All aboard!

Utahns got a taste of what their commutes might feel like in a couple of years by test-riding a RegioSprinter rail car Saturday. The Utah Transit Authority offered free two-mile rides as part of a series of commuter rail demonstration projects.The good news is those who took the ride seemed to have liked it. Kimberly and David Barrett felt comfortable through the brief ride. They believe a rail system could ease their daily commutes, but they hope that installing it won't disturb the environment too much.

"At first we were apprehensive about it," said Kimberly Barrett, a Minnesota native who teaches Kindergarten in Riverton, shortly after taking the ride. She and her husband, a University of Utah student, live a block from the existing Draper rail line and said they will use it when it opens.

"We're excited about it," Kimberly Barrett said. "We just want to cut traffic down and we don't care how."

The bidirectional diesel-powered vehicle, which has been used by transit agencies in Denmark and Germany since 1995, is roomier than light-rail cars, seating 74, can go up to 60 mph and could be used as a complement to light rail and commuter rail on existing spurs of track in West Valley, Draper and West Jordan.

The free ride began at the Draper City Park, 12450 S. 1300 East, and headed south along the Porter Rockwell Trail to Point of the Mountain. Then the car reversed direction.

All ages were represented in the test ride - including Woodrow S. Mickelsen, 84. He thought the RegioSprinter was a pretty nice ride and hopes to see the day light rail operates full-time.

"This used to be the main line to Los Angeles," said Mickelsen, a lifelong Draper resident.

Traveling at 25 mph, the two-mile trip was just slightly bumpy. It was not unlike a New York subway ride, except for the semi-pastoral east Draper scenery.

Anne Marie Edwards, who works in Clinton, longs for the day when commuter rail extends from Sandy to Ogden.

"I actually can't wait 'till it comes here," she said. Although her commute against Davis County traffic only takes about an hour, she would rather be driving less.

Draper Mayor Richard Alsop said his city could benefit from a mass transportation system that is not dependent on weather or traffic conditions.

"There is a high level of commuting and we're going to need this form of transportation," he said, pointing out Draper has grown from a population of 7,000 to 19,000 in four years and is expected to reach 25,000 by 2000.