Friday, December 30, 2011


Now that Flashlight Day is behind us, the sun has been coming up earlier and earlier each morning--trust the man who leaves his house at exactly 7:37 each morning to know this.

As I have exited my house each morning and seen a little more light creeping sinuously over the mountains than the day before, part of me has found solace in the fact that nature has not completely abandoned me during my morning commute.  And part of me can't help but think, enjoy it while it lasts, kid, 'cuz next week  you start getting up at 5:00 again.

Oh, sun, why must you tease me so?

Wednesday's sunrise.  From

Thursday, December 29, 2011


People love to hate on their transit companies.  I'm not sure why.  But it's pretty much a universal phenomenon.  When I went to Spain two summers ago, I was very pleased with the public transit system in Granada, where I stayed for over a week.  When I googled the transit company's name to find out more information, however, I found people saying things like "Transportes Rober is going to run the new light rail line! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" and a YouTube (r) video describing "the deplorable state of Transportes Rober buses."  I thought, huh, you folks are pretty spoiled; you should come to the States sometime and try our public transit.

Of course, people in the United States like to hate on their transit companies, too--especially people who don't even take transit, which boggles my mind.  Take the following example:

Now it's time for the part of the show where I mock respond to the author of this letter's concerns.

"I resent"
Okay, you didn't count to ten before you wrote this, did you?

"spending by the Utah Transit Authority of my, and your, taxpayer dollars"
You can resent how UTA spends your tax dollars as much as you want, however illogically, but leave me out of that blanket statement, please.  I happen to think it's money well spent.  Personally, I don't think my tax money should be spent on freeway expansion in Utah County when there's a perfectly good train under construction.  But I'm not king.  And neither are you.

"Instead of spending $55 million"
It's estimated at $55.5 million, actually.  If you really wanted to drive that point home to prick the hearts of your readers, you should have included that $500,000 dollars.  And you probably should have spelled it out like that, because $500,000 looks bigger than $0.5 million.

Did you know that $26 million of that $55.5 million came from a TIGER II Grant (Do you even know what a TIGER II Grant is?  Look it up)?  That leaves $29.5 million from other sources, including local taxpayers.  In contrast, the Utah Legislature in 2009 approved a bond for $1.725 billion to finance I-15 CORE from Provo to American Fork alone.  Do the math: it's over 58:1.  Having done this math, I now consider myself quite magnanimous for not having acridly complained to the local newspaper, given that, once the train is done, I plan on never, ever, ever seeing that stretch of I-15 again.  Ever.

"a two-mile ride," "this short ride"
This is the only part of your letter that actually angers me.  It is also the reason I assumed, above, that you don't ride public transportation.  Listen closely.  It is very easy for people like you to write off the fact that not everyone can or wants to drive everywhere.  Have you walked two miles lately?  How about in a wheelchair?  It's a bit longer ride in a wheelchair than in an SUV.  How would you feel if Sandy City suddenly decided that people could "suck it up" and started putting parking lots to places like Costco (r) and Wal-Mart (r) several blocks from the store entrances?  You'd scream like a stuck pig.  Which is what you are.

"easily handled by buses two blocks north, along 2100 South"
Have you ridden the 21?  Are you aware that UTA doubled bus service frequency along 2100 South in 2007?  The 21 runs as often as any bus in the system.  And it is often quite crowded, especially on Saturdays.  Is it always crowded?  No, but neither is the street in front of your house.  And I doubt you would like it if the street in front of your house was busy all the time.  I pay for streets I don't use, and you don't use the transit you pay for.  Welcome to adulthood.

"you could buy a lot of eco-friendly buses"
I find it baffling that this sentence, in which you correctly use a hyphen, has an otherwise entirely sophomoric character.  Who is "you?"  What is "a lot?"  And, have you looked around lately?  UTA has bought "a lot" of new buses lately, and they're much more eco-friendly than the ones they replaced.  Any bus, actually, is more "eco-friendly" than the glut of single-occupancy vehicles on Salt Lake's roads today.

"an agency that pays its top people more than all similar agencies in the entire country"
Not people.  Person.  And while I don't know all the details, from what I've heard, he's none too beloved.

"an agency that, in the present negotiations with its workers, claims to not have any money"
I respect bus drivers.  They put up with large quantities of aggravation and receive very little thanks.  In my years riding transit, I have come to believe they don't get paid enough.  But they get paid more than I do.

