Thursday, May 31, 2012


I had another mission flashback today.

I was walking to a TRAX Station after work today, and something felt distinctly odd underfoot.  I couldn't quite place it (I've been wrong about this before).  When I got to the platform, I looked down, and -- lo and behold -- my shoe was broken!

When I got on the train, I stuck my finger through the hole to make sure it was really there.

No, the train is not carpeted.  I took a picture when I got home.
Wow.  That hasn't happened to me regularly since my mission.  I still remember when I got these shoes.  It was in December of 2010: I had just gotten out of my Differential Equations final (may it rest in peace . . . ), and I was on my way to play the piano for a Messiah sing-along at the Orem Community Library.  I had to budget my time carefully during my DiffEq final, so as to have enough time to buy shoes at the mall in between.  I remember it was right after Change Day, because the 850 schedule had changed considerably and I had to look at the Transit Center to make sure I wasn't about to miss one.  Why was I buying shoes at such a time?  Well, I had given a lot of my clothing away earlier that week (I was feeling unusually charitable), and I realized the day of the sing-along that I had no black shoes.  So I bought some.  I was young and single then.  I had money to burn.  Something like that.

Oh well.  I guess I can take advantage of the fact that I live in a first-world country, and have enough money to replace them, and replace them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Let me tell you something I like about public transportation.

People get along with each other.  For the most part.  There are some spectacular exceptions, but in general bus people look out for each other.

I remember one Saturday, early, on the 822, when a young man boarded the bus with a large duffel bag full to bursting.  When someone asked about it, he explained that he was running away from home because his parents wouldn't stop using drugs.  What followed was an outpouring of sympathy and consolation from everyone who was sitting in the front of the bus.  More than one person expressed that they had been in a similar situation.  People offered him advice about places he could look up in Salt Lake.  Everyone offered him encouragement and told him not to give up.  I was deeply moved.

When there is an accident along a TRAX line, we usually find out about it when the train stops moving, or doesn't pull out of a station.  After a few seconds, people begin looking around, making quizzical eye contact.  Pretty soon, an announcement comes over the PA: "Ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the delay.  There's been an incident along the track.  I'll let you know when we're ready to start going again.  Thank you."

The mood becomes somber.  A few people say things like, "oh, dear," or, "I hope someone didn't get hit!"  People turn back to their iPads or their books, or their Kindles, or their crossword puzzles.  Inevitably, someone gets a call or a text back from someone they've asked, and, suddenly the expert, they announce to the train the nature of the incident.  People listen eagerly and press for details; the original recipient of the text begins enjoying their unexpected celebrity.

Often, it soon becomes apparent that we won't be going anywhere for a while.  People begin making themselves comfortable.  People who were standing start taking seats they felt awkward about taking when the train was in motion.  Several chapters are read on books or Kindles.  Conversations begin, sometimes because of news about the accident, sometimes out of thin air:

"How far you going?"
"39th.  You?"
"27th West."
"Wow, that's far."
"Yeah, I've got to catch the 227 from there.  I hope I don't miss the last one."
"Dude, that sucks!"

But we smile as we say it, because we all know what it feels like.  Even though we know we'll be late, we all stay pretty calm.  When the train starts moving again, people are audibly relieved and happy.  New conversations begin, this time about how glad we are to get going.  When people finally do get to their stations, people say things like, "Nice to meet you!" and, "Take care, man!"

And then, as I walk across the station platform and get onto a rather-more-crowded-than-usual 39 (because several trains have arrived in quick succession in the time it took one 39 to arrive), I feel content.  Certainly much more content than if I had spent the previous 45 minutes stuck in traffic due to an accident.

Just today a woman with a walker got on the 228, and someone consciously, without being asked, moved from one of the front seats to one further back so she could sit.  How often does that happen anymore?

This is one of the reasons why, when people ask me if I want a ride, I say, "No thanks," if I can help it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The other day, I stepped out my front door on my way to work.  This happens at some point every time I go to work.  But on this day, it seemed the sun was shining a little brighter; the sky was bluer, the mountains stood more majestically, trees swayed soothingly in a gentle breeze, the birds outdid themselves with happier songs than they had sung in quite some time.  As I sat on the TRAX train, which was humming along unusually happily, on my way into town, I wondered if it were all in my head.

Then I got to work and my best suspicions were confirmed.  I read this article:

Now, I know that "starting to think," "maybe," and "begins look" are far from promises, but it's extremely promising to know that UTA is even starting to think about restoring/adding bus service.  The past ten years have seen an awful lot of consolidation or elimination of bus service; even when it was done in exchange for cool new trains (and I love the trains), it meant that the bus didn't run as late, or as often, or to as many places.  Some of this was justified--some of those buses were always empty!  But it would be nice to get some of it back, or have service added in places that really really need it.  It's so good to hear that it's even on the table.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I was sitting at Central the other day, waiting for a bus.  I know, that never happens, right?

While I was sitting there, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a bus full of children.  I know that doesn't rhyme.

