With gas prices surging to record highs, some Utahns are trading in the convenience of driving a car for the cost savings of taking public transportation.
Josh Sirstins owns a car, but he started taking the bus from his home in South Jordan to work in Salt Lake City during Utah Transit Authority’s Free Fare February last month. Now that the free program has ended, he still plans to ride the bus every day for the foreseeable future.
“Obviously, it’s not free anymore, but it’s still cheaper than gas,” he said.
He estimates that taking transit saves him around $10 per day that he would have spent on gas, which makes it worth the extra 30 minutes it adds to his commute.
Sirstins isn’t the only one turning to transit, and some are moving on from their cars entirely.
Ashley Montoya just sold her car, opting to rely permanently on public transportation. Although she’s been considering it for a while, she said the rising price of gas nudged her to make the decision to sell.
“I’m so tired of having to deal with it. ... I’m not going to lie, I just sat there and I’m like, ‘You want me to pay $50 to fill up my car?’” Montoya said. “I’d rather just walk a few minutes and get on a bus.”
Montoya lives near Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City and takes the bus to West Valley City for work every day. Her shift starts at 6 a.m. most mornings and she walks about 25 minutes to catch a bus that will get her there on time.
She wishes a route closer to her would start early enough to get to work on time, but she makes the most of the walk by playing the augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go. Some weeks she can log as many as 30 miles of walking between stops.
“I’m a cardio freak, apparently,” she said laughing.
For those less interested in logging steps — or catching Pokémon — during their commute, UTA’s On Demand shuttle service can help bridge the gap between station and destination. Chloe Woods regularly uses the service to get to work, which is a few miles from the nearest station.
Although the shuttle costs a bit extra, Woods said she still expects to save at least a hundred dollars this month by not buying gas.
Jaime Mejia said having a car is still a necessity — especially on days when it rains or snows — but he’s already noticing an impact on his wallet after taking public transportation more.
“I used to drive a lot,” Mejia said, but he is willing to wait 10 minutes for a train because of how much he has been able to save.
UTA spokesman Carl Arky made the case for public transportation on KSL Newsradio last week.
For those with longer commutes, driving to a nearby station can dramatically reduce the amount of mileage driven while minimizing time spent in transit, he said.
“You don’t have to give up your car completely,” Arky said.
While cars do offer more “mobility,” Arky said transit commuters can use the added travel time to catch up on work, read or simply relax without having to worry about getting stuck in traffic.
“I think we may be at a tipping point,” Arky said, as cheaper transportation options continue to appeal to more Utahns.
Depending on the distance, buses and trains can cost as little as $2.50 per trip, or $5 for a day pass.