Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Two Saturdays ago I went to Jordan Landing.

Those of you who know me well are now thinking of me and Jordan Landing at the same time, and you can probably picture me going

I got this from

and you'd be right.

But it was the day before Father's day and I had some money to spend, and I had never been there before--so on a whim I changed plans and headed to Jordan Landing instead of Valley Fair.

"Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason." --Jerry Seinfeld
I caught the Red Line down to Jordan Valley and waited for the 240 for half an hour.  I spent about fifteen minutes of that half hour walking around the parking garage, since it was empty (more on this later, probably tomorrow), and also cooler than the outside air.  Then I got on the 240 and had a fun time riding through emerging civilization on the way to my shopping destination.  It's a neat feeling, and one that is harder and harder for me to get around here these days, that feeling of riding a bus somewhere you've never ridden it before.

My welcome to Jordan Landing was less than spectacular--a big step down onto an uneven patch of grass, behind a building, with nowhere to go but all the way around it.  Fairness does require the observation that this was not originally a stop on the 240, nor on the 34 before that, until the Red Line opened and the bus started going both directions through Jordan Landing.  Nevertheless, it felt somewhat unceremonious as I tumbled off the bus onto the grass.

Apart from that, my biggest impression of the place was just how big it was.  The stores were all so far away from the road, because there was so much parking in front of them!  I have never understood why parking can't be behind the store, like it is in sensible places like SugarHouse.  Of course, if I ran the world, there wouldn't be a need for much parking at all . . .

I have never felt like quite so much an alien as I did at Jordan Landing.  It's not that I was ever in any danger, or even uncomfortable--there was a full sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, and there was at least plenty of room off the road where I got off.  There are certainly worse bus stops in Utah.  It was just that I was the only pedestrian ever.  There was no one else walking.  People at the four-way stops politely waited for me to cross in front of their cars, but they registered genuine surprise that someone might be trying to navigate Jordan Landing on foot.  I can't have been the first person to ever attempt it, but I must have been the first person some of these people had ever seen.

And then, of course, the line was so long when I was checking out that I missed the 240 back south to the Red Line, so I ended up waiting on that same absurd patch of grass to catch the 240 north to . . . Valley Fair.  The irony of the situation is not lost on me.  I did eventually get home, and now I can say I visited a whole new level of suburban shopping--on the bus.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Today's installment of Gratuitous Pictures is called "I didn't write this, but I may know the person who did . . ."

A lot of transit nerds read my blog, but just because you support alternative transportation doesn't mean you can vandalize light poles or anything.  Though I will take a picture if I see it.


Dear stupid Provo pedestrian:

I just thought you should know that, if you're getting off the bus at an intersection and the bus you need to transfer to is already waiting at the light, you missed it.  You will not make it across the street to catch the other bus before the light changes, and you will have to suffer the bitter experience of watching the bus you needed pull away right in front of you, and you'll have to wait an undisclosed amount of time for the next one.

It is bitter.

But it is no reason for you to further complicate things by trying to run across State Street in the middle of traffic, dodging cars and almost losing your balance on the median, which was not meant to be stood on.  And all of it about twenty feet away from a crosswalk with perfectly functioning "WALK" signals.

Y'know, like this one.

Next time you need to desperately run across the street, you should do so at the crosswalk.  You'll still miss the bus, but at least that way you'll miss the bus without also endangering your life fourteen times.


Saturday, June 22, 2013


Last month one of my dear friends had a party because he was going away to doctoral school, and you can't just not go to your friend's party when he's going away to doctoral school, so I went to it.  I figured it was the least I could do after not going to any of his parties for two years since I moved to Salt Lake.

