Thursday, February 28, 2013

ROGUE

Today I was in Ogden for work.  As there is no way, even in some weird retrograde parallel universe, I would ever drive to Ogden, I took the train.  But, as could possibly be expected, I was not working at the Transit Center, it was necessary to transport myself by bus through a small portion of Ogden.

I was standing at the bus stop at about 2:00 today, waiting for a bus to take me back to the Transit Center so I could take FrontRunner back to Salt Lake.  I was waiting for a while, which didn't matter, since I had already missed the 1:54 train and had an hour to kill.  I had figured out that the next bus to come by was the 455, and I had serenely resigned myself to wait, when . . .

. . . here came a rogue F628.

I say rogue because the F628 never goes to Ogden.  It goes back and forth between the Clearfield and Roy FrontRunner stations, and any part of Ogden would be waaaaaaaaaaay outside the deviation zone.  So you can imagine I was a little surprised when it pulled up and the door opened.

A little breathlessly, I asked the driver, "Are you going to the Transit Center?"  He nodded.  Okay.

So I rode the F628 today.  And I didn't even have to go to Hooper to do it!  I really need to be more careful about what aura I'm projecting, before I attract too many more rogue buses, so far from their regular routes.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

AIRPORT! AIRPORT!

As you may have seen, UTA announced the events re: the opening of the Airport TRAX line today.  This is the part where I get nerdy:

  • The 218!  Not only is it not being truncated at 1950 West, it's actually being extended over to 300 West (9 blocks longer).  Meaning, it'll take longer to get to Central, but that may be the point . . . If you're headed to the 3rd West area, you won't have to transfer at Central anymore, anyway.  And you can transfer to a train at . . . HOW many stations now?
  • ELEVEN STATIONS.  By my count, the 218 will now transfer to TRAX or FrontRunner Sandy Civic Center, South Jordan, West Jordan City Center, Redwood Junction, Winifred (it says 1950 West on the map, but I saw "Winifred" on a map once and that's what I'll call it forever), Power, Fairpark, Jackson/Euclid, Arena, Old Greektown, and Salt Lake Central.  I think that's a record.  Maybe the 455 . . . let's see . . . I guess the 455 wins if you count one-block-away transfers downtown, but not if you don't.  Anyway,
  • There's no way all those transfers could work.  Unless the 218 came every 10 minutes.  Which it's not about to . . . so if you're trying to transfer from a train to the 218, it'll come when it feels like it.  Or as soon as it can.  But there's just no way it's going to work all the time.
  • Another one bites the dust.  Okay, enough about the 218.  The 6, 227, 240, 523, 527, and 550 are each either losing a day of service or evaporating altogether.  Some of these are not unexpected (the 550 is getting replaced by TRAX, yo), and none of them are terribly lamentable (I once rode the 227 on a Saturday back in the old days when it was really long.  9 people got on from West Valley Central all the way to Salt Lake Central, and that was supposed to be the busy end.  Now that all that is left of the 227 is the not-busy end, I'm not shocked to learn that it's getting canceled on Saturday); indeed, many of these eliminations have been threatened before (even in the old days).  All the same, it would be nice someday to have a change day where the amount of service actually went UP.  Someday . . .
  • The 522 is back.  We'll see how it goes this time around.
  • The disclaimer. "We are unable to expand service on the Green Line earlier in the morning or later at night, as requested by passengers, due to budget restraints and obligations for overnight use of the track for freight movement."  A few weeks ago, the Trib, bless their hearts, ran a piece about how the only thing that matters on the Airport Line is that it won't run early or late enough to serve everybody.  While I wish that the Airport Line, and all transit ever, ran both early and late enough to accommodate everyone who wanted to use them, I feel like this article was just the invitation all the haters were waiting for to come out of the woodwork and hate on UTA.  I would encourage everyone who is mad about the Airport Line to check out a current 550 schedule, notice how late or early it DOESN'T run (the first bus to the Airport from Central is at 6:18 a.m.; the last is at 8:48 p.m.), repent, and stop hating forever.  The Airport Line isn't going to serve everybody.  But, for heaven's sake, it's so much better than the service that's there now.  Some people are so ignorant.
  • Last, but not least.  Opening day festivities Saturday, April 13.  I'm so there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I DID IT

I gave into peer pressure.  I started a BUSNINJA Twitter.

Actually, what happened was I asked commutergirl, and she said it would be healthy for me.  Probably also for her, since a decent part of her mental health consists of not having to listen to me rant about the bus for hours on end.  Blogging keeps our marriage strong . . .

Anyway:

https://twitter.com/BUSNINJA401


Monday, February 25, 2013

WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE

Last Saturday, commutergirl and I met a friend at Culver's in Midvale.  We got there by means of TRAX.  Specifically, the Bingham Junction station, where I have never gotten off before, and, judging by the number of cars that were parked at the station, no one else has, either.\

The pedestrian crossing at Bingham Junction is really something.  Let me rephrase that.  The lack of a pedestrian crossing at Bingham Junction is really something.  There is none.

