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!


  1. First off, thank you for replacing the thoroughly nonsensical and unfortunate station names that exist. 8351 S. 2700 W. Wow. How original. Not even the pre-recorded voice on the train refers to it as "8351 S. 2700 W." Sigh. Perhaps analyzing UTA's station naming practices in depth is for another time—though I have been sitting on my thoughts about them for, like, ever.

    Secondly, I am blown away that you made a map of that quality on Excel.

    Thirdly, what a refreshing take on the rail system map. I really, really like the concept. I think you're right in saying that it probably wouldn't work as an official system map, but I could see this concept being used by downtown organizations. Like the convention and visitors bureau. It emphasizes light rail downtown, where visitors are most likely to use it.

    Also, as for the 702. I was thinking. . . What if this new "Silver Line" (this is what DC is calling its new Metro line to Dulles airport, so I'll call it that) began at the U, snaked through downtown, and then past Arena station assumed the current Green Line's routing to the airport. This creates a nice, easy connection between the U, downtown, North Temple FrontRunner, and the airport. It does wonders for connecting huge, walkable swaths of Salt Lake City proper. It would be the perfect candidate for late night service. The airport. Downtown. All the new housing going up along 400 South. The U. Places that could use it. If UTA could add night service to only one line, the hypothetical Silver Line would be a stellar choice.

    1. If memory serves, the original idea for the "University Line" actually went all the way to the Airport; it was originally going to be called the "East-West" line to complement the "North-South" line. But then the Olympics came and they only built the part from downtown to Stadium, christening it the "University Line" at the last minute. (And then, of course, the line didn't even get used for its stated purpose of carrying Olympic guests to the opening and closing ceremonies, due to security concerns after 9/11.) An interesting example of political planning . . . I wonder what would have been different if they had been able to complete the entire "East-West" line in 2001 instead of waiting until 2013 to finish it. Oh, well. I agree with you, though, that it's a good line, and a good line for night service. If only they could get that funkiness with the track sharing or whatever it is on the Airport segment. And provide late-night service in general. And as long as I'm dreaming . . .

    2. Where exactly is there a track-sharing conflict on the airport extension? Isn't the entirety of the extension track that was solely built for TRAX?

    3. That is the impression I get when I ride it--my knowledge of the track-sharing phenomenon comes exclusively from a passage on UTA's blog from back in February:

      "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."

      Like you, I'm not sure what that means, because it all looks like TRAX tracks to me. But I have seen the same sort of response on Twitter since then, too, so there must be SOMETHING to it . . . one of the many vagaries of an adolescent transit system, I suppose.

  2. The tracks south of 1300 South are in use by freight service between approximately midnight to 5 am. This means that all the trains need to be back to the yards before midnight or so. Salt Lake City has been talking with UTA about the possibility of running service later, which would mean buying out the freight spurs between 1300 S and the junction just south of 2100 S, so that there would be 24 hour access to the Jordan River Service Center and allow flexibility for late night service for the entire TRAX system north of 2100 S. Let me know, if you have any questions.

    1. Well, there we have it! The Silver Line would still be okay with having night service, then.

      But let's also remember before 2010 that TRAX south of 13th South ran until almost 2 am. So at that point an agreement had been hammered out. I doubt it'd be too difficult to do again. The limiting factor is most likely funding.

    2. Thanks, Mike. That's the clearest explanation I've heard.

    3. I agree that it's probably more the funding than anything else, but Mike's comment and the tidbit about FrontRunner going back to 60-minute service on Saturdays have me optimistic. Perhaps foolishly. But I'm a rather irrepressible transit enthusiast.