This past week, a lot of people have asked me, "Are you really riding the bus?"

They ask because last week — in my utter disgust over high gas prices — I vowed in my weekly column that I would start riding the bus.

Have I? Yes and no. I do ride it, but not every day. My goal is to ride the bus most days of a given week.

UTA makes riding the bus pretty idiot proof. There's an online trip planner (www.rideuta.com) that asks you where you need to go and what time you need to be there. Plug in a few terms and you're set.

But you've got to be punctual. UTA's Web site recommends that riders arrive at a stop five to seven minutes early. I was about 30 seconds late Monday morning and I watched the westbound bus pull away without me. About 15 minutes later, another bus came. I was on time for that one.

As I think about it, being on time is the greatest anxiety when it comes to public transportation. Once I'm on board, I relax. The days I take the bus, I do not have to contend with the I-80 luge run, which is in the throes of bridge construction. It's nice not having to contend with narrow lanes, heavy traffic loads and the knuckleheads who don't abide by the 55 mph speed limit in the crowded corridor.

Riding the bus has meant a few fashion adjustments. If you ride the bus, it helps to wear sensible shoes. The first day of this experiment, I wore my favorite black, beaded sandals. They were just the thing for the concert I planned to attend with my friend Jennifer after work, but not such a great choice for tromping through the dirt and rocks of the park-and-ride lot near my house. Live and learn.

Since paying for transportation has largely involved swiping a debit or credit card across a reader at the gas pump, I wasn't sure how to pay for riding the bus. The first day of riding the bus, I asked the driver for a day pass. He politely told me that he didn't sell day passes, but I could purchase a one-way fare for $1.75. Fortunately, I had correct change.

After a second day of scrounging around for correct change, I bought tokens at the UTA storefront near my office. That's made things considerably easier.

The best thing about riding the bus was I didn't have to fill up my car with gas this past weekend. It did wonders for my mental health not to hand over $50 to big oil. I got a big kick out of reading that oil futures had topped $140 per barrel. Like most of you, I still drive, so I will continue to feel the pinch of high gasoline prices. But it felt good to do something proactive. A few days a week, at least, I am not a hostage to the world oil market, the recent fare increases approved by UTA's board of trustees not withstanding.

One thing that struck me as I rode the bus was the underutilized capacity of the bus line. There's room for a lot more of you. TRAX tends to be fairly crowded at rush hour, more so when our local colleges and university are in session, I'm told.

I ride the bus to the TRAX station. In some respects, I enjoy the bus ride more than the train. On TRAX, I often end up in seats facing backward. There's a reason those seats aren't occupied, right? Fortunately, I'm not prone to motion sickness but riding backward gives me the sensation that I'm on an amusement park ride. What can I say? I prefer to see where I'm headed, not where I've been.

As gas prices continue to climb — and they most likely will given the steady increase in oil futures — I wonder if more people will start taking the buses and TRAX. For a lot of reasons, I hope they do. I could use the company.


Marjorie Cortez, who hopes others will try UTA because if she can do it anybody can, is a Deseret News editorial writer. E-mail her at [email protected].