The party was on a Saturday, which made getting to it on the bus a little dicey.  I ended up getting off in Orem and catching the 831 all the way through town

because there was a better connection from the north end (FrontRunner, every 90 minutes; 831, every 60 minutes; you gotta do what you gotta do), then walking

the rest of the way.  This would give me de paso an opportunity to ride the new 831 most of the way through (though it has already changed since I talked about riding it all the way, and is supposed to change again in August) and see how the ridership was doing (including me, 4 people . . .).  Because I had no idea how long it would take me, I had given myself a generous cushion of time to walk the remaining distance; I arrived very early, but I found various ways to occupy the time, including walking some more

and dropping in on a couple of people I know in the area.  The city blocks are smaller in Provo (11 per mile) than they are in Salt Lake (8 per mile), and I was amazed at how quickly I was able to cover ground walking.  I felt invincible--who cares if the bus doesn't go there?  I can WALK as far as I need to.

Eventually it came time for the party.  I was fascinated as I contemplated, for the first time, the singles scene in Provo from the outside--my life has admittedly changed a lot since I lived in Provo.  I ate some cookies.  I showed off baby pictures at every opportunity.


Part of the party was a white elephant gift exchange.  The "gifts" were all the things my friend didn't want to or couldn't take with him, which is really kind of a genius idea when you think about it.  The gift exchange was a thrilling experience, but I'm not sure the details translate well to a blog-post format, so I'll cut to the chase and tell you what I got.

Yes, it was a bag of flour.  This was actually a reasoned decision: commutergirl likes to bake, so we could actually use it (I flirted for a while with the idea of going home with a giant tape deck, mostly so that I could take a picture of myself with it on FrontRunner that night and put it on the blog; but as I would have had almost no possible use for it thereafter, and it would have taken up valuable space in our apartment, which surely would not have gone over well with commutergirl, I forbore).  When I left the party, I stuck the flour in my backpack and began the long walk back to the nearest transit stop.

I should mention that, by the time I left the party, the 831, 830, 832, and 821 had all stopped running for the night.  The nearest transit stop was the Provo FrontRunner station.

The walk really wasn't that bad; it was a nice night, and there was sidewalk the whole way.  And while 1860 South was dark enough that there could have been a bear trap in my path and I wouldn't have known about it until I stepped in it, there were no bear traps on the sidewalk, so I escaped without injury.  All was well, in fact, until I came in sight of the FrontRunner platform and realized that the gong on the train was ringing.  See, the gong usually only rings when the train is about to leave.

I was tired from all that walking, but I began to run.

I'll spare you the suspense--I missed the 10:27 PM train by seconds.  I walked onto the platform and sat down in one of the 16 available seats in time to still see the back of the train clear the crossing.  I looked up at the sign and it said

To North Temple 89 Min

Well, there was nothing I could do about it now.  I debated sitting under the pavilion in the middle of the station, but that required walking, which I had already done enough of for one evening, and also presented the possibility that I could be arrested for being a hobo, since there were no more buses scheduled to visit Provo station that night, so I just stayed where I was.  I always travel prepared to face any adverse turns of events with serenity; that night's solution was The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene (a striking contrast to what I read last summer, which was The Hunger Games, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,  and Khrushchev Remembers; I was on a real dystopian kick, I guess).  I still had plenty of book left, so I calmly opened my backpack to retrieve the book.

When I opened the backpack, there was a little


and a small cloud of flour rose into the air.  I peered into the compartment and my worst fears were confirmed: the bag of flour had broken during my vigorous walk and now coated everything else with a fine, wheaty powder.

It was at that point that everything started to very much not be okay.  I said a bad word.  Then I said it three more times.  Then I pulled out my book, brushed it off, shook it, and beat it against my knee (a gesture that served only to coat a portion of my pants in fine, wheaty powder).  Then I began to read.  I decided to wait until later to clean off everything else in the backpack.

At 11:57 PM, the train left for Salt Lake again.  This time, I was on it.  commutergirl, who is a saint, picked me up at Murray at quarter to 1:00, which was nice, since I didn't really feel like adding a walk from Murray Central

This map is inaccurate for security reasons, but hopefully you get the idea.
to my list of accomplishments that night.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


This graph has been requested by my friend and former co-worker Tim, who currently works in the River Park Corporate Center and with whom I have hashed out at great length his multifarious-but-all-equally-bad possibilities for getting to work.