"an agency that is controlled by a board of directors that appears to only be interested in its own area . . ."

UTA's board of trustees represents Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber, Tooele, and Box Elder counties.  That is, UTA's entire service area.  I don't know what "own area" even means here.

" . . . without regard to the entire taxpaying public"
I'm part of the entire taxpaying public, you twit.  Stop leaving me out.

"an agency whose members, in the past, have been found to use their position to fatten their own pocketbooks"
This is regrettable.  I, like you, wish terrible curses on those who use taxpayer money to "fatten their . . . pocketbooks."  UTA is not the only agency that has them.

What are you, like, twelve?

I like a lot of people from Sandy.  I have mission buddies and college friends from there.  But it seems as though Sandy is also littered with busybodies like you.  Quite frankly, much of Sandy hasn't been around long enough for any kind of urban decline to set in.  In Sugar House, on the other hand, heroic efforts have been put forth to reclaim crime-ridden, unsavory urban environments.  More efforts are needed.  Plans for urban renewal in Sugar House and other neighborhoods in Salt Lake City include transit improvements as an integral part of their execution.  Not, interestingly, more roads.  They've already got enough of those, apparently.

Also, I suppose the fact that Sandy already has three TRAX stations, is getting one more, will have a FrontRunner station nearby, and will, in a few years, boast a significant retail development at the Sandy Civic Center TRAX station is, to you, indisputable evidence that UTA has brazenly neglected your neck of the entire taxpaying public.  Yep, they sure don't think about Sandy, do they?  Did you know that SANDY, yes, your very own Sandy, is considering a streetcar of their OWN, to connect the Civic Center TRAX and the 10200 South FrontRunner station?  What a waste, don't you think?

**deep breath**

I know I shouldn't spend time on such drivel.  But the problem is, such drivel gets printed, and people read it.  The time I have spent tonight is in the interest of counteracting such drivel, and reminding the internet that public transportation is a good thing that helps communities, not just an inconvenience for those too high-and-mighty to need it.  Thanks for playing.  See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


The other night I got on the 39 to go home.  There were several of us on the bus.  We came up to 300 East, as the 39 often does, seeing as how its route crosses 300 East.  Someone pulled the cord, the bus stopped, and we all got off.

As you might guess from its small ordinal number, 3rd East is not very far into the route.  In fact, I often am the first one to get off.  I slink off without looking at anyone because I don't want everyone to think I'm the lazy one that got off three blocks into the route (it's actually six blocks into the route, but no one ever seems to take into account that the TRAX Station is past State Street.  It's a mental block that afflicts all bus passengers, and I myself am not entirely immune).  But when everybody else also got off, I felt kind of bad for the bus driver, who would, in all likelihood, be all alone all the way to Wasatch.  This is not as bad as if, say, the 811 were empty, but still, driving all that way by yourself would be lonely.  Or eerie.  I don't know, as I've never been on a bus by myself; whenever I'm on a bus, there's at least the driver there.  That's probably enough.  Shutting up now.

All that way by himself, without even a twist or turn in the road to keep him company . . .

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Commutergirl, as you may know, is a genius.

She bought me two books about transit.  One shows maps of the metro systems of major cities around the world, and the other is about the history and current worldwide applications of rail transit.  Both are by Mark Ovenden, from whose "about the author" statement I now wish to quote:

"Mark was born in London in 1963.  His cartographic leanings probably began when his mother thrust maps at him in the vain hope that he might fidget less while traveling on the Underground toward downtown, whee his father worked in a West End store.

"Instead of reading comic books he pored over old cast-off road maps.  On one occasion, armed solely with a Tube map and the fearlessness of a seven-year-old, he left his grandparents and made it home alone, ten miles across London.  Using a dog-eared collection of transit fliers, he would spend hours doodling fantasy extensions and didn't see how an entire new city could be built without regard to how its 200,000 residents would travel around, hence Milton Keynes gained a fictitious urban transit system at his twelve-year-old hand.

"While more 'outdoor' boys played war games, Mark would buy a single ticket for the Tube and spend hours voyaging to the terminals of each line, scribbling impossible extensions or creating whole new imaginary mass-transit systems . . .

"Though he later pursued a career in media and music, he never lost his fascination with maps and urban transit, and he continued collecting treasures from around the world until assembling them in this compendium.

