbon County on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.

“I have personally driven people to get drug tests, to go to classes, to get their kids to the doctor and to even get groceries,” Watkins said. “We desperately need some way that’s affordable and available for our people to move within their own communities and we don’t have that right now.”

Joshua Taylor, a bus driver for the Cache Valley Transit District, stressed that he provides a critical way for people to get to work and school and even dialysis appointments. “Buses provide a safe, accessible alternative to driving for those with and without cars,” Taylor said.

A member of Cedar City’s public transportation board, Kathy Long, noted that the one bus route in her city covered a population of more than 35,000. It takes an hour to get from one side of town to the other via bus, Long said. “I think that people don’t understand how much help we really do need.”

James Stone, 64, lives in St. George and is completely reliant on public transportation because of a disability.

“I urge the legislators to do the right thing,” Stone said. “Because myself and other people cannot drive in these underserved communities.”