So I did a lot of research in my head and produced the following graph, after much arduous drafting work:

Sorry, Tim.  But you had to know it was coming.

Actually, this graph is probably inaccurate because Tim has been talking up the benefits of transit to all his friends at work [riiiiiiiiiight?], who, if UTA puts those stops back, would jump at the chance to catch the F514 from the South Jordan FrontRunner station into work every day.

I'm not saying it's likely (even though Tim is a very convincing speaker), but it would be nice.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


In conjunction with the UTA blog article I was reading yesterday, I'd just like to mention that there was something in the post that caught my eye:

"As the FrontLines 2015 program concludes and the economy improves, UTA is focused on improving connections and increasing service. FrontRunner service was increased in February, and an increase to hourly service on Saturday will begin in August."

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to hear that FrontRunner service is going back to hourly on Saturdays (one of these days, I'll write a post about how I ended up on the wrong end of the 90-minute gap between trains on a Saturday night).  I'm just curious to know exactly how it has come about.  I'm encouraged by the fact that FrontRunner weekday trips increased in February (as the article mentions) without a corresponding reduction in bus service, but I'm still not quite ready to ask:


Monday, June 17, 2013


Last week an article appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune about how UTA's ridership is declining despite increasing service.  I thought the article raised some very valid points (I'm not here to excoriate the article today), like COO Jerry Benson's admission that about 30% of express bus passengers in Utah County stopped taking transit altogether after FrontRunner South opened--and his assertion, which I wholeheartedly agree with and have blogged about before, that FrontRunner has picked up new passengers that didn't ride transit at all before, that it has the capacity to expand much more than the express buses did, and THAT IT SERVES EVERYBODY, NOT JUST SOME SPOILED SUBURBANITES WHO ONLY TAKE TRANSIT WHEN IT IS SERVED UP ON A SILVER PLATTER RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM.

(I've been holding that back for months.  Sorry.)

I did think the pictures that went along with the Tribune article were a bit unfair, though.

I was even going to do a blog post about it, saying something like "If I took a picture of an empty freeway at 2:00 p.m. and called it a waste, would you believe me?"

I had to laugh, then, when I pulled up UTA's blog today.  They beat me to it:

Rarely have I seen such a direct rebuttal of a news story (though there was a pretty direct one in response to the preposterous 2News story about the parking garages) by a transit agency.  Are we entering a new phase of the world in which UTA . . . sticks up for itself?  Wild.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


This video was included in a Facebook response to a blog post of mine recently. I guess it's been around for a little bit, but I didn't see it until recently. It is an excerpt given by David Foster Wallace in 2005. It was turned into a video earlier this year by The Glossary.

The video is really good, and it definitely resonates with me--I just graduated from college and got a "high-stress job." I am learning "what day-in and day-out means." I do think it's a little amusing that he's so anxious not to moralize; but then, I am very religious. Anyway, here's the video. It's about 9 minutes long, which is probably longer than most of you spend on this blog in a day, but it's worth a view if you haven't seen it.

As I watched the video, I couldn't help but think about how my transit habit has both subverted and exacerbated the problem DFW describes here. While I spend my stuck-in-traffic time reading or composing (both of which are generally relaxing, with few exceptions), I certainly had the commute to end all commutes for the last couple of years. And I get exposed to the masses of uninspiring humanity DFW describes both at the grocery store and all the way to the grocery store.

But I think riding transit for years has helped me to inadvertently come to the conclusion that the universe does not revolve around me, and that other people may have intricate, heartrending stories behind their public unpleasantness. I have heard conversations on the bus I would never have been able to make up outside of it. Conversations that remind me that, even on the worst of days, I actually have it really good.

And I have come to appreciate these experiences and the awareness of uninspiring humanity that they give me. I would far rather live that way than insulated inside a nice car and an upscale neighborhood, pretending that uninspiring humanity does not exist until I am unpleasantly confronted with it asking me for money, etc. Which is not to say that I don't intend to provide as good a life for my children as I can, but I certainly intend riding transit to be an important part of their cultural education. They need to see the other humans from time to time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Dear stupid Provo driver:

The Murray Library is not exactly known for its spacious parking lot.  And it is neither your fault nor ours that the drive-thru book drop faces backwards.  But both of those are reasons you should not, actually, tear around the corner without looking.  It's a good thing commutergirl was looking, because she stopped way before the corner when she saw you coming.

