Why UTA Needs to Do Something About the Provo FrontRunner Ped / Bike Overpass Now

Marooned at the Provo FrontRunner Station, People Are Climbing Over Freight Trains and Jumping Onto the Tracks…Here’s How This Dangerous Problem Can Be Fixed

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Anyone that uses the Provo FrontRunner station regularly is aware of this problem: freight trains regularly sit on the tracks, blocking every North / South intersection that could be used to get to the FrontRunner Station.

Commuters often arrive early, watch their FrontRunner train pull into the station, wait for 15 minutes, and watch their train pull away without them. All while blocked by the freight trains.

Some Provo residents simply avoid taking the train because of the unpredictability of a blocked route to the station. Others have become frighteningly comfortable with climbing over the freight trains in business attire, hoisting their bicycles over the non-moving trains, and even passing young children in between train cars. What’s worse is that many times people are climbing over the freight trains and jumping onto active tracks – unaware that another freight train may be headed their way.

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Why Hasn’t UTA Taken Care of This Before? How Can They Pay for It?

The big reason that UTA hasn’t taken care of this problem seems to be cost. A pedestrian / bicycle bridge to the station would be somewhat expensive.

However, precautions have been taken at many other stations to provide safe passage and Provo should be no different. Here’s a Farmington overpass, for example:

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One way that UTA could fund an overpass would be to use Prop 1 funds if voters pass the initiative in November. At a recent meeting, UTA representatives said that their priority would likely be to spend the funds on extending service on bus routes unless they heard otherwise from Provo residents. And, as you’ll see below, Provo residents have been pretty loud and clear about the need for the overpass.

If Prop 1 passes, expenses could conceivably be shared between UTA, the city, and the county (each entity receiving a portion of the funds). However, this should be a UTA priority no matter how the vote goes.

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Yeah, But Why Don’t People Just Cross at University Ave?

When freight trains are blocking the FrontRunner station, people who live one block from the station are actually living one block PLUS a half mile walk up a dangerous auto-bridge. Take a look at the route (and note how people have to make a long North-South loop just to get on the bridge):

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When freight trains are stopped in front of the station, generally all other crossings on that stretch are also blocked. Getting to the University Ave. overpass may be a few minutes of annoyance in a car. But, on foot or by bike, it is too far. Trying to get to the station with kids or in business dress (heels…yikes) by walking an extra half mile is an obstacle that stops a lot of people from feeling that the FrontRunner is a consistent, reliable alternative.

One of UTA’s goals is to reduce the first mile / last mile problem – the problem that many people don’t use public transportation because they don’t have an accessible way to reach it without walking a mile there or walking a mile from transportation to their destination. Reducing the extra half mile that is added when people have to walk to the University Ave. overpass will be an excellent step towards that goal.

It’s also important to note that the sidewalks on the University Ave. auto-bridge are extremely narrow. Two people passing each other is awkward and even dangerous when one steps out into traffic, not to mention bikes or strollers trying to navigate the area. (Even getting on the bridge as a pedestrian takes an act of courage as its entrance is marooned in the middle of the street with road on both sides and no crosswalks).

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Where Would a Provo FrontRunner Overpass Go?

UTA would have to work with the city to figure this out. An ideal location would be 600 South and 100 West. 600 South and Freedom Blvd. could also work.

Take a look at this awesome rendering of a Provo ped / bike bridge from Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group:

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Is There Public Support for a FrontRunner Overpass?

Absolutely. Just about anyone that uses FrontRunner regularly will have stories about jumping over stagnant freight trains or seeing other people do so. Here are some of the write-in responses Provo residents gave to UTA regarding funding priorities:

“The main thing Provo needs is a way for people to get to the train at the University Avenue station. Regularly there are freight trains stopped for long periods of time and pedestrians sometimes jump between cars to get to the station. (Super dangerous) but the only alternative is to miss the train because there is no pedestrian bridge over the freight tracks.”

“I see a need for a pedestrian bridge at the FrontRunner stop @Provo station both for safety and practicality. My home overlooks the tracks. At least once a week I see some kid risk too much trying to beat the train on foot or bike. I am a big believer in public transportation, I specifically choose to live here so I can go without a car. The footbridge would make commuting much easier, not only for me, but also for the growing number of people I see drive their bikes to the station. A pedestrian overpath would allow people to ride or carry their bikes easily without having to wait in the elements at the crossroad where trains frequently block commuters.”

“I travel with my disabled, wheelchair bound son daily on the FrontRunner from Provo to Murray and I am often concerned about safety, especially surrounding the Provo station. Frequently we have issues of his wheelchair wheels getting caught in the tracks. We also encounter missing the train due to other lines long haul trains maneuvering and stopping on the tracks next to the FrontRunner line. It would be most useful to us and many others if some sort of wheelchair and pedestrian accessible bridge or tunnel could be built at the Provo station.”

“Please build a bridge at the Provo FrontRunner station so that people crossing the cargo train tracks don’t miss their FrontRunner train!”

