When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Utah in early March, UTA ridership dropped significantly. This was to be expected, as schools shut down, many people started working from home and recreational activities were cancelled in waves. In addition to all of this, the state government issued a stay-at-home order. There were less reasons to ride, and therefore less people riding.

This wasn’t true for everyone, however. While ridership numbers did drop, people throughout the service area continued to ride. Many whose jobs were essential, even during this international crisis. They joined hundreds of essential UTA employees everyday to continue their commutes.

For this month’s edition of Community Rides, we wanted to focus on two of these UTA riders. They talked to us about their careers, how they continued to ride UTA through the pandemic, and tips that they have for UTA riders that are looking to return soon.

Quinn Johnson

Quinn Johnson is a registered nurse working at the University Hospital. He has now been working as a nurse for three years, and was an EMT for nine years before that.

Quinn specializes in the Cardiac ICU, taking care of people after heart attacks, heart failure, and lung failure. Since COVID-19, he’s been working more overtime than normal. “I see a lot less heart patients than I used to, and a lot more COVID patients. At the University Hospital, we are able to provide a very specialized form of therapy for COVID patients called ECMO, which is an artificial external lung that pulls blood out of the body, oxygenates it, and then returns the oxygenated blood to the patient.”

The pandemic has kept Quinn and his colleagues very busy helping others. “A major change since COVID that I’d like to point out has been the reduction in visitation that we’ve been able to allow to prevent infecting vulnerable individuals. There’s been a lot of heartache by all patients and family members since this started.”

Quinn’s typical workday begins at 7 a.m. and continues till 8 p.m. most nights. He typically rides routes 2, 6, or 11 to get to work. He also donates blood to the Red Cross frequently, in which case he rides route 209. He’s about to reach his 6 gallon mark in lifetime blood donation.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Quinn was wary of riding transit. “I’ve seen so much suffering caused by this pandemic and I don’t want to get ill or bring anything home to my family,” he says. However, the mask requirement onboard and the assurance of frequent cleanings made him feel much more comfortable in his commute. “These policies set a good example for the community and serve as a reminder about safe practices during the pandemic,” he adds.

Quinn’s shifts at the hospital are long and unpredictable, so finding a bus home can at times be difficult. However, he still prefers riding transit to work, as its the most sustainable option available to him.

Quinn does have suggestions to help other riders make their transition back to transit a smooth one. He feels that riders have been very receptive to practicing safe habits when on transit, so when others decide to start riding transit again, they’ll be in a safety-conscious community. “Bring your mask and hand sanitizer, and be sure to sanitize often,” he says. “Only touch your face with clean hands. Most transit options are at low capacity right now, making social distancing possible. So, leave some space between yourself and other riders.”

Quinn looks forward to the future of transit in the Wasatch Front, saying, “I hope transit becomes an ever greater option to protect the environment, reduce congestion, and enable mobility. I hope that UTA is able to emerge from this mess stronger than before.”

Christine Boehm

Christine works at Scott Sports in Ogden, packing and shipping orders. She says that the pandemic has only increased her workload, as they have seen more online orders than ever before. “I guess that’s what happens when people have a credit card, good WiFi, and lots of time!”

Christine generally gets on the FrontRunner at Clearfield Station and then takes the F618 bus into work. Heading home, she either rides the F618 and then the 470 southbound instead of the FrontRunner. “I could take FrontRunner,” she says, “but walking up that hill [to her house] at the end of a long day is a no go for me.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Christine saw a few obviously sick people riding the bus or the train. While that was frightening, she now says that she has not seen anyone in this category for a long time on system. It has gotten better as the understanding of the pandemic guidelines have increased and people have been able to find ways to stay off the system if they are sick.

Christine plans to continue to ride UTA to work, as it is her best option in getting there and maintaining her schedule.

Coming Back to UTA

While we are not out of the woods yet with this pandemic, we are all figuring out how to adjust to a new normal. Schools are preparing for fall classes, employees are returning to their offices, and activities have been restructured to ensure safety among attendees. As your routine continues to evolve, you may be considering coming back to UTA. We are committed to making that experience safe for you and all riders. Know that you are returning to a riding community that is dedicated to public safety and responsible practices.

For any questions that you may have about UTA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our Recovery Storyboard.

Several routes will be restored to pre-COVID service levels on August Change Day, coming up on August 23, 2020. Find your route and learn more.

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