It's also a good thing commutergirl was driving, because if it had been me, I would have given you at the very least a good tongue lashing when you rolled down your window to try to laugh it off.

Driving like a maniac in a parking lot is not something you get to just laugh off, in my book.  If I were in charge, there would be penalties, like having your engine governed at 20 miles per hour for about a week.  Then again, I'm not in charge right now, but don't push your luck--I may be someday.

Slow.  Down.


Monday, June 10, 2013


Dear stupid Provo driver:

For some reason you and your ilk think it is okay to double-park on the streets south of BYU while you run inside and talk to someone, or drop off some cookies in the hope that the recipient will be matrimonially disposed, or any of the other reasons you rationalize this behavior.  While you may feel that these are valid reasons to park in the middle of the road, please know that your behavior inconveniences a lot of people, as well as the 830, which I sometimes ride; if you do this frequently, consider yourself politely advised to seek an alternate method of transportation, such as the bus, or even actually getting off your lug and WALKING three blocks to Mr./Ms. Marriage Material's house.

Double-parking on 4th East in Provo is bad enough, but then do you have to take your traffic-illiterate ways all the way to downtown Salt Lake City and


City Creek has thousands of cheap parking spaces below ground!  City Creek has two TRAX lines and the 2, 3, 6, 11, 200, 205, 209, 220, 307, 320, 451, 453, 454, 455, 460, 461, 462, 463, 470, 471, 472, 473, 500, and 516 that stop within a block of it!  City Creek only has, like 3 parking spots on Main Street!  City Creek has an active light rail line within spitting distance of those parking spots!  And you just had to stop right in the middle of the street?

You would think that a car coming up behind you and honking its brains out would have tipped you off to the fact that what you were doing wasn't kosher with everyone else.  You would think that the cars behind you swerving onto the train line to get around you would be an indication that all was not well in Zion, nor in your head (mind you, it was stupid of them to drive onto the tracks when they shouldn't; but the whole situation could have been avoided if you hadn't been stupid first).

No, after cars had honked, driven around you, and left you behind, after a train had come by, only after you had ample opportunity to prove your incomprehension of the flow of traffic in downtown Salt Lake; only then did you calmly pull away, as though nothing were wrong.  Don't be surprised if, the next time you pull a stunt like this, you hear a voice behind you singing:



Saturday, June 8, 2013


Today I walked my child around IKEA in a baby carrier from Italy.  Then I realized, on the way out of IKEA, that he was wearing a hat from H&M.

Somebody stop me.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Today's picture is called "Yay! The 8th Ward!"

This was on the bulletin board at church; I was walking Baby up and down the halls while everyone else was sitting calmly in class.  Maybe this kind of thing happens all the time around here, and I just haven't noticed, because I don't check out the bulletin boards at church like I ought.  But this is the first time I have ever seen TRAX advertised as a way to get to a church activity.  And all I have to say is, "Yay!"

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Today when I got off FrontRunner at Murray Central I saw the following:


meaning, of course, that FrontRunner was 4 minutes behind--not, as I have mentioned before, the end of the world, but just late enough to miss the 200.

Sure enough, as I was walking across the parking lot, the 200 pulled away.  I thought about waving to it and saying


But the people around me wouldn't have understood.

Well, I was feeling full of ingenuity, so I took TRAX up to Murray North to try to catch a 45 or a 205 or a 228.  I figured my chances were better there than at Meadowbrook, where I only had the 39.  Of course, when I was crossing the tracks onto the bus platform, the 228 pulled out, and there was no 205 in sight.


