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Utah FrontRunner Commuter Train Service 5/8-9/2019



by Chris Guenzler



5/8/2019 Elizabeth and I decided to ride the Frontrunner to Ogden so I could write a story about the Ogden Railroad Museum. So after our Big Boy 4014 experience at the rest area at Echo Canyon we took the RTA Blue Line in the Fare Free Zone from Arena to SaLt Lake Central station and tapped our Event Transit Pass and walked out to the platform to wait for our train to Ogden.

FrontRunner History

FrontRunner is a commuter rail train operated by the Utah Transit Authority that operates along the Wasatch Front in north-central Utah with service from Ogden in central Weber County through Davis County, Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County to Provo in central Utah County.

FrontRunner runs south from Ogden to Provo with a total length of 81.2 miles. With the old now non-existent Pleasant View Station, the total length was 88 Miles.

The route uses a portion of the right-of-way of the historic Utah Central Railroad, built in 1869 to connect the First Transcontinental Railroad with Salt Lake City and acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1878. UTA-owned track parallels UP track until Ogden, where, until August 21 2018, when service to Pleasant View was "Suspended Indefinitely", Union Pacific and Utah Transit Authority share the final 6 mi of track to Pleasant View.

Most of the route used by FrontRunner is single-tracked (though it runs parallel to UP tracks), with double-track at stations and several other points along the route to allow trains to pass each other. FrontRunner closely parallels Interstate 15 for most of the route.

There are about 25 round trips on weekdays between Ogden and Provo (through Salt Lake City). Trains run hourly from about 4:30 a.m. to just after midnight on weekdays (increasing to half-hour runs for the morning and evening commutes). On Saturdays trains run every hour from about 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. As of August 2017 FrontRunner does not run during most hours of Sundays. FrontRunner operates some service on holidays other than Thanksgiving, Christmas and the observed Christmas holiday, and New Year's Day and the observed New Year's holiday. FrontRunner is a push-pull train locomotive system (with the locomotives running backwardshalf the time). FrontRunner trains face north, regardless of the direction of travel.

Each station (except North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe has a Park-&-Ride lot. There is no charge for parking in these lots, and the number of parking spaces available at each station ranges from "limited" to 874.

All of UTA's TRAX and FrontRunner trains and stations, streetcars and streetcar stops, and all fixed route buses, are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act and are therefore accessible to those with disabilities. Since not all FrontRunner passenger cars are wheelchair accessible, signage at the stations, on the passenger platforms, and on the passenger cars clearly indicate accessibility options. In addition, each train has one or more Train Hosts available to provide assistance as may be needed, including the placement of ramps for wheelchair boarding. In accordance with the Utah Clean Air Act and UTA ordinance, smoking is prohibited on UTA vehicles as well as UTA bus stops, TRAX stations, and FrontRunner stations and all other UTA property.

History

In 1998 UTA tested a commuter train set borrowed from the Altamont Corridor Express along Union Pacific track which runs alongside what would eventually be the Frontrunner route. In the same year, UTA began negotiations with Union Pacific to purchase the former Salt Lake Shops. By 2002 an agreement to purchase the shop and renovate it to become UTA's Warm Springs Shop was approved. Work started on the initial section of the line from Salt Lake City to Ogden in 2005. Seven of the planned eight stations opened to riders on April 26, 2008. Eight more stations opened on December 10, 2012.

Route

The entire route was built within the existing Union Pacific corridor and FrontRunner tracks run parallel to the Union Pacific tracks, sometimes on the east and sometimes on the west. Both times FrontRunner switches sides with the Union Pacific tracks it crosses over top of the Union Pacific tracks. Except for the very northernmost section, FrontRunner operates on its own dedicated tracks.

Quiet Zones

The entire length of FrontRunner corridor (including the southern extension) has been approved as a "Quiet Zone" by the Federal Railroad Administration. "Typically, federal railroad safety regulations require that all train operators sound their horns for 15 to 20 seconds as they approach any road crossing." Essentially a Quiet Zone designation eliminates this requirement. However, for obvious safety reasons, they are not prohibited from sounding their horn, if appropriate. The Quiet Zone applies to all trains (including freight trains) within the same corridor. Each city along the route had to individually apply for the designation, but UTA provided substantial assistance with the process. Several safety upgrades must be in place at all public crossings in order to receive Quiet Zone approval. In addition to the normal automatic warning bells and lights, required upgrades include crossing guards, signs warning that trains do not blare horns in the area, and raised medians (which prevent cars from driving around lowered gates). There are also additional safety features for pedestrians. Prior to the southern extension, FrontRunner had the longest Quiet Zone in the nation-the southern extension doubled the length of the previous Quiet Zone.