"Since its first British publication in 2003, he's been thrilled to find that he wasn't the only geeky kid fascinated by maps or by making fantasy rail plans -- designers of which now form an online army of passionate inventors . . ."

Which leads me to a letter I'm about to write:

Dear Mr. Ovenden:

If you ever read this, will you add me on Facebook?  Thanks,


Monday, December 26, 2011


A couple weeks ago, my sister called me asking for some bus advice.  It happens.  After she had successfully completed her bus trip, we had the following texted conversation:

Sister:  I made it to my destination on the bus! Thanks for helping me

Me:  Congratulations, my busninja-in-training.

Sister:  I'll never join the dark side.

Ha ha ha.  Resistance is futile, dear sister.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011


Today, when I got off the 39, the driver said, "Merry Christmas!"

I said, "Same to you!"

Another man said, "Merry Christmas again!"

Another man said, "BUUUUURRRRP!!!!"

Merry Christmas to you, too, sir.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


'Tis the season.

The season for lights at Temple Square, lots of shopping downtown, EVE, Jazz games, etc. etc. etc.  It is also the season for lots of people who never ride trains to ride one.  I support this.  I think everyone should ride TRAX.  Always.  Forever.  However,  I find that some people's experience riding trains is less awesome than it could be--for the sake of these people's health and well-being, let me offer a few suggestions:

1.  Do your homework.  I thought people generally did this, but sometimes I hear evidence that people have not done their homework before embarking on a TRAX trip.  Look it up online.  Call ahead.  Pick up a train schedule (if nowhere else, there should be free ones sitting there when you first get on the train.  They are saying "take me! take me!", if only you could hear them.)  That way you won't have to wonder from which nine stations out of the 25 on the Red Line you can switch to the Blue Line; that way you won't have to worry that you might accidentally end up in Murray, because the Green Line train you're on does not, in fact, go to Murray.  Oh, and if you rode TRAX to Temple Square last year, check again.  It changed.

Let me make it that much easier for you.  That's how much I care.

2.  Use crosswalks.  It is way more fun to walk a few extra feet or wait a few extra seconds than to get hit by a train.  If you don't understand that, you're an ignoramus.

3.  Stand on the correct half of the platform.  TRAX trains are shorter than TRAX platforms.  If you're standing on the southern end of the platform waiting for a northbound train, you're suddenly going to have to do some running to catch up to the last door of the train when it arrives.  Once you reach that door, you and all the other people like you are going to try to crowd through that last door, which takes forever, while listening to the train operator snidely saying over the intercom 'There's more than one door on this WHOLE TRAIN for you to get on!"  I would not post this if it had not actually happened.  Spare yourself the aggravation.  And the rest of us, who are all waiting for you to go through that ONE.  DOOR.

4.  Remember that children and adults are, generally, cognitively different.  Children are great.  I was one once.  I work with them at Church every week.  I plan on raising a whole gaggle of them someday.  I love children-poos!  But children-poos need a little extra help.  While an adult (probably) understands that you're supposed to stand behind the yellow line, a children-poo might be so distracted by the pretty lights that it might forget how it got there to see the lights in the first place, and that how it got there is going to come by very soon and rather fast.  I recognize that it is a sacrifice of a parent's personal enjoyment to be constantly monitoring their offspring while on a train platform, but if, in exchange, you get to keep your children, isn't it worthwhile?

5.  Kindly consider that, while the vicissitudes of your life are fascinating to yourself (else we would not call them vicissitudes), they may be slightly less fascinating to the people around you.  Interesting people abound on trains anyway, but it seems like I've had to bend awfully low over my crossword puzzle sometimes when people who aren't aware that what they're talking about might make me uncomfortable talk about things that make me uncomfortable right next to me.  All I'm asking is that you consider it.

Conscientious attention to the suggestions given above will help assure that your TRAX experience is of the kind that makes you want to ride TRAX again someday.  I would hate for you to not have a pleasant time because of minor circumstances that are easily avoided.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


It's Christmas break.  Which, these days, means I don't have to go to Provo every day.  I don't really miss Provo, and I've a sneaking suspicion the feeling is mutual . . .