There are two ways to get across the tracks at Bingham Junction.  Either you walk out into the street and cross the tracks, then cross the street and jump over the median, or you cross the street and jump over the median, then you walk out into the street and cross the tracks.  Either way, you feel really dirty, not to mention exposed.

The staton platform is now done, but  you still have to walk out into the crossing.

Against all odds, we made it through the crossing without getting hit by a car or train.  Then there was some sidewalk next to the new Intermountain Healthcare building, but after we got past the building the sidewalk ended and we had the choice of walking on the shoulder or walking on the snowy rocks, neither of which was terribly appetizing, but we chose the shoulder.  Incongruously, before the next traffic light, a sidewalk with landscaping started up from the middle of nowhere.  We walked across some rocks to get onto it.  I daresay we're the only people that have ever walked on that sidewalk.  After that there was sidewalk all the way to Culver's, but we still had to cross some rocks and walk across the drive-thru to make it into the parking lot proper.

I always think that food tastes better when you have it after an adventure.  We felt like intrepid explorers, going where no one has gone before, exploring lands hostile to pedestrians and coming off conquerors of our surroundings.

I'm guessing that because the new Intermountain building has a stairway going all the way from the building to the crossing that they intend for people to take TRAX to get to their building, and there will soon be a crossing there.  Until then, Bingham Junction is a trip.  Come check it out if you want, but for heaven's sake be careful.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

SERENITY

I'll be the first person to admit that taking transit isn't that easy at first.  It simply doesn't come naturally to people around here because it is so different from the paradigm under which most of us have been raised.  We got driven around as kids; we sat through drivers' ed in public school; we looked forward to the day when we could get a drivers license as an almost Jungian rite of passage.  We use our cars to go places with friends; we store all sorts of things in them, including spare pairs of shoes, emergency food supplies, and children's toys; we carefully shop around for a car that best represents our personality, since we know we will be evaluated by those around us in part by the car we drive.  Cars are as much a part of our lives as clothes: most people wouldn't be caught dead outside without either one.

And then, one day, someone up and decides to take transit.  For any one of a number of reasons.

I have come to the conclusion that switching from driving to transit is a bigger deal than simply choosing a different way to go to work.  It is more like switching religions.  As someone who has been party to both kinds of changes, I feel qualified to make this comparison and declare it apt.

When you first get transit, not unlike when you first get religion, you're optimistic.  You've heard all the good things about it, and you're ready to turn over a new leaf in your life.  "I'm taking FrontRunner tomorrow," you say proudly at a party the night before your first trip.

And then you try it, and you find out it isn't perfect.  In fact, it's quite intimidating, and even cold, at first.  You got caught behind too many red lights on your way to the train station your first morning, and you pulled up to the parking lot just in time to see the train receding in the distance.  You got out of your car, a little disheveled, and negotiated your way onto the train platform.  There you waited for what seemed about seven times longer than the half-hour it was, thoroughly chilled, until the train finally pulled up.  You got on, and you had to stand.  Or sit by people you didn't know.  That wi-fi you've heard so much about didn't come through for you.  Or maybe you were so cold you didn't feel like taking off your gloves and getting your iPad out.  Or maybe you didn't even bring gloves.  You stumbled out the door at Salt Lake Central with way too many other people; after you finally figured out how to get to the bus stop, you saw the 2 (or the 2X, or the 3, or the 11, or the 200, or the 205, or the 218, or the 220, or the 228, or the 500, or the 509, or the 513, or the 517, or the 519, or the 523, or the 550, or the 902--did you see what I just did there?) pulling away, lost forever.  You stood and waited for the next bus while a horde of other people got on a host of other buses around you.  It was still cold.  Finally, you got on the next bus and it got you to work a half-hour late.  As you face your boss's disapproving stare and stern tone of voice, you feel the sudden urge to tear up the premium transit pass you bought so cavalierly last week into little tiny bits and stomp on them.  But of course you can't, since your car is in South Jordan, or Woods Cross, or Clearfield, or American Fork, or any number of other places, not at work with you.  And then the building collapses.  And then the world blows up.

Given that the world has just blown up, it's really no surprise that some of these people quickly become transit-inactive.  And write very bitter comments about it on the internet.  Why not, when transit has treated them so poorly?

(I know that some of the bitter comments are not from new riders of transit; they were express bus passengers last year.  I have addressed that subject here.)

I would like to direct some remarks to bitter transit riders everywhere: I know how it feels.  I've had everything short of injury go wrong for me at some point or other.  I've missed multiple connections in the same trip.  I've missed the last 811 on a Saturday and sat at the Sandy Civic Center TRAX station for two hours waiting for the 816, meaning I got home at 1:00 AM instead of 11:00 PM.  Heck, as long as we're talking about the 811, I took the 811 on a regular basis for about a year.  Forget a 5-minute transfer from one TRAX line to another; I had a 33-minute transfer to the 811.  When it was on time.  And that was just the way it was.

These sorts of things used to really bother me.  But I've found a kind of serenity over the years.  Transit schedule mishaps rarely even register with me anymore.

