It's 4:28 a.m., and in the morning darkness the first Utah Transit Authority bus is rolling into Davis County en route to Salt Lake City. Welcome aboard No. 70, the most heavily traveled bus in the UTA system.

Joe Olsen, UTA planner for Davis and Weber counties, said that per-trip Route No. 70 is the busiest in the system - carrying an average of 3,000 people a day, based on 1990 statistics. Some buses traveling on Salt Lake City's State Street are a close second.Olsen said Route 70 has another unique characteristic - it's the only UTA bus that gets busier in the summer. While all other buses suffer decreased ridership because of the vacation season, Route 70's ridership increases by about 17 percent to 3,500 passengers a day. Olsen believes Lagoon is responsibile for most of this summer increase.UTA and Farmington also are likely to soon sign another agreement to operate a summer shuttle between the Davis Courthouse and Lagoon, with a transfer connection to Route No. 70.

Called the Salt Lake-Ogden bus, Route 70 is one of few routes that has Sunday service. Route 70 has three buses each direction between Ogden and Salt Lake City each Sunday.

Bus No. 70 is also a UTA route that experiences regular increases in new services from additional buses. Beginning April 15, UTA plans on adding six new buses on Route 70 to relieve the crowding and delays on some of the existing trips. With the additions, Route 70 will average one bus every 30 minutes throughout the day, Olsen said.

"Most of the passengers are Davis County residents," Olsen said. The bus also picks up some passengers in Ogden, Riverdale and Roy.

Students are also a mainstay of the No. 70 route because it travels by or near many public schools. Some Centerville Junior High students regularly use the bus going to and from home. UTA studies have found that next to commuters to work, students use the buses the most.

Route No. 70 travels from 400 South Main in Salt Lake City to 17th Street and Washington Boulevard in Ogden. The entire trip, more than 40 miles long, takes about 90 minutes.

The bus travels on Beck Street, U.S. 89 and cuts through the heart of Bountiful, Farmington, Kaysville, Layton and Clearfield. It also stops at the Layton Hills Mall, the Newgate Mall and the Ogden City Mall.

The bus probably averages only 30 miles per hour during each trip because of the frequent stops - some every 100 feet - along the route, which some passengers call a "milk run" because of the many stops.

During rush hours, the bus is filled with students and suit-clad commuters. By mid-day or evening, the clientele includes older, low-income people or even some drifters, headed for Salt Lake City or Ogden.

Some of the regular passengers on Route 70 are professionals. Among them are:

Paul Hess, Farmington, is a Salt Lake attorney who has taken No. 70 for 11 years. "I try to ride it every day," he said. "I read and doze on the bus . . . if I couldn't read on it, I wouldn't ride it. It's a more efficient use of my time to take the bus than drive."

Ivan Lincoln, Kaysville, is a newspaper theater editor and drama critic who has found a way to regularly fit riding Route 70 into his schedule. "It has been great," Lincoln said, "The bus is on time 99 percent of the time. It sure beats driving and parking downtown."


Alternative routes

An alternative to Route No. 70 for some commuters is the Golden Spike Express, Route No. 72. This premium-service bus operates only during the morning and afternoon commuter hours, cutting 30 minutes off the travel time between Salt lake and Ogden that Route 70 takes.

While the No. 70 bus costs 65 cents per trip, the No. 72 fare is $1.50 a trip, with Davis County stops only at the Layton Hills Mall and the Kaysville UDOT park-and-ride lot. There are special rates for students, senior citizens and the handicapped; exact change on the fare is required. Fare is paid when you board the bus going toward Salt Lake and when you exit the bus if headed toward Ogden. Buses stop along the road at stops designated with blue UTA signs.

There are also several other UTA buses that offer limited service between Salt Lake City and other Davis County cities, such as the Centerville Route 71 bus, the Woods Cross No. 60 bus; the Bountiful No. 61 bus; the North Salt Lake No. 62 bus and the West Bountiful No. 63 bus. All have three round trips per weekday (except Centerville Route 71, with 22 round trips each weekday).

-Bus schedules are available from many public locations, such as shopping malls. More UTA bus information is also availble by calling 776-INFO or 287-4636.