When I was on my way to Provo last, amidst the swimming of my head due to my brain trying to escape its bony enclosure at the prospect of finals, I saw a beautiful, beautiful sign as we passed UVU.  It said:


I can't tell you how many times I've been walking around Provo or Orem and found out through experience alone that the sidewalk is closed.  There are times when this happens and there's nowhere else to go, so I either play chicken with large metal objects moving at thirty-five miles per hour or backtrack all the way around the block to get where I'm going.  For those of you who know that I refer to my easygoing temperament with a generous amount of sarcasm, you can imagine this is frustrating to me.

The sign I saw the other day not only said "detour" on it, it showed me where, as a pedestrian, I would have to go to get to the next intersection.  Arrows, dotted lines, and all.  It was a beautiful, beautiful sign.  I wish all such detours could be marked forevermore.  I'm sure it won't happen, but it is nice to be remembered once in a while.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Explanation of the foregoing:

1.  We took the train from our house to Temple Square, where we took Christmas Card pictures.

2.  Then we took the train from Temple Square all the way down to Sandy.

3.  We sat at Sandy for a while, then we caught a bus, like, two blocks so we could walk, like, six blocks to the mall.

4.  We wandered all around the mall and several stores around the mall, and we got hungry, so we ate lunch.

5.  Eventually, we wandered back to the train station in Sandy, and took the train back to Murray.

6.  Then we caught a bus to State Street, where we did MOAR SHOPPING.

7.  Finally, and about seven hours later, we returned home by a different way than we had left it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Having ascertained that I was standing in front of a McDonald's (r), I was not surprised that I now saw a couple coming across the grass to the bus stop holding McDonald's (r) paraphernalia. The guy got out a cigarette and lit it, and they took turns smoking it. Gross.

As they smoked, I thought, oh boy, here it comes. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke . . .

But either my sense of smell has gone completely awry, or they were smelling a cheeseburger-flavored cigarette, because I couldn't smell anything different. I considered this a rather lucky error of perception and stoically waited for the bus.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Shortly after waiting for the 220, I was waiting for the 45. It was an interesting night. As always, at night, I scoped out the stop to make sure there was enough light for the bus driver to see me standing there without my having to frantically wave my cell phone in the air.

(I will, if necessary, frantically wave my cell phone in the air.)

I needn't have worried, however, because there was a car parked not far from me with its headlights on. And it didn't seem to be going anywhere. In fact, it started to annoy me with its not going anywhere. I turned to look at the car scathingly, because when I'm in good form my glares can stop car engines, I guess.

When I looked, I realized I was standing directly in line with a McDonalds (R) drive-thru. Oh.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Today, on my way home from work, I went Christmas shopping, which took me far and wide, and several hours. Part of my roaming led me to have to take the 220 somewhere, which is not a very common event for me.

As I was getting off the 220 today, I said to the bus driver, "Thank you, sir; have a good night."

He said, "I love you," and I got off.

Okay, I'm pretty sure he didn't actually say that. In eight years of riding buses, I have never been told by a bus driver that he or she loves me. But I swear that's what it sounded like he said. I must be tired.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The other day at the Transit Center, a man I don't know asked me, "How you doin'?"

I was not even looking in his direction, so I turned around to face him and rejoined, "Who, me?"

He said, "That's nice."

Apparently actual communication was not the goal here.  Nor did the conversation continue past this point, so I turned back around and resumed contemplating my surroundings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


The 811 hasn't stopped at the old park 'n' ride for a couple of years now.  That doesn't always deter people.  The other night a man wanted to get off at the old park 'n' ride, and, apparently shocked by the fact that we weren't automatically stopping there, asked the bus driver if she could let him off there anyway.  She politely declined.  He asked a couple more times, and she still declined.

He said something precious, like, "Son of a b****," after which the bus driver said, "Sir, watch your language," in her most composed voice.  Upon which, an idea occurred to him.

"You could kick me off the bus," he ventured hopefully.  She made a disparaging noise.

Several of us were much amused, and we quietly complimented his persistence among ourselves.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Last week commutergirl and I went to a movie.  I think it's the first movie the two of us have been to since we got married.  No joke.  We saw it at the Gateway.  We like the Gateway, because trains go there.

As we were turning in our movie ticket vouchers to get tickets (which is part of the reason we chose now to see our first-ever movie as a couple), the man at the ticket counter asked, "Do you need parking validation?"

We responded in an exuberant, and entirely unintentional, unison "NO!"