Murray North is set up in such a way that when a bus leaves, it has to pull around a loop and double back past the passenger boarding area.  It is therefore possible to run across the street and flag down the bus after it has pulled out, and most bus drivers will stop for you, since they have souls.  But today I was annoyed at having already missed two buses by seconds, so I walked over to the 45/228 stop and stood there superciliously in full view of the 228 driver as he pulled out of the station.

He should have waited.  I also shouldn't have been passive-aggressive about it.  It's okay--I got my comeuppance waiting 15 minutes for a 45 and not getting home until well after I would have had I just waited around for the next 200.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Yet, anyway.  Maybe not ever.  But certainly not now.

It was he who famously lambasted UTA's official rail map back in December.  He certainly wasn't the only one; the map has been the subject of much heated online discussion, and I don't really need to visit it here (the link above is a good place to start if you are both curious and uninitiated).  After reading up the controversy, I started playing around with a few ideas of how to do a map of UTA's rail system.  After completing what I felt was a particularly nice sketch in pen on engineering paper (not as easy as it sounds), a thought occurred to me: what if you turned the Free Fare Zone into a circle?

I made another sketch on engineering paper and liked it well enough that I decided to make an actual map out of it.  I was then confronted by the fact that I have no graphic design software on my home computer whatsoever.

So I made it in Excel.  Please don't judge me.

I've been sitting on it for a while because I was too nervous to show it to anyone (except commutergirl, who knows to be careful of my fragile feelings at such times), but then yesterday I finished posting and saw this:

I was initially distraught that I had missed the opportunity to do something special for my heptacentennial post

TOTALLY a word.
but then I realized that one of the posts was a draft I had never published, meaning I hadn't quite missed the opportunity.  I decided this was the time.  Given that I rode the 200 for my 200th post and the 500 for my 500th post (not to mention the 201 for my 201th post), it seems appropriate to do something about rail for my 700th post (all the rail lines have route numbers in addition to colors, and they are all in the 700s.  Don't worry about it too much).

So here it is:

I couldn't get the lines any more even than this in Excel.

This is not an attempt to improve on UTA's current map; indeed, it's probably a little frivolous for an official map.  But it's an idea that tickled me, and I kind of like how it turned out.

Yes, I put the University Line back on it.  Call me nostalgic.  I didn't know what color to make it, since it used to be red, but the Red Line is now something completely different; so I made it orange.

I'd be interested to hear what all y'all think of it, and then you can tell Cameron Booth.

Actually, I guess I can't really stop you.  Whatever.  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013


I've only ridden the 811 once since FrontRunner opened last December, but it was at the same time of day as I used to always take it before FrontRunner opened last December, so I think it's still a good basis for comparison.  When I took it most recently it was pretty empty, because (duh) FrontRunner opened last December.

It reminded me of a time, however, when the 811 was full to bursting in the middle of the day.

As you can see from this graph, which took me a very long time to prepare, there were indeed more people traveling from Utah County to Salt Lake during rush hour, but the 811 had to bear the brunt of the midday demand all by itself.

When the 811 was full to bursting in the middle of the day, you sometimes had to stand in a tight space with very little to hold onto, meaning that you had to forcibly keep yourself in position with your arms when going around corners.  If you had biceps to speak of, it was a good way to unintentionally show them off.  I imagine I myself exhibited this phenomenon when my biceps were anything to speak of (or do I flatter my former self?  Sigh.  Grad school did wonders for my physique).

One day in the middle of the day when the 811 was full to bursting, a quite muscular man was standing between two of the seats, and found himself in need of bicep-induced stability every time the bus went around a corner (at this time, the 811 went into the American Fork FrontRunner station, which necessitated going around a lot of sharp corners, especially when the bus driver was behind and felt like taking them extra fast).  A man and a woman, who I don't think were a couple (though you should never assume) had apparently noted the occasion and were whispering about it.

"Look!" she whispered, "Every time we go around a corner he flexes."

"He's flexing for you!" he replied in a particularly conspiratorial whisper.

They then commenced giggling uncontrollably.  I chuckled on the inside, because people don't always take kindly to your laughing at their jokes when you weren't included in the first place.