Cougar Commuter Goes to College on FrontRunner

Rebekah Torgesen was facing a challenge: a 200-mile challenge stretching from Brigham City, Utah, to Provo, Utah, and back. This was a dilemma Rebekah had to solve in order to graduate from college. Luckily, UTA had the solution. FrontRunner turned out to be the answer, coming to the rescue and saving the day (not to mention a diploma) for Rebekah.

Originally from the East Coast, this dedicated graduate, now 23, had been living in Provo attending BYU, where she majored in biophysics. She was also dating a mechanical engineer with experience in the field of aerospace. He had already been offered and accepted a job in Brigham City before the two said “I do.” When they decided to tie the knot, the couple came to the conclusion it made more sense for Rebekah to join her husband in Brigham City and search for options to make school work. Now she was facing a physics problem of epic proportions: how to live in two worlds at the same time.

The answer to this problem? FrontRunner, UTA’s commuter rail system running between Provo, the home of BYU, and Ogden, just a few miles south of Rebekah’s home in Brigham City. BYU was offering free transit passes to students like Rebekah, and the on-board amenities were enticing too.

But this choice meant many early wake-up calls for Rebekah, who would often rise before the sun at 4 a.m., depending upon her daily class load, to make the drive from Brigham City to Ogden where she would catch the southbound FrontRunner train to Provo, a trip lasting three to four hours.

After a long day on campus, Rebekah would retrace her steps, making another three- to four-hour return trip to Ogden, arriving home in Brigham City as late as 10 p.m.

Rebekah made good use of her time on the train, taking advantage of the long commute to study and finish homework assignments. When she wasn’t cracking the books, she could surf the web thanks to FrontRunner’s free Wi-Fi or even watch a movie. An occasional nap would also help to pass the time and recharge her batteries. She saved money on gas, reduced wear and tear on her car, optimized the use of her time, and avoided the treacherous bumper-to- bumper traffic on I-15.

“I think there are many train hosts that will always remember me as the girl who always caught the early train,” said Rebekah. “I was almost always sprinting for the train in Ogden to make it on time!”

Those mad dashes paid off when Rebekah received her diploma this spring, an accomplishment made even more significant and satisfying by the lengths she went to on FrontRunner to get her degree.

“It definitely makes it feel like a bigger milestone. I feel like I had to work harder for it in some ways. In other ways, it has made my studying more focused and productive, which allowed me to excel despite the circumstances.”

Rebekah’s dedication was rewarded, but she’s quick to point out that her diploma was made possible, in no small part, by FrontRunner and her Wasatch Front commute, which also benefitted her husband.

“I made the choice to pursue my degree while living in Brigham City knowing that the train was available. If the train wasn’t an option, my husband would have had to take a job offer that wasn’t as in line with his training and experience.”

So now the paper chase is over and Rebekah doesn’t have to make her daily 200-mile trek to BYU and back, will she still keep riding FrontRunner? “I hope so! We have family and friends in Provo and it’s nice to sit back and relax on the way down instead of driving.”

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