He looked amused, and slightly taken aback.  I ventured a feeble explanation, but let it drop halfway.  We watched the movie, then took the train home.  Yay!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Let's celebrate, Jersey-Shore style.

No, but seriously, the FE (Fundamentals of Engineering Exam) is an eight-hour long test that Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical, and maybe more, Engineering majors have to take.  Basically, I needed to pass it in order to graduate.  However, coming at Grad School from the side like I did, I didn't take all the classes that would prepare me for it.  Thermodynamics?  What?

When I was taking the test, there were plenty of questions I had no idea about, so I was nervous when I got the email saying "The results of your exam are in . . . "  Why do they always make you click on another link?  Why can't they just send an email with "You passed!  You rock.  Enjoy graduating!" as the subject line?  Also, why did it take them a month and a half to send me the results?  It's a scantron.  The BYU Testing Center spits out your scantrons in a few seconds, and you can see your score by the time you get to the bottom of the stairs.  A month and a half?  I'd love to hear the story behind that one.

Anyway, the point is, I passed.  Phew.

Friday, December 9, 2011


Sorry I haven't posted in a few days.  I know, I spoil you.  Today is Reading Day at BYU, which, so far, means I slept in three hours and read the paper.  I don't know if I've ever gotten actual studying done the first reading day.  I'm planning on doing at least a little.  But for now, I blog.

I thought about what I could do to celebrate Reading Day this year.  Ride the Red Line all the way to the end again?  Fun, but not quite what I'm looking for.  No, I think it's time to do a musical post.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote down a list of every song that was in my head during my journey to school.  I don't have an iPod or anything like unto it because I feel like it would interrupt the constant stream of music going through my head.  My brain is messed with enough anyway, these days.

So, what WAS in my head that day?

Gavotte, François-Joseph Gossec.

Except that I was imagining it in my head in C major, for some reason, with more pedal and a few extravagant trills here and there for good measure. No idea why; I only ever played it in D major.

Lazy Song, Bruno Mars.

I hate this song. It was only in my head because it was someone on the station platform's ringtone. I choose to interpret this song through GloZell rather than post the actual video.

Nevertheless, it was in my head for a considerable number of seconds after I heard the ringtone, so it counts.

Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga.

I have no idea where this came from. Once again, I find GloZell's rendition much more compelling than the actual video, and I know I'm not alone in this.

O Weisheit, Seven Magnificat Antiphons, Arvo Pärt.

This is just the first one. But there are six more. I. LOVE. THIS.

If you don't, we can still be friends. I understand. But Pärt is seriously my hero. No, really, ask my composition-nerd friends. They don't understand it either. But they'll admit it's true.

Sonata No. 7, III, Prokofiev.

This was in my head because I'm learning it. Because I'm crazy. But I also love this piece. The 3rd Movement starts at 5:12.

I will make no remarks about this video's legality . . . but it is wonderful to behold. Sorry, I'm one of the ones that think Argerich is the queen, though some may disagree.

I was originally going to write down every song that was in my head all day long, but that would have made a very long blog post indeed.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Recently, my meandering brain was made aware of an inconsistency in Salt Lake's street nomenclature.  It was brought on by the fact that the GPS guy sounds kind of like he's saying "900th East, 3900 South," when we go past 900 East 3900 South.

I hadn't really thought about this before, but it occurred to me that if we say "9th East" to mean 900 East, then "900th East" means

90000 East

That is, somewhere in the Uinta Mountains, I think.  Food for thought.

Friday, December 2, 2011


So, I finally rode TRAX all the way to the Medical Center.  I did it on my lunch break.  Because I can.

I have finally ridden all of TRAX.  I know, I know; it's taken me a while.  Especially considering that the part I hadn't ridden yet was the part completed in 2003, according to Wikipedia.  I'm a BYU student.  It's enemy territory.

Anyway, I took a picture, to prove that I was there.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Now, I would probably never live in Davis County, unless I literally lived at a FrontRunner station.  Today convinced me that I would never, ever want to live there, ever.  No offense.  But poor bus service AND wind?  Nope.

Images from
By the way, KSL, you don't come to somebody's aide, unless you want to visit their aide or tell their aide something.  Otherwise, the verbal construction is "came to their aid."  No "e."

But seriously.  FrontRunner closed, the FREEWAY closed, thousands without power, car windows blown in, the list goes on.  How 'bout that wind.