But then another bus full of children arrived, and another, and another, and another, and I forgot all about rhyming.  In all, there were three MCI's and two Gilligs full of children.  And they all got on FrontRunner.

A few children came over to the bus stop and sat on the benches.  Their teacher said something about, "Let's review for our math test tomorrow," and they all said things like "NO! NO! Ugggggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . ."

(I'm taking notes, in case I want to REALLY annoy my children someday)

As the FrontRunner train pulled out, I peered at it, and I could see children's faces pressed up against the window.  We watched each other for a brief moment, and then the train was gone.

And I was left to wonder what so many children were doing on FrontRunner all at once.

I sure hope they were keeping track of ridership that day.

Monday, May 21, 2012


One morning, on my way to school, I realized that I hadn't done my homework that was due that day.  I opened my notes to find where I had written the assignment down, only to discover that I hadn't.  Oops.  So, as soon as I got on TRAX, I called my lab partner to ask him what the assignment was.  He told me, and I started (and finished) the assignment on the train/bus all the way to school.  I'm a ninja like that.

When I got to class that day, he asked me, "Did you call me when you were on the train this morning?"

I said, "Yeah, why?"

He said, "I figured that was probably what was going on."

Suddenly it hit me.  I asked, "Wait, were you still asleep?"



Friday, May 18, 2012


Because Van Hools have windows in the back.  Bus 09104, Route 39.  Where else around here could you see a lovely view of the mountains out the back window of a lovely Belgian bus?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


So, I went to the groundbreaking of the Sugar House Streetcar last week.  I didn't take any pictures, so I'll describe the scene for you:

A warm, sunny day.  A large group of people gathered on an empty lot, milling around, exchanging pleasantries.  Some of them are looking at the displays that have been put up about the new streetcar line.  Some of them are getting in the way of those who are trying to look at the displays.  Oops.  A small stage with a podium at the east edge of the crowd.  To the south, the skeletal remains of the old railroad tracks.  And in the middle of it all, one very attractive busninja, coolly contemplating the scene and plotting his next move . . .

United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke, as well as several local officials and community members.  I recognized several faces from the Salt Lake County Republican Convention.  Secretary LaHood was impressed at the number of people that came.  He talked about "the next generation of transportation, for the next generation."  (He said it four times).  Everyone who spoke was enthusiastic about the amount of development and growth that was going to happen because of the streetcar; I heard the phrase "development-oriented transit" coined. 

I also heard that around $400 million has already been pledged by local and other interests along the streetcar line before the groundbreaking, meaning that the theoretical streetcar has already drawn a promised over-ten-to-one return on investment.  I'd love to know how much the actual streetcar will end up bringing in.  Also, I found out that a streetcar has been on the books in Sugar House since 1985.  Interesting.

The "groundbreaking" consisted of pulling up some of the old railroad tracks, as a symbolic sort of "out-with-the-old" gesture.  Construction of the streetcar line is supposed to finish up next year(!).

I hope when it opens you'll all join me in taking a ride on the Sugar House Streetcar.  Go to dinner.  Shop for books.  Stroll down the trail.  Have a fun time.  I know I will.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Last Saturday, commutergirl and I went to the temple to see two of our friends get sealed (to each other).  Being the conscientious individuals we are, we took TRAX.  Per commutergirl's instructions, I had dutifully looked up the train schedule beforehand.  We timed our arrival at Meadowbrook TRAX very well for a Blue Line to Central (they're not making the trains say "Arena" so I'm still going with "Central") that was due at 8:00.  Imagine our suprise, then, when a train that said "Blue-Sandy" pulled in at 7:54, heading north.  It was either six minutes early or fourteen minutes late, both very, very bad, and it was labeled as going the opposite direction.  Oh, well, it was a Blue Line, right?  So we ran a little (along with a woman who exclaimed "Running isn't my forté!" before also running) and caught up to the back of the train.

The station announcements were not working on the train.  The chime would sound, and then nothing would happen.  No matter; we are experts in the order that TRAX stations come in.  Until we got to Courthouse.

See, if you are on the Blue Line and you leave Courthouse, the next station is Gallivan Plaza, and you go straight to get to it.  But if you are on the Red Line and you leave Courthouse, the next station is Library, and you have to turn right.  It does not matter how expert you are in what order the Blue Line stations come in if you feel yourself going around a corner after Courthouse.  Which is what was happening to us.  We exchanged a wordless glance that meant


and braced ourselves to get off at Library and run back to Courthouse.  Or, at least, walk quickly back in heels.  Which commutergirl was wearing, not me.

We didn't have to run, because as the now-color-ambiguous train we were on was pulling into Library, a train that said "Red-Daybreak" was also pulling in, going the other way.  We ran for it and made it, but other people were not so lucky.  The fact that other people were also running for the Red Line train made me feel less crazy, which was good, but I felt bad for them, because now they would have to run back to Courthouse.  Or walk quickly in heels.  We tried to push the button for them, I swear!

