A 634 Mile, 5 & ½ Hour, Door-to-Door, LA to Provo Weekly Trek
by Plane, Train, and (Best of All) by Bike
Usually folks exclaim, “And you think your commute is bad!” and then explain how theirs is even worse. Rarely do they talk about how they enjoy their commute. Jenny Pulsipher, a history professor at Brigham Young University, does. She loves her commute. Well, that may an exaggeration. She loves the part of it on her 13” teal Trek FX3 commuter bicycle, which make the other modes—on a train and plane, which are more much more productive than if she were behind a steering wheel—bearable.
About five years ago, Jenny, who lived in Salt Lake at the time, began to commute daily to work by bike-train-bike. Instead of driving the 45 miles, she bicycled about a half hour from her home in Sugar House to the Salt Lake Central Station, took the Frontrunner commuter rail line to Provo, and then rode about 15 minutes up to BYU. In the afternoon, she did the reverse. (You can see scenes from that commute in this video produced by the BYU Theatre and Media Arts Department.)
Jenny explains why she started to make that commute from SLC to BYU by bike and train:
“First, wasting time drives me absolutely crazy. I was losing two hours a day to the commute to and from Salt Lake City. When I arrived at home, I was frazzled and behind in my work and still hadn’t exercised. By biking to and from the train station, I got good exercise, and I found that my time on the train was some of the most productive time of the day. It’s comfortable and quiet, and I quickly developed a pattern of spending the whole hour intently writing. I look forward to it, and I enjoy biking on either end.
Second, I hate driving. It’s either stressful, which makes me tense, or boring, which makes me fall asleep. I’d rather not die on the road (or kill someone else), so commuting seemed like a really good idea.
And third, I wanted my commute to be more green, particularly in the winter, when the inversion sets in.”
A couple of years ago, Jenny’s husband’s job took them to the City of Angels and she adapted and added a plane ride to her commute. Her commute, since last fall, is now:
- Sunday night: Leave for Burbank airport at 3:30 PM (just 20 minutes away). Plane departs at 4:35. Arrive SLC airport at 7:30 PM, daughter or son-in-law (who live in her SLC house) pick her up and take her to her home, and then she does the bike-train-bike commute beginning Monday morning.
- Monday morning: Leave LA home between 4:30 and 4:40 AM, catch ride to Union Station, take 5:00 Flyaway Bus to LAX, catch 6:15 AM flight to SLC airport, arriving at 8:45. Take TRAX Green Line to North Temple Station, take Frontrunner to Provo, fetch bike from storage locker, bike to campus.
Each week on Tuesday and Wednesday, when she teaches or has meetings, she completes her usual commute to campus and …
… at the end of her work week on Thursday afternoon, she leaves campus, bikes to Provo Frontrunner station…
…stows her Trek in the storage locker…
…takes Frontrunner to the North Temple station, takes TRAX green line to airport, takes the 8:30 PM flight to the Burbank airport, takes Lyft home, arriving about 9:30 PM.
…flies to LAX, takes the Flyaway Bus to Union Station, and takes Lyft home.
Door to door her commute from her home in LA to her BYU office or vice-versa isabout 634 Miles, 5 & ½ hours.
About her long(er) distance commute, Jenny observes:
“When we moved to LA, I decided to continue doing the commute to BYU. Certainly, it’s longer, but it’s still active work time for me, so long as I have my trusty foldable step stool with me. (It allows me to sit and work comfortably on the plane and train, by raising the angle of my extra-short legs to a good laptop level.) We got rid of one of our two cars when we moved to LA, which more than balances the expense of Frontrunner, bike maintenance, and even my weekly flights. We rely on bikes, walking and public transit in LA too. Living in LA is great as long as you stay off the freeway, so our one car mostly stays in the garage. My husband bikes to work, and we walk or take the Metro most places we go. It’s good exercise, and it saves us the hassle of trying to find parking (another challenge of living in LA).”
About her bike commute in Provo, Jenny says she appreciates the new bicycle-friendly intersection on 200 East across 300 South. Her previous route from the Frontrunner zigzagged through Provo using 200 West, Center Street, and University Avenue, and it had some gaps in bicycle facilities and safety. With the opening of the new intersection, Jenny has switched to a route using the much safer L-shaped route up and down 600 South and 200 East, which is being transformed into a bicycle boulevard and provides a great route between the Frontrunner Station and BYU and destinations in between.
Jenny said her favorite segment of her commute is definitely the bicycling portions. She gets some exercise, enjoys the fresh and sometimes frigid air, and relishes the more intimate interaction with her surroundings.
Jenny is not alone. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal (another place with frigid air!) found that bicycle commuters to campus were more likely to arrive on time AND be energized than people who used other modes of transportation. Many bicycle commuters will willingly share plenty of personal experiences that support such research.
So wherever you live, far or near, warm or cold, why don’t you try it? Like green eggs and ham, if you but try it, you will surely like it—anywhere and anytime.