Thursday, October 31, 2013

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Ten years ago today I was calmly sitting on the 822 on my way to school, reading.  We got to the Gold's Gym on 9th East and about

3,412,654,098,740,654,096

people got on, because BYU passes were free at that time.  This happened every day, so nobody really thought much of it.

Then, as we were coming down the hill into the Wilkinson Center stop that no longer exists, the bus driver had to slam on the brakes for something.  I don't think I knew at the time, and I certainly don't know now.  The 3,412,654,098,740,654,058 people on the bus who were standing (minus 38 seats) all came dangerously close to toppling over; I think a couple of them actually did, but I couldn't see through the masses of people around me.

The bus driver cracked, "I did that on purpose!"

Someone in the back shouted, "Happy Halloween!"

That is the greeting I pass on to you tonight.  Not just any "Happy Halloween;" that one.

Monday, October 28, 2013

WHICH BUS DOES SHELDON TAKE?


A while ago commutergirl and I were watching one of the few TV shows we watch

reddit

wikia

fanpop
when it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't know which bus Sheldon took.  So I looked it up.

cityofpasadena.net
It appears that Sheldon takes route 20 from home to work and back.  The route is a loop but it runs both directions from 6:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M.  It takes about 25 minutes one way.  Bus fare in Pasadena is only $0.75!

modified from cityofpasadena.net


I don't need to tell you what commutergirl said when I showed her this.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

LUGGAGE DAY INDEED

Holy crap.

If you look closely, you can see two missionaries guarding the luggage.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

UTAHANS ARE IDIOTS

I prefer the spelling above ever since I saw it in a New York Times crossword puzzle.  Normally I would write it off as "those easterners" being pretentious about things that don't matter, but in this case, I do think it's more correct: people from Ohio are not Ohions and people from Missouri are not Missourins.  Just thought I would clear that up before anyone got all huffy about it

I toned down this post from its original version; I kept the title.

Last week I talked about how I saw a whole crowd of people whose first language was not English and who were clearly visitors to the fair city of Salt Lake.  They had never gotten on TRAX at Salt Lake Central before in their lives.

And they all walked to the edge of the platform and crossed at the crosswalk.  All of them.  At a crosswalk they didn't even have to cross at (though this was not apparent to them, as they were new to the area).  They all got it.

So what is Utahans' problem?  Why do we sit on the edge of the platform with our feet hanging over the tracks?  Why do we stand on the FrontRunner tracks and pass our personal belongings from one side of the tracks to the other?  Why do we walk right down the middle of the TRAX tracks downtown, then look at the driver in annoyance when she screams at us over the PA?  Why do we jump between stopped railroad cars, or try to crawl under stopped railroad cars, risking our lives to save at most a few minutes?

Perfect strangers to our city get it right.  Why are we all idiots?

Monday, October 21, 2013

THE "LIGHT RAIL KILLS CHILDREN" CROWD

Much has been made of this article today, I'm sure, so I thought I'd weigh in for just a minute.

theatlanticcities.com
First of all, it bears mentioning that, just a few years ago, Utah's transit system was strikingly unpopular.  And now, it's a hit.  I am still surprised at the amount of service, and patronage, UTA has on silly bus routes, even in its current, modestly-reduced state. And amused at how many people around here think buses are abhorrent but trains are the best thing since baby snuggles.

(Baby snuggles are the BEST)

Secondly, I would like to point out that the people who brought the signs saying "LIGHT RAIL KILLS CHILDREN" and brought the coffins and lay in them during the board meeting haven't died (oddly enough).  They're still around.  They still hate light rail; they hate the fact that transit could possibly be competitive for the automobile.  They either want transit to go away altogether or they want it to go back to the shadows (maybe they want to go back to when the bus was empty and they could get a seat anywhere they wanted because they don't like sharing seats on TRAX).  They're still trying to sow tares about the streetcar and the BRT line in Provo (which also, apparently kills children).  They've always been there.  And they'll always be there.  But just because they gang up on the Tribune comment boards from time to time (and it's certainly not just about UTA) doesn't mean they matter.

Thirdly, let's be honest.  Service cuts always suck.  Always.  But how many transit agencies around the country have had to cut service and didn't open 5 rail lines?  All of them.  So . . .

Saturday, October 19, 2013

MY GOOD DEED FOR THE DAY

The other day, I was waiting for TRAX at Salt Lake Central, when FrontRunner pulled in and a huge host of out-of-towners got off.  Given that they were almost all sporting Xango memorabilia of some sort, I assume some kind of conference was going on.  Many of them conversed happily in Spanish as they walked past me and onto the center of the TRAX platform, which was enough to get me to glance up from reading my movie reviews, but not much more than that.

