Thousands of volunteers from around the county gathered in the cold early morning Thursday to have breakfast before separating for numerous service projects around Utah Valley as part of the annual United Way of Utah County’s Day of Caring.
The Day of Caring brought together more than 35 companies and their employees to use their talents in giving service.
Being a working mom or student mom is tough. Add in trying to find a space to breastfeed an infant, and the experience becomes even more stressful.
“Whatever we can do to limit that is positive,” said Alexis Palmer, the dean of students and the associate vice president of student life at Utah Valley University.
The university hopes to make its campus more parent-friendly with the introduction of five Mamava lactation pods located in high-trafficked areas.
The pods are located across campus, with one underneath the south stairs on the first floor of the Student Life and Wellness Center, one across from the Women’s Success Center in the Losee Center, one on the northwest corner of the third floor in the Clarke Building, one on the second floor of the UCCU center and a pod in the concourse of the Rebecca Lockhart Arena.
The pods provide spaces where parents can privately breastfeed, pump and feed their infants.
Palmer said the university learned about the pods after they were spotted at airports.
UVU previously used offices as lactation spaces, but the university’s growing enrollment has created pressure on room availability.
Palmer, a working mom herself, remembers having to pump from a restroom of the Denver International Airport.
“That is such a headache and such a stresser for women to have to do that, and why would you want to be providing nutrition for your child in a toilet stall?” Palmer said.
The pods provided a solution and a place for students to go that isn’t a restroom.
Mamava pods are unlocked through a mobile app, which means the university will receive usage reports and can monitor unusual activity, such as someone who has been in a pod for an abnormal amount of time. The pods will be checked by custodial staff and are located in public places to serve as a deterrent for people who want to use them for purposes other than lactation.
The pods come in the same year the university adopted a paid maternity leave policy, which Palmer said bundled together with the lactation centers, helps make UVU more parent-friendly.
The pods have been assembled, but are waiting on details such as electrical work and fire marshal approval to be used. Palmer said the university will also have police be aware of where the pods are located.
More pods could be added in the future depending on the usage of the first five pods. Although the pods aren’t open, Palmer said she’s heard positive feedback from students of all genders.
“It is something new for UVU and we are going to try it and see how it works out, and we hope our UVU community will take care of the pods and help each other out as our students, our faculty and our staff can pump or nurse their child, whatever that might look like,” she said.
It has been just over a year since the Utah Transit Authority opened the bus rapid transit Utah Valley Express Route through Provo and Orem. For Jenna Kim, that means she can see her sister once a week.
Kim, a Brigham Young University student, rides the UVX from BYU to the Provo FrontRunner station every Thursday after class and rides free to Salt Lake City where her sister lives. She spends the night and on Friday morning rides the FrontRunner and UVX to Provo and BYU.
“It wouldn’t be as easy to visit my sister without UVX,” Kim said. “It’s important to visit family. I love it.”
On Thursday, UTA and UVX held a customer appreciation day, giving out cookies and handing out spring toys in honor of the articulated buses that are hinged in the middle.
The first year results are staggering, according to Mary De La Mare-Schaefer, area manager.
The first year numbers doubled what they anticipated for their first two years, De La Mare-Schaefer said.
In August of 2018, UVX’s average weekday boardings were 5,866. For August of 2019, the average weekday boardings were 9,288.
“Looking at the first two weeks that Utah Valley University was in school this year (Aug. 29-31) the average weekday boardings were 12,101,” De La Mare- Schaefer said.
When Brigham Young University started school, the average weekday boardings increased to 14,598.
UTA’s projection was 11,000 boardings on weekdays two years out, according to De La Mare-Schaefer.
“Our highest ridership to date was on Aug. 29 when the U of U played BYU. We hit just over 16,000 that day,” De La Mare-Schaefer said.
Carolyn Gonot, the new executive director of UTA, was on hand at the Provo inter-modal hub to thank the riders.
“I’m very impressed with the service in general,” Gonot said. “On my second interview for the job I asked if I could ride the UVX.”
Gonot started her new position on Aug. 19. Before UTA she worked 23 years with the Valley Transportation Authority in Silicon Valley in California.
How UTA is handling the population growth and transportation needs is similar to what Silicon Valley did years ago. Gonot said the advantage for her is the level of technology.
“We are very excited about this years increased ridership,” said Kent Millington, board trustee. “This is a very positive success.”
Millington said the best part is there are 5,000 fewer cars driving around Provo and Orem every day.
UVX had a rough start with several naysayers wanting a different route or none at all. A group of residents even sued Provo and Orem for not allowing the item to be voted on by the people. The State Supreme Court agreed with the cities.
Now the numbers are showing those who were skeptical that UVX has been embraced by Provo and Orem, as well as Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University students, faculty and staff. But more importantly, according to Millington, the community is riding and support the UVX route.