There are several reasons for this.  I know enough about the system that I can often find some kind of workaround rather than waiting for the next bus after the one I missed (just like how you learn to find alternate routes when you're driving).  I know to allow myself some extra time if a transfer is only a couple of minutes on the schedule (I used to catch the 811 an hour earlier than the schedule said I needed to).  And, as I have sometimes waited for two extra hours for a bus, waiting an extra ten or fifteen minutes is a small matter.  I know everything will turn out in the end.

This kind of serenity doesn't come instantly, but it does gradually come as you realize how much you like not having to park downtown or drive in stop-and-go traffic, or how long you've gone without filling your car with gas (SIX WEEKS, BABY!), or how much you get done while traveling, or how much more relaxed you feel on the train than when you drive, even though it takes longer.  Suddenly, you realize that your life is better for this crazy choice you made.

When bad things happen to you on transit, remember that they have happened to many other people before.  If transit is not your friend now, it will be soon.  You may never reach (or desire to reach) ninja status, but you will at least find the zen of the experienced transit rider when things go wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

NEW, IMPROVED TRANSFER

I am fully aware that I am catching the 200 in the off-peak direction to catch FrontRunner in the peak direction at Murray Central, which is the least important transfer ever, I think, since I'm the only one that makes it at that time of day (and the only one who makes it going the other way at night).  I'm used to using the system in ways other than the ones in which it was originally intended to be used, so it doesn't really bother me.  It's just that, between FrontRunner moving back 5 minutes and the 200 moving forward 7 minutes, my 13-minute transfer has been reduced to



1 minute






and runnin' runnin' and runnin' runnin' and runnin' runnin' and runnin' runnin' . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

THE CURSE OF THE NOT-COMET CARS

I have it.

I have ridden in a comet car exactly once. That was the Thursday after FrontRunner opened, my last ride before I boarded a plane to Illinois to sleep off the effects of the semester (and visit my wife's family; that, too). Every other train I boarded that week (and I rode FrontRunner four times that Thursday, alone) had no comet cars on it.

In case you didn't know, these are comet cars.  Photo by Steven Vance. flickriver.com


Then I was gone for two weeks, and when I got back it wasn't Christmas anymore and there weren't any comet cars around. And then I heard that there were going to be some comet cars on the trains again this week.

And then the only train I saw today that didn't have a comet car on the front of it was the one I rode to work this morning. And I saw like, five trains today!

Like I said, curse.

Monday, February 18, 2013

THE NEW SCHEDULE, AGAIN

As you know if you've been paying any sort of attention (this apparently rules out most transit users in Salt Lake County), the FrontRunner schedule, and along with it quite a few bus schedules, is going to change tomorrow.  I have a lot of thoughts about this, so I thought I'd collect a few of the more coherent ones here, since if there's one thing people have come to rely on around here, it's that I have a lot of nerdy opinions about transit schedule changes:

  • All the Utah County bus schedules are changing, again.  Utah County got a number done on them last change day, and here are all the schedules changing again.  It seems like most of the routes made it through relatively painlessly, although there are a couple of awkward gaps in the schedule in the middle of the day that weren't there before (see the 821 and 831 schedules, for example).  The 11:00 p.m. 830 trips that I so love were preserved, however.
  • None of the routes changed routing.  Thank heavens.  We've been spared that until April, when there will have to be a few changes of necessity due to the Airport line opening, which I can't imagine not being a good thing (though I'm sure the local news will find ways to make it seem like the end of the world, as with every other UTA change in recent history).
  • Overall travel times should be shorter IF you have a connection to make.  I've seen some frustration in the internets recently about FrontRunner taking longer to get where it's going now.  This is true, if you drive to the station.  However, if you're trying to make a bus connection in Provo, a more reliable schedule would reduce the time you spend waiting for your bus.  I have yet to make a scheduled bus connection in Provo (though I did manage one in Orem, once), and it would be really nice to wait five, instead of thirty-five, minutes.  Arrivals at the scheduled time could also serve to uncomplicate things for those who drive to train stations as well, if excessive delays can be avoided.
  • I'm thinking of getting a Twitter account tonight for the sole reason that when someone tweets @rideuta something about "WHY CAN'T YOU CONNECT TO THE STUPID 228! UTA YOU SUCK!"  I can tweet back, "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST TAKE ROUTE 3? AND END QUESTIONS WITH QUESTION MARKS? AND PUT COMMAS AFTER DIRECT ADDRESSES? #bueller"
  • I predict that in a little while, maybe a few months, maybe a year or two, all this kerfuffle about FrontRunner being late will blow over, the schedule will get trimmed back down, and FrontRunner South will settle into becoming an ever-increasing force for good in our area.  Some may think this overly optimistic, but I do have a precedent: FrontRunner North in 2008.

We'll just have to see how it goes tomorrow . . .

Thursday, February 14, 2013

OUT-OF-POCKET COST

I wrote another page at the top of the screen tonight.  These are taking longer than I expected!  I hope they're not boring.  I just wanted you to know that there's some science behind the madness.

xkcd.com

If it is madness . . .

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I MADE A MEME

I am laughing so hard at myself right now for doing this.