It’s Monday morning. You’re at Central Pointe Station, silently rehearsing your 9:00 presentation while you wait for the Blue Line train. The rails are quiet.
As you pull out your phone to check the time, the overhead speaker announces, “Expect a ten- to fifteen-minute delay.” Which, as it happens, is ten to fifteen minutes you do not have.
Also, it’s raining.
If you were in an especially good mood, you might sigh and say, “Seriously?” But you’re late, you’re cold, and you’re wet. You probably have more to say — perhaps even with a fist raised to the heavens.
We get it. And we feel the same way.
UTA is committed to getting you to your destination safely and on time. Yet despite even our best efforts, sometimes things happen. Here are three of the most common reasons your train may be delayed.
Something’s in the Air
Life in Utah means heat in the summer and snow in the winter. UTA prepares for the weather as best we can so your schedule doesn’t have to change with the seasons. For example, certain TRAX cars are equipped to scrape ice off the overhead power cables as they go. And switches on the rails have heaters that kick in automatically when the temperature drops.
But the weather sometimes still throws us a curveball. Last winter we experienced several consecutive days of snow with extreme cold temperatures, so the snow didn’t melt and ice built up, causing significant delays on TRAX. In addition, September’s windstorm knocked out power and left rail lines strewn with debris. FrontRunner activated a bus bridge. TRAX had to shut down entirely.
If the weather creates unsafe conditions or shuts down power, you can expect a delay.
Something’s in the Way
Trains can’t swerve to avoid a collision—and they need plenty of distance to stop.. Often, a delay will happen because something is in the way.
It happens more than you may think. Cars get stuck crossing the rails. In most areas, where only a single track runs between stations, FrontRunner trains traveling in opposite directions need to wait for each other to pass. And one time, an adorable family of ducks had to be rescued from the tracks.
In some cases, trains can proceed, but with extreme caution. A signal malfunction may tell train operators something is on the tracks, even when no other trains are known to be in the area. Or maintenance workers may need safe clearance as they repair broken crossing gates. When trains run at restricted speeds, the minutes can add up.
UTA’s maintenance teams work around the clock to ensure your ride is in tip-top shape. With so many moving parts, each train gets a lot of attention — but malfunctions may still occur. A passenger door may refuse to close. Brakes may lock. A pantograph — the part of a light rail train that connects it to the power line — may not extend all the way.
And it’s not just the trains we have to worry about. A broken switch, downed power line, or faulty signal can all cause delays.
When delays happen for any of these reasons, our operators, maintenance workers, dispatchers, and other staff spring into action immediately and work tirelessly to restore service.
But you don’t have to wait in the dark. UTA offers several tools you can use to stay informed.
Transit is UTA’s officially endorsed app for mobile trip planning and service alerts. Don’t want another app? No problem! You can also subscribe to receive UTA Service Alerts via email or text for the routes you use, or find support on Twitter @RideUTA.
About the Author
Nathan Cunningham is a Customer Communications and Social Media Specialist. He graduated from Utah Valley University with a degree in creative writing and did most of his homework on the FrontRunner. He’ll always have a special place in his heart for Routes 47 and 841.