TRAX Connections

UTA TRAX is one of the four areas (After UTA bus, Streetcar, and FrontRunner itself) that gives community farther areas to go to that you can't regularly go on FrontRunner. TRAX Serves the Salt Lake County and has three lines: TRAX Blue line from Salt Lake Central to Draper, TRAX Green Line from West Valley Central to Salt Lake International Airport, and the TRAX Red Line from University Medical Center to Daybreak Parkway. Murray Central received the Red and Blue Lines and North Temple/ Guadeloupe Bridge had the Green Line, but were not fully complete until 2015. Salt Lake Central has always started the Blue Line. There is three Stations that gives direct access from FrontRunner: Murray Central, Salt Lake Central, and North Temple/ Guadeloupe Bridge.

Fare rates

The current FrontRunner rates are one-way and distance-based. As of March 2016 the base fare is $2.50 (the same as regular bus fare) with an additional $0.60 for each additional stop. The maximum fare charged one-way is $10.30. For seniors the base fare is $1.25 and $0.30 for each additional stop with a maximum fare of $5.15. There is also a promotional Group Pass which allows up to four riders of any age to ride together on FrontRunner, TRAX and local buses for $15.00. The Group Pass is valid starting at 8:30 a.m. and lasts the entire day. Monthly passes valid on FrontRunner, TRAX, local buses, and express buses are available for $198.00, or $148.50 to students.

Equipment

FrontRunner used 15 MPXpress (MP36PH-3C) locomotives from Motive Power International of Boise, Idaho, bi-level Bombardier cars, and has repainted 25 refurbished ex-New Jersey Transit Comet 1s] which entered service on September 17, 2008. Thirty ex-Metra gallery cars were given to UTA free of charge, but they were determined to be in too poor condition to refurbish, and are being scrapped and used for spare parts for the Comet cars.

Two months into service UTA began receiving complaints about the number of bicycles on the trains. The Bombardier cars were designed to hold two bicycles near the rear doors of each train, but up to 15 bicycles per car were reported by some riders. UTA is investigating options to increase capacity for bicycles, including more lockers at the stations. In January 2016 FrontRunner upgraded Bombardier Car 206 with new bike racks. The new racks increase the number of racks on a car from 9 to 15.

Wireless internet, provided by Nomad Digital, is available on all FrontRunner cars, including the refurbished Comet cars free of charge.

Maintenance

All maintenance for the FrontRunner fleet (locomotives and cars) is provided at the Warm Springs Service Center which is located just west of 500 West at 900 North in Salt Lake City. The Service Center facility, which was purchased from Union Pacific in 2003, was originally built in 1955 at the location of the former Salt Lake City roadhouse. Union Pacific had previously stopped using the facility in 1998 after more than a decade of operating at less than capacity. Following the acquisition from Union Pacific the facility was modified and updated to meet UTA's current needs Operations

FrontRunner trains typically operate with the locomotive on the north end of the train (facing Ogden); cab control cars are used to operate southbound trains.

Train schedule

On weekdays the first northbound FrontRunner trains (to Ogden Intermodal Transit Center) leave Salt Lake Central Station at about 4:15 am and Provo Station at about 5:00 am. The first southbound trains (to Provo Station) leave both Ogden Intermodal Transit Center and North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe stations at about 5:00 am. The last northbound train leaves Provo Station at 10:20 pm and the last southbound train leaves Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at 11:09. However, the last Northbound train only goes as far as North Temple/ Guadalupe Station. The last southbound train to Provo Station leaves Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at 10:39 pm. However, like the last Northbound train, the last southbound train only goes as far as the Salt Lake Central Station.

As of December 2nd 2018, Friday late night trains run longer than the regular weekdays, but all trains going Northbound terminates at North Temple. Same type of situation as Southbound, except Southbound terminates at Salt Lake Central Station.

