Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WELL, THIS IS INTRIGUING

As you may or may not have heard, BYU is planning on converting Campus Drive into a "walking plaza."  (Quotation from the original article.)

This is an interesting idea.  I think a lot of people are nervous about it, which is understandable.  But it has a lot of potential.  There's a funny thing about closing roads: if you do it right, it actually reduces traffic problems.  Campus Drive is pretty much a hot traffic mess right now.  Closing it would mean a lot of other things would need to change, but maybe that is the opportunity BYU has been waiting for.

It means the dreaded move to 9th East that so many of us that ride the bus have been fearing.  But there's potential here as well.  9th East could actually become the gateway to BYU for bus passengers.  I'm glad UTA is apparently being consulted on the proposal.  Of course, the BYU spokesman mentioned every other way to get onto campus besides UTA (which is still, even with some service pulled from BYU last month, the best alternative to driving), but I exhausted my transit-bitterness at BYU a while ago and will not belabor the point further.  Again, this could be a chance to make improvements that have been due for a while now, like better bus integration.

It says the project will take three years to complete.  Well, that sounds like fun.  It's not BYU unless there's construction somewhere.  Decades from now, BYU alumni will say, "I was on campus during the reconstruction of Campus Drive," and a hush will fall over the assembled crowd.  If BYU can get a better handle on their transportation situation because of the change, it's worth it and I'm all for it.  I'm also probably not going to visit campus very much until it's over.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I JUST SIT DOWN AND BANG IT OUT

I was talking to a coworker today about my blog, because it's totally a big deal.  He asked me how often I post, and I said, "three or four times a week," since that's been true of the past two weeks, and was true of the months before my last semester of grad school, when I almost stopped blogging altogether, and also gained about 20 pounds (working on it . . .)

He said, "Wow; how do you have time to do that?"

I said, "I have to do it really fast.  I just go home and sit down and bang it out."

I then did an impression in midair of typing really fast.  I hope it strengthened my point.

So anyway, this post took less than two minutes.

Monday, January 28, 2013

HOW DARE YOU

I mentioned that TRAX was packed during the Iridescence of Death last week.  This is true, because it was.

I got on at 39th; all was well until 33rd, where a large group of people got on who spoke French to eachother.  I don't mean that it was bad that they spoke French; I just mean there were a lot of them and it got rather crowded after they got on.

After getting my foot stepped on, I shifted positions and grabbed the pole next to me--only to come in contact with a human hand.  Belonging to someone other than me.

I hurriedly retracted my hand, mumbled, "Sorry," then found a less contactual handhold.

A soft voice said, "How dare you?"

I looked up in alarm, only to see the owner of the voice was grinning.  Phew.  No epic showdown necessary.

At Gallivan Plaza, I heard a voice clearly say

CELA

and the French-speaking people all disappeared as mysteriously as they had come.

Friday, January 25, 2013

MISS THE BUS DAY 2012

As far as I can tell, Miss the Bus Day 2012 actually happened in 2013.  Yesterday, in fact.

It was the Iridescence of Death (that's what I meant to call last night's post).  The sidewalks were slippery beyond all slipperiness I have experienced in quite some time.  It was slippery to the point that I had to place every footfall with great care and calculation.  This takes more time than the careless foot placement of which we so often avail ourselves, with predictable results: I missed the bus.  I saw it go by.  I would have reached longingly for it, but that might have made me lose my balance, which was tenuous at best.

Few things put me in a sourer mood before the sun comes up.

I considered waiting for the next 200, but then decided I should not wait around to catch the 200 backwards and probably not make the next FrontRunner train (which would, of course, be exactly on time).  Instead, I walked up to 39th to catch--you guessed it--the 39.

Well, maybe you hadn't guessed it, but it makes sense, ¿no?

 So I get to the bus stop at 39th and State, and what do I find?  Two trucks are parked right in front of the bus stop, completely blocking it from view.  Keep in mind that at this point it's barely getting light out.  And no, I'm not going to write to Dear Stupid Provo Driver about it, because they were UTA trucks, driven by people who were spreading salt around at the bus stop.  I was conflicted.  I appreciated that they were trying to make the sidewalk less slippery, but I knew it would be no help if the bus couldn't see me at all.

So it was that as the 39 bore down toward us, I took up a position in front of the first truck, where I knew the bus driver would be able to see me; I was prepared to give him a piece of my none-too-serene mind if he were to give me grief about not standing right at the bus stop.  This has been a sore point for me in the past.

But then something interesting happened.  The light changed, and the 39 sat waiting while traffic moved on State Street (the 200 in both directions also came during this time, but I did not allow myself to care).  And somehow, while the light was still red for 39th, the two men who were dispensing salt stopped dispersing salt, packed up their things, and both drove off, leaving the bus stop completely open to view.

I walked over to the bus stop sign, since I'm considerate like that.  Another man was sitting in the shelter next to the stop, but when he saw me he got up and started walking down 39th.  I'm still not sure what to make of that.

Anyway, the light did eventually turn green.

xkcd.com
And I successfully boarded the 39.  I think I still had a little edge in my glance when I got on the bus, because the (perfectly calm) bus driver was a little taken aback when we made eye contact.  Sorry.

Turns out, when I finally got to work, that FrontRunner had been frighteningly on time, and I would have missed it completely had I caught the next 200 backwards, thus necessitating that I stand on the FrontRunner platform for an extra 25 minutes and get to work even later than I did.

Which goes to show that pretty much everything in my life, including Miss the Bus Day, is getting better.  Who knew?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

THE INCANDESCENCE OF DEATH

Those of you who had to walk anywhere today will know what I mean by that title.

