Since making the decision to move to Utah and use bicycles as our primary mode of transportation, my wife Jan and I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that we can also use UTA trains and buses to extend our range well beyond what we originally planned for. While it’s great that so much of Ogden is within five miles of our front door and perfect for the Bike 5 life, there are times we might want to go further afield.
Transit wasn’t part of our decison to relocate here, but as we’ve gotten to know the Wasatch Front a little better it has become clear that we can utilize FrontRunner commuter rail to dramatically extend our car free range. This is a huge benefit…a real game changer. That’s why I’m so thankful that the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has spent time thinking about something called first and last mile, even if we hadn’t.
First and last mile is how transit officials describe the distance between your home and where you board transit on the front end and the distance from where you disembark to your final destination on the back end. Many folks who might otherwise use transit opt out because there’s no easy way to cover that first and last mile.
There is in Ogden, and that easy way is by bicycle. It works because it has been planned into the system. Wherever you live in Ogden is within a mile of a bus stop. You either walk or bike that first mile and then take the bus to either your destination or the city’s fabulous intermodal center where you hop a train to Salt Lake City and the world beyond.
Better still, since Ogden is a compact city and most people are less than five miles from the intermodal center, why not skip the bus altogether and Bike 5 to the train? That’s what we’re going to do. For us, it’s an easy bike ride straight down 22nd Street to the intermodal center. There’s a bike lane. If we prefer, we can take the Ogden River Trail. It connects directly. We can avoid the bus completely.
From there, we have a choice that depends on where we’re going and what we’re going to do when we get there. If we want, we can lock our bikes in a locker at the intermodal center where they’ll be safely waiting for us upon our return, or we can roll them onto the train and ride off at the other end. Either way, we win because we don’t need a car to cover that first or last mile and, better yet, we don’t need to take the bus to the train.
I’m sure that when we begin doing this regularly we’ll find holes in the system. I already know, for example, that FrontRunner trains don’t run on Sundays. There are also other gaps in coverage. Some buses run irregularly or on limited schedules. You have to plan ahead. This isn’t an issue to us, but it might be to others.
Bottom line, I’m a big fan of policies and methodologies that address the first and last mile challenge. They make it easier for people to use bicycles as transportation. They expand the cyclist’s range…even the casual cyclist…well beyond five miles. If you have transit in your city or town, please consider reaching out to local officials and asking them to implement first and last mile plans. Your efforts will help encourage others to cycle, and that’s a good thing for everyone.