New rail's name has unexpected gay links

FrontRunner also title of book, film, running group

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2015 1:03 p.m. MDT

Love, homosexuality and sports weren't topics the Utah Transit Authority wanted tied to the name of its new commuter rail system, the FrontRunner.
Just a day after the name was unveiled, however, a few people were indeed talking those topics.
It turns out FrontRunner isn't just the name of a commuter train running along the Wasatch Front. It's the title of a popular gay-themed novel and a still-in-production film, both written by Patricia Nell Warren.
The book, first published in 1974, tells the story of a gay running coach and a young runner, also gay, who is training for the Olympics. Like the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain," the book delves into issues of love and social constraints.
Jane Marquart, chairwoman of Equality Utah, a local gay-rights group, joked that the connection between Warren's book and UTA's commuter rail system could be a sign that Utah is becoming more open to members of the gay community.
"Maybe now enlightenment will be riding into the state on the rails of transit," she said.
Chris Johnson, who campaigned against a proposed constitutional amendment in 2004 to ban same-sex marriage in Utah, said FrontRunner is also the name of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender running group that meets at Salt Lake City's Ninth and Ninth intersection every Sunday.
"If the train is like the running group, you should expect a sleek and stylish system that is adorned with matching seats and carpet," she said.
A quick Google search showed that the rail system shares its name with several more running clubs, as well as a Web site for funeral directors and a company that manufactures lawn mowers.
UTA spokesman Justin Jones said the transit agency knew that FrontRunner wasn't a unique name. An in-house team of marketing professionals and engineers picked the name about three years ago.
"The project team was aware that FrontRunner had been used for a variety of things nationally," Jones said in a written statement. "None of them have any bearing on the use of the name for commuter rail, and this is something that organizations always face when naming their products."
FrontRunner is projected to someday run 120 miles, from Brigham City to Payson. Construction began last fall on the 44-mile first segment of the line, from Weber County to Salt Lake City, which is anticipated to open in early 2008.

E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com

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