“The Provo FrontRunner station is sometimes difficult to get to when blocked by freight, and this is causing both delays and a dangerous situation because people are climbing over the trains. Most of Provo lives north of the tracks, and people walking or driving are more likely to cross the tracks at Freedom Blvd. than University Avenue.”

“There NEEDS to be a pedestrian bridge put in place at the Provo stop. Too many times I have been stopped by the Pacific Union train and even though it stops, myself and many patrons have to climb up and over the train to get to the front runner. It’s absolutely absurd. This really isn’t something that is for convenience…it is a safety necessity. For those of us that ride daily and rely on this daily, we need a walkway or a bridge for bikes/ped crossing.”

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LEFT: the train station people need to get to RIGHT: downtown Provo, where most people are headed CENTER: freight trains blocking the crossing

“We need a pedestrian bridge over the tracks at 600 S in Provo so people can get to the bus station easier, a lot of times the road is blocked by Union Pacific trains.”

“I have missed the FrontRunner on my way to work multiple times because another train has been sitting on the tracks at the Provo station. I was waiting with about 8 other people. I left and came back hoping the train would have moved in half an hour, but it hadn’t and I missed the next train, too. I ended up being an hour late to work. There needs to be a pedestrian bridge over those tracks so people can get to the FrontRunner when other trains are in the way. I was tempted to climb over the connection between cars because the train blocking our way wasn’t even moving.”

“An overpass to the Provo Station for bikes and pedestrians when the tracks are blocked by Union Station trains. I’ve missed the train often, even when leaving early enough to get to the station ten to twenty minutes before the train is supposed to depart.”

“I love the Provo center station, but it is so hard to get to if you are not in a car. We desperately need a new pedestrian solution–a bridge/flyover or something that would make it possible to walk from the station to Center Street.”

“We desperately need a pedestrian/bike overpass to the Provo FrontRunner Station. It is incredibly dangerous with the Union Pacific tracks there and more could be done to make the station pedestrian accessible.”

“I think UTA should build pedestrian bridges at select FrontRunner stations (i.e. Provo) to pass over UP trains, it’s irritating missing a train when the Freedom Blvd crossing is blocked.”

What Can Provo Residents Do?

There’s clearly an outpouring of support for an overpass. You can check out their survey to read even more responses. Please help get the word out by sharing this info however you can. Please also consider submitting your own survey answers and help us work together with UTA, Provo City, and the county to take care of this long overdue problem.

Thanks to Chloe Jensen, Paige Marie Pitcher, and Karen Tapahe for the photos and videos of people stuck behind and climbing over trains. Thanks to Urban Design Associates working with the Giv Group for the artistic rendering of a potential ped / bike overpass.

Find Out What Provo City Council Candidates Think About Bicycles: Who Will You Vote for Nov. 3rd?

bike-the-voteOne of the best ways to make a difference for safe streets in Provo is to vote for city council candidates who are dedicated to neighborhoods that work for pedestrians and bicyclists. All registered voters in Provo will have a chance to vote for city council candidates on November 3rd, 2015. Not sure about voting? You can find out how to register here. Find your polling place here. And, watch more in-depth candidate videos here.

Huge kuddos to the candidates who responded to our four bicycle survey questions (posted here with a bit more context). Many of the candidates were also able to make it out to October’s Provo Bicycle Committee meeting, where they introduced themselves and saw a bit of what is happening with bikes in Provo. Please check out the survey questions below and share them with your Provo neighbors and friends interested in safer streets.

City-Wide Provo City Council Candidates

Everyone that votes in Provo can vote for one of these candidates, no matter where you live.

George Stewart

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Carina Wytiaz

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Would you be willing to sponsor or support a “Complete Streets” bill for Provo? I am completely in favor of making Provo and its streets more bicycle friendly but I cannot commit to sponsor or support a bill I have not seen or reviewed. I would be willing to support the concepts you described that would be part of a *Complete Streets” policy. I would. My understanding is that the city is already doing this even without the legislation that requires it. I believe that it makes sense to consider the needs of all types of transportation as we design our infrastructure. That being said, I will always be reasonable about supporting changes. They need to make sense but I believe that more often than not, complete streets are wise investments.
Would you be in favor of including active transportation (infrastructure for biking / walking) as a line item in the city budget? I would be in favor of funding Items that would promote a more bicycle friendly Provo but not knowing what would be in an “Active Transportation” line item I cannot comment on that issue. I am in favor of including active transportation as a line item in the city budget. That does not mean that I am in favor of increasing the budget, but I would support moving funds from other transportation line items to a line item that supports active transportation. For example, I would take a hard look at the Utility Transportation Fund to see if it makes sense to reprogram some of those dollars to a line item for active transportation.
If you are elected, what can Provo bicycle advocates (including the Provo Bicycle Committee, the Provo Bicycle Collective, and bicyclists across the city) do to best help you jump in and feel confident in joining the ongoing discussion about making Provo more bicycle-friendly? As stated above I am in favor of making Provo more bicycle friendly and would be willing to join any discussion or help any group that would help achieve that goal. I love everything that is happening in Provo. I am running to keep the momentum that we have going. I love that we have a group of people in Provo who care so passionately about making it better and I consider myself one of those people. I can’t know everything, so I depend on citizens telling me what they find important. As a city-wide candidate, my job is to represent all the people of Provo so I am committed to listening with an open mind. What will be most helpful to me is if you and the other members of the community take me up on that. Tell me what you want to see in Provo. Share your great ideas with me. Let’s work together to keep things moving in the right direction.
Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you and your experiences or positions related to bicycling? As I told you while attending your meeting, my complete mobility as a youth and young teenager depended on my bicycle as my Mother did not drive and my Father traveled in his work as an attorney for the Veterans Adm. I also was a bicycle newspaper carrier. I’m committed to foresight in transportation, and that includes planning for a city that is friendly to more transportation alternatives, like bicycles. I’ve lived in different areas of the world, including in several European countries, where bicycles are more commonly used for every day errands. If we can plan now for a city that embraces bicycling through planning and commitment, it will mean better air, healthier transport, and options as we significantly grow our population.