On Saturdays the first southbound train leaves North Temple Bridge/Guadalupe Station at about 6:00 am and the first northbound train leaves Salt Lake Central at about 6:45 am. The first northbound train leaves Provo Station at about 7:45 am and the first southbound train leaves Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at about 8:15 am. The last southbound train leaves Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at 1:09 am (Sunday morning) and the last northbound train leaves Provo Station at 1:20 am (Sunday morning). However, the last three trains only goes as far as either Salt Lake Central Station, going Southbound, or North Temple Station going Northbound. The last northbound train to Ogden Intermodal Transit Center leaves Provo Station at 10:50 pm and the last southbound train to Provo Station leaves Ogden Intermodal Transit Center at 10:09 pm. FrontRunner runs every hour Monday through Saturday, with additional runs on the half hour for the weekday morning and evening commutes. FrontRunner also does special trips for big events in Salt Lake City and the surrounding community. As of December 2018, the FrontRunner still does not run on most of the hours of Sundays or holidays.

Our first trip

We waited on the plaform for our train to arrive from Provo.





From where are train would be coming from.







The train arrived into Salt Lake Central station and would be making stops at North Temple Bridge, Woods Cross, Farmington, Layton, Clearfield, Roy and then at Ogden.





Airport Trax We have a Liftoff painting on a building as we left Salt Lake Central.





After we passed through the junction at Grant Tower we cae by the Begin Salt Lake City Sub sign.





Next we passed the UTA facility at North Yard in Salt Lake City.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 3 at North Yard.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 18 at North Yard.





This Union Pacific train getting ready to depart their North Yard.





Big West Oil SW-6001 1 at North Salt Lake City.





At Layon Station the southbound train for Provo had UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 11 on it for motive power.





Later a baggage car in a scrape yard from the UTA flyover in Ogden as we cross the junction of three Union Pacific Routes.





Union Pacific 1689 switches the Ogden Yard.





We arrived into Ogden finding a spare train with UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 5 on the point of that train.





Our train at Ogden.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 15.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 5.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 15. in the Tenth Anniversary Unit.





The two train cab car front in Ogden.





The train then left Ogden and we went off to write the story of Ogden Union Station. We returned to the Ogden UTA station and we waited for our train to arrive.







The train arrived into Ogden to take us back to Salt Lake City.





UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 8 before we boarded the train back south.





The engineer walked back to the cab car. We arrived into Salt Lake City on time.

5/9/2016 After the Nose to Nose Ceremony I met Elizabeth on thr UTA Ogden Platform to ride down to Provo with her.





Our train pulled into Ogden station.





This time we would have UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 1 for the power of our train. It turned out that Chris Parker, Bob Riskie and Bob Gordon were also riding to Provo in the car ahead of us. This train would go down to Salt Lake Central then would make stops at Murry Central, South Jordon, Draper, Lehi, American Fork, Orem Central and the final stop of Provo.





The inside of one of the ex UTA New Jersey Comet Car.





One last look at the Union Pacific 844 at Ogden. I then visited with Bob and Chris for a few minutes befire returning to my seat.





Utah Lake as we headed to Provo where we detrained for pictures.







our train in Provo.





A spare train set with UTA MPI MP36PH-3C 10 at Provo.





The train we would take back to Murry Central.





The Provo Amtrak station. We detrained at Murry Central and took the next train to Centerpointe. We then boarded the S line Streetcar for the trip to Fairmont where Elizabeth finished riding all of the Utah rail lines. We had an early dinner at the Habit. We took the next train back to Centerpointe and on the platform we met one of our NRHS members heading to Draper. We rode with him back to Murry Central where we detrained and made our Frontrunner train back to Salt Lake Central, but on the way there a few more pictures had to be taken>





Savage Railroad GP-38 8619 and GP38M-4 8620 in Midvale.





UTA shop in Midvale.





Utah Railroad GP-38-2 2003 and GP-38-3 2001 at Midvile.





Utah Railroad GP-38-2 2007.





Utah Railroad GP-38- 2002. Elizabeth and I walked over to the Salt Lake City and caught the next Blue Line train back to Arena. I did my rail mileage and took a nap before writing the Nose to Nose story which the computer ate. I called it night right after that.



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