(For those of you unfamiliar with the topography of Salt Lake Central, there is a TRAX platform with tracks on both sides, but if a train pulls in on the west track, you can board it from both sides, so most people don't bother walking all the way onto the platform proper.)

The TRAX train pulled in, and I got on.  It quickly became apparent that the mass of happily conversing people had no intention of getting on.  I suppose they were expecting a train to pull in on the east side.

I opened the door, leaned out, and said to the closest row of people on the platform:

This is the end of the line.  You have to get on here.

I was met with several deer-in-the-headlights looks of utter linguistic incompatibility.  So I took a deep breath and bellowed:

¡ÉSTE ES EL FINAL DE LA LÍNEA!
¡TIENEN QUE SUBIR AQUÍ!

At which they all moved as one onto the train, saying things like "Haha, we would have just let it go by!  That's so silly!"

In Spanish, of course.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

THE RELIEF SOCIETY BROADCAST (DAYBREAK)

I mentioned the experience documented in the last post to one of my co-workers the next day.  He replied, "Huh.  Where I live everybody's always like, 'Yeah! Conference! Let's take TRAX!'"

"Where do you live?"

"Daybreak."

Oh. 

Yeah, y'all better be excited about TRAX, 'cause I don't know why else you moved out there . . .

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

THE RELIEF SOCIETY BROADCAST (MILLCREEK)

As you may (or may not; it's a free world) know, a couple weeks ago was the General Relief Society broadcast of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was held in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

The two or so weeks before the event, it was announced in our ward's Relief Society meeting that the ward would have enough tickets for anyone who wanted to go, so naturally a lot of people wanted to go.  Once the general merriment had subsided, it was time for serious business.  "We need to coordinate rides now," said the Relief Society president, "because we only have six parking spots, and they're far away from the building."

Commutergirl piped up and said something to the effect of, "There's a TRAX station just down the road; why don't we use it?"

She was met with incomprehension at best.  "Well, you can do that if you want . . ."

When commutergirl told me about it later, I admit I was a little disappointed.

It turned out that commutergirl did take the train to the broadcast, along with several other sisters; a couple of other sisters mentioned that they would take the train, but had already made plans to watch the broadcast in the elsewhere of downtown.

I hope everyone else also enjoyed their trip to the conference.

Monday, October 14, 2013

BIKE RIDE OF THE CENTURY

I've been putting this post off for a while because, honestly, this experience may have scarred me a little bit.  But it's there, on my list of posts, and I must obey my list of posts.  So, here goes:

It all started on the 205 the other day when I was on my way home from work.  I was looking forward to a nice, calm evening ride on the 205, such as I have become accustomed to over the past two years of occasionally using the 205 to get home from work.  I didn't get it.

At about 16th South, a man wanted to get on the bus with his bike.  The two racks in front of the bus (it wasn't a '13) were already full, so the bus driver told him he had to wait for the next one.

(As far as I understand, this is UTA policy--I once had a bus driver describe to me that if it's the last bus of the night, the driver is supposed to let you bring your bike on the bus; otherwise, it's up to the driver.  This wasn't the last bus of the night.  There was another one coming in 15 minutes.)

For whatever reason or due to whatever lingering childhood issues this man had I do not know, he decided that this was a mortal offense and that the bus driver should be punished, and punished severely.  He accomplished this by riding down the middle of the road right in front of the bus.

And more than that.  When we would come up to a stop with people at it, he would slow down or stop in the middle of the road so the bus couldn't pull into the stop.  A couple of times the bus stop in question was right after the intersection, and we sat with the back of the bus awkwardly hanging into the intersection until he finally moved, or the bus slithered around him into the stop anyway.

(Let me pause here to say that, not just in slithering around a man on a bike, but during the entire ordeal, the bus driver exercised more self-control than I could have.  She knew that if she so much as nudged his back tire, he would probably act like it was the apocalypse and try to sue UTA.  Try, because there were an awful lot of witnesses on that bus that would have prevented his case from getting much traction.)

After this happened about twice, she called the police.

The bus was able to pass him twice by going around him in the other lane.  Unfortunately, a bus that is picking up and dropping off people moves about as fast as a bike that is not picking up and dropping off people, and he managed to pass us again both times.  After the second time, he started weaving back and forth in the lane, and sometimes into the opposing lane of traffic, so that we couldn't pass him again.  It's not always easy to tell the emotion of a driver by the way a car is moving, but if the cars going the other way could have looked utterly nonplussed, they would have.

And so it went.  Surely the bus behind us would catch up to us.  Surely