Keep reading to find out about district-wide races… Continue reading

ACTION ALERT: Please Talk to UTA TODAY!

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Here are three things we learned from  yesterday’s UTA open house regarding Prop 1:

  1. UTA reps were surprised that very few people from Provo showed up. (There was a lot going on politically that particular night, but they aren’t connected to that). They noted that, in contrast, Lehi packed the house.
  2. Reps said they hadn’t thought of using some of the Prop 1 funds for a ped / bike overpass to the FrontRunner station. In fact, while an overpass had been previously considered as a possibility for a past project, they seemed unaware of how many people in Provo are jumping over the Union Pacific trains to get to the station or go about their usual business.
  3. UTA reps said that if what Provo really wanted was an overpass to the station, we should prove it by encouraging people to fill out the online survey, noting this in the final fill-in-the-blank question. Otherwise, their priority for Provo is likely to be spending more on bus frequency.

If you want to help us get an overpass, now is the time to act. Please fill out this online survey today. And, if you didn’t go to the open house yesterday, please consider going to the open house tonight Thursday Oct. 8th from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Provo Station, 690 S. University Ave.

Support Victims of Tragic Orem Bicycle Accident

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Tragedy struck last Saturday. An east-bound driver ran a red-light at the University Parkway/800 East intersection and struck Kevin and Stacy Bown, who were riding south. The speed limit there is 45 mph and the driver apparently hardly touched his breaks. Stacy passed away last night of her injuries. Our hearts go out to the Bown family, and our prayers to Kevin, who is in critical condition.

This may be a case of distracted driving, and at the least, reckless driving. To quote the Orem city police officer in the KSL news report, pleading with drivers: “We’ve got to share the road, and we’ve got to pay attention.”

SBR Cycles has already placed a ghost bike at the intersection, and the Provo Bicycle Committee in concert with the bicycling community in Orem is planning to hold of Ride of Silence.

If you would like to support the Bown family in this difficult time, please consider donating to their GoFundMe account.

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ACTION ALERT: Provo Open House for UTA Input: Let’s Talk About That Frontrunner Bike / Ped Overpass

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Now is your last chance to weigh in on how you’d like to see UTA use transportation funds in Prop 1 passes in the November election.

We’ve talked about the UTA survey before. If Prop 1 passes this November, shoppers will be paying one cent on this .25 of a cent (that’s a quarter of one cent, not twenty five cents) that may be used for active transportation projects including bicycle infrastructure.

There will be an open house for you to share your thoughts this week:

UTA OPEN HOUSE

Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6 to 9 p.m.  at the Provo City Library, 550 N. University Ave., Provo

OR

Thursday, Oct. 8, 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Provo Station, 690 S. University Ave., Provo

How should the money be spent? We’ve talked about this in a previous post, but I thought I’d bring up the idea here too. One project that almost everyone can agree with is a pedestrian / bicycle overpass connecting the city to the FrontRunner Station (and eliminating the need for dozens of people to jump over the Union Pacific trains on an almost daily basis).

Union Pacific trains block access over multiple intersections, sometimes for up to an hour. That means that people trying to get to the FrontRunner station using any method other than a car are marooned as they watch their FrontRunner trains pull into the station and leave without them.

Anyone that uses the train regularly can attest that pedestrians and bicyclists will often climb the Union Pacific trains, jumping onto the tracks to the South, just so they can make it to the station. Kids jump trains on their way to school, bicycle commuters hoist their bikes over, business women are climbing trains in their heels. Obviously, this is not a good idea and is likely to get someone killed.

But, the current situation regularly forces people to either arrive by car or be an hour or more late to work / school.

Please come to the meeting and share your thoughts! The more people that talk to UTA about this problem, the more likely we’ll end up with a timely solution.