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.


  1. Please write a letter to the editor.

    Also, I have to add that not all public transportation in the U.S. is lame. I found Boston and New York's systems quite helpful. The Bay Area isn't so bad, depending on what part.

  2. I just want to say that I love this blog. UTA seems to enjoy it too as it was posted in their twitter feed.
    I think it is great you advocate for public transportation and I hope you continue to do so. i totally agree with you that public monies could be spent on more worthwhile projects.

  3. Thanks for reading (and commenting)!

  4. Eric, I love you. This is one of my favorite posts on busninja.

  5. Heather:
    Considering that I know you are a woman of discriminating taste, and considering that there are now over 400 posts on my blog (good heavens!), I consider this quite the compliment!