It was really cool looking--the rain frozen on top of the snow; the smooth, opalescent glow; the ghostly shapes created by freezing rain coating footprints and snowdrifts.  In between the TRAX tracks you could see large expanses of undisturbed snow (thanks, everyone, for not walking there . . .) that turned into shiny expanses of ice with snow underneath.  After I got off the train tonight, I stopped for a moment to ponder the weird beauty of it all.

Yes, it was beautiful.  But it was a beast to walk on.  And it was EVERYWHERE.

Apparently it was hard to drive on, as well.  People that drove to work this morning showed up hours (plural) late, some of them.  It was definitely the favorite topic of conversation this morning, how bad the drive in had been.  I heard the freeway was a parking lot.  I would like to mention that those who took FrontRunner arrived on time this morning, to the great consternation of those who drove.

Of course the news tonight showed picture after picture of accidents on the freeway without even mentioning that there was another way to travel that didn't involve potentially wrecking your car.  Don't worry; transit will be back in the news as soon as somebody dies or a train breaks down in the Narrows again.  Sigh.

But there were a lot of people who seemed to get the hint today.  TRAX was PACKED.  I didn't take FrontRunner today, but I heard it was fuller than usual.  And very nearly on time to Central.

We still have a long way to go as a society before we all take trains and trains are good enough for all of us to take.  Until then, consider taking a train anyway and letting "UTA be your ice skates," as someone so cleverly put it on Twitter this morning.  Avoid the incandescence of death!  Travel in warmth and let someone else do the driving.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SYNTAX

Every morning as I wait for FrontRunner at Murray Central, I observe a small electronic screen that posts scheduled times for FrontRunner trains impending. (I use "impending" somewhat loosely.) In conjunction with the scheduled times on the sign, I hear an electronic voice, announcing the number of minutes until the train is scheduled to depart. Up until yesterday, it sounded like this to me:

WKSHWCWPQ TRAIN IS SCHEDULED TO DEPART, IN 2 MINUTES

(The comma is intentional, even though it is not grammatically correct; it represents the pause the electronic voice always makes before saying the number of minutes.)

Then, yesterday, I finally understood:

THE TO OGDEN TRAIN IS SCHEDULED TO DEPART, IN 2 MINUTES

(The word order here is also intentional, though incorrect; this is what the voice actually said.)

It actually makes sense, if you think of the train as a "To Ogden" train instead of an "Ogden" or a "Northbound" train. But I honestly never understood it until yesterday.

My new understanding was confirmed by the voice at Salt Lake Central that afternoon:

THE TO PROVO TRAIN IS SCHEDULED TO DEPART, IN 2 MINUTES

Then, because I finally understood it, the announcement promptly changed. Today the voice said:

THE TRAIN TO PROVO IS SCHEDULED TO DEPART, IN 2 MINUTES

and I understood it immediately. It's amazing what a difference syntax makes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I FOUND A USE FOR OLD GREEKTOWN

I and others like me have wondered in the past about why the Old Greektown TRAX station even exists. It's, like, twelve feet from Salt Lake Central. There are no enormous businesses nearby except the Gateway, which is also accessible from Planetarium and Arena. Maybe that's in the works; I don't know. As far as I could tell, it had no purpose. Until last Tuesday.

Last Monday it so happened that I left an article of clothing on the bus. (I'm not mentioning what particular item of clothing this was because it was a gift.) And so on Tuesday I walked from Salt Lake Central to the UTA lost and found at 200 South and 500 West, approximately one block. No big deal, right?

Wrong. I don't know if you know this, but it's been snowing a lot here lately. Hopefully you know this. I walked a block through snow that had just started to melt and was turning into ice with water on top. I was wearing dress shoes. It took me a long, long time to walk a block to the UTA lost and found.

I finally made it, only to be informed that the article of clothing in question was not available at the lost and found at that moment, but that I should check back, as they don't always get things in the next day.

So it was that I had to make my way back to Central, approximately one block. And this time, I took TRAX. Because the TRAX platform was relatively dry, and the train stops at Old Greektown, one block away from Salt Lake Central. It was much easier, even including the 7 minutes I waited on the platform for the train to come.

Friday, January 18, 2013

FRONTRUNNER WORKED TODAY

It was glorious. It took me 44 minutes from the time I went out the door at work 'til the time I walked in the door at home. And 11 of those minutes were waiting for FrontRunner. FrontRunner was 1 minute early to Central today. Today was also the first day I got to Murray Central in time to catch the 200 I'm supposed to catch. And the 200 driver was . . . motivated. I made it home so fast. It was glorious.

I know FrontRunner doesn't always work now, but after they get the kinks worked out it's going to be AWESOME.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

NOT IN FRONT OF THE KIDS

Some time ago, I was on TRAX, when a UTA bus driver called into the garage to inform the powers that be that he was going to be late for his relief at Salt Lake Central because the train was late, and could the lateness not be counted against him.

A passenger with his two young wards (I think they were his children, but you should never assume) thereupon struck up a conversation with the driver about the fact that he had just called into the garage to inform the powers that be that he was going to be late.

I thought that was already pretty clear, but there you go.

During the conversation, the passenger said something to the effect of: "Yeah, you gotta CYA! Cover your . . ." then, with a nervous glance at the two small children, ". . . rear."

That's right, dude. Not in front of the kids.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

SPEAKING OF THAT FINAL

I got my diploma in the mail last Saturday.


YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!

I'm done.