We made it back to Courthouse, but the Blue Line we had originally been intending to catch had either already come by or sublimated without warning, because we never saw it.  While we waited for the Green Line to inch its way up Main Street, I checked the posters that were up for the Race for the Cure, to see if we had been on one of the special trains that were running in conjunction with said Race for the Cure.  But we were nowhere near any of the times it said special trains were running.  It was the wrong time for a Blue Line train.  It was the wrong time for a Red Line train.  It had said "Blue-Sandy" and turned right after Courthouse.  I was troubled.

Eventually the Green Line did come, and we still made it to the temple in time.  It was not until much later that night, however, that I happened upon a reasonable explanation for the presence of the train we had ridden that morning.

The devil sent it.  I don't know why I didn't see it before, really.

Friday, May 11, 2012


A few days ago, some excellent friends of mine sent me a message on Facebook (r):

Of course, I was more than happy to inform them that there was, in fact, a way to get to Park City from Provo on public transportation; I am always delighted to answer all such questions that are directed my way.  But if you really want to get a good answer, you might want to address me properly.  Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I was looking through some pictures I took, and I came across this beauty:

In case you can't tell, it's a bus stop covered by snow.  At 6:09 a.m. on March 1, 2012.  When I was waiting for the bus in the snow and the cold and the hatefulness of winter.

Have I mentioned lately that I'm really glad it's not winter anymore?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Some of us are just not ambi-turners, I guess.

One look?  ONE LOOK?
Not being able to turn left on a fashion runway is one thing; not being able to turn left onto 300 West is quite another.

Yesterday I thought I'd try out the bus bridge between Central and Arena, in case anyone asks me about it.  All was fun and games until we got to the light at 200 South and 300 West.  I am still not sure why the driver of the car at the front of the turn lane didn't turn left.  But the fact remains that he didn't.  We sat in that turn lane for two complete cycles (a cycle being the amount of time it takes the traffic light to "cycle" through every green, yellow, and red light in every direction).  And I happen to know, since my Traffic Simulation term project last semester involved this intersection, that the cycle length is 120 seconds at 200 South and 300 West in Salt Lake City.  So we sat there for at least four minutes.  Keep in mind also that the people on this bus were ostensibly TRAX passengers, and therefore unaccustomed to waiting, ever; you can imagine that the general mood on the bus at this moment was somewhat less than jovial.

During the previous two cycles, all the other cars in the turn lane had left it in the attempt to get somewhere, so when the third green light started, the bus was directly behind the offending vehicle.  When it became apparent that the driver was not going to move this time, either, the bus driver started sounding the horn.


and didn't stop.


People on the bus began looking at each other in amazement.


Amazement turned to delight.


Finally, after about twenty-five seconds of horn, the car in front of us put on its right blinker, pulled into the through-traffic lane, and left the intersection.


A few seconds later, we made the turn. All the passengers on the bus started applauding.  About five minutes after I would have gotten there by walking, we made it to Arena.

Monday, May 7, 2012


This morning, while I was calmly allowing the 200 to convey me to work, a woman asked her ostensibly Mexican conversation partner, "So, did you do anything for cinco de mayo?"

He said, "No, I didn't do [michi*]."

They asked around to a couple of other people sitting nearby, and no one had done anything in honor of Mexico's independence.

I sat in the back and thought, I'm more latino than all y'all.

* Michi means "cat" in Quechua.  In Perú, this word is used as a substitute word for the Spanish swear word which has the same first two letters, which is in turn the closest translation for the word that was actually said on the bus this morning.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


The other day, rather early in the morning, I was walking to the bus stop.  As I was approaching the bus stop, a very old and decrepit pickup truck turned left onto State Street (that's how you know it was rather early in the morning).  The truck had been making lots of rattling and squeaking noises all the way down the road, but as it turned onto State it went over a dip, and with a very loud boom, the tailgate fell off onto the street.

I raised my hand feebly to try to signal to the driver of the very old and decrepit pickup truck that thetailgate was now detached from the rest of his vehicle, but it was too late and too dark for any physical gestures I made to have had any impact.  The truck was also far too loud for me to have shouted over it, especially considering it was probably the first noise I made with my vocal chords that day (always an iffy proposition).

So, the tailgate just stayed sitting there.  When the 200 came down State Street, it ran over the tailgate.  Boom.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ABOUT THE '12'S . . .

. . . not sure if I am a fan.

See, when I sit on an '07, it looks like this:

And when I sit on an '09 or a '10 (as they are exactly the same on the inside):

But when I sit on a '12:

I waited several days before taking this picture, as I was trying to wear the same pants in all three pictures.  You should always try to control as many variables as you can.

Now, I'm no stranger to lack of leg room--I'm 6'3", I served a mission in Perú, and I haven't been allowed to play in the ball pit of McDonald's (r) since I was about six.

Nevertheless, when the . . . ample person in front of me pushes the seat backwards as they exit, I'd rather it not come crunching down on my knees.  Ouch.