This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
While most college interns will spend the summer slaving away in offices, Elena Studier talked her way into something more dramatic: traveling 10,000 miles in 38 days in 20 major cities in 15 states.
The Ithaca, N.Y., native convinced her bosses at the National Association of Rail Passengers that sending her on the trip would help promote how easy it can be to travel the county by Amtrak, local transit and bicycle. While many tourists travel Europe and Asia by train, it has yet to catch on in America and Studier hopes to help change that.
"People, especially my age, don't necessarily want to rely on single-occupancy vehicles," the 20-year-old said. "So I think being able to say, 'Yes, you can go on these amazing trips and see all these cities and you don't have to have a car with you' is great and unique."
Studier spent Tuesday in Salt Lake City and Park City and gave both high grades for ease of travel by local transit, and for their bike lanes and trails. She initially had not dreamed of her trip taking her this far West.
"In a much smaller incarnation, it [the trip] was my idea," and the young woman pitched traveling to a few cities to her bosses. "They took my idea, poured gasoline on it, added a match, and it became this giant thing."
She adds, "I was their office intern all year, so I did paper shuffling, I swear," as a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a double major in geography and global design.
Amtrak cooperated to help promote a new service it plans to offer later this year to allow track-side checking of bicycles (without being put in boxes) in baggage cars. Studier also decided to visit a hand-picked list of cities that advocate improved bike facilities and transit to help promote tourists combining all the modes.
She and her bike which she named Stevie started on May 15 in New York City, and since have used Amtrak to visit Chicago; Normal, Ill.; St. Paul, Minn.; Glacier National Park; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and the San Francisco area.
She still plans to visit such places as Denver; Los Angeles; the Grand Canyon; New Orleans; Raleigh, N.C.; and more before returning to Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, Studier joined Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski in the annual Mayor's Bike to Work Day event; checked out the city's new protected bike lanes on 300 South and bike trails in Park City; rode local transit; and went to a reception for her with transit officials at Squatter's Pub.
At Squatters, she was told how it took one of the premier parking spots in front on 300 South "to put a 10-space bike rack, and they funded a bike-share station right outside the brewery. I thought that was amazing."
She loved the protected bike lanes on the street. "In terms of safety, I've never seen anything better."
Studier was impressed with long bike trails in canyons near Park City. "I can't bring to mind any other trails I've seen that are that long," she said.
She was a bit surprised by buses in Park City. "We learned how they are free. That's pretty cool."
As in other major cities, she said the service by TRAX and FrontRunner easily allow bikers to board with their bicycles and use them to connect to their final destination.
Mostly, Studier likes to talk about her love of Amtrak train travel. "There is no better way to travel." Compared to a road trip by car, "It's less stressful. It's infinitely safer… It's a lot cheaper."
She said she has found about half the people on Amtrak are from abroad where folk are more accustomed to train travel and one told her, "I want to see as much of the country as possible. And I thought the train was the best way to do that."
She said train travel creates special camaraderie as passengers talk, dine and sometimes even sing together.
"There's an amazing community on trains," Studier said. "You don't get that community on a plane or a bus."
She also adds about her summer internship, "This is the most diverse, informative, least expensive classroom I've been in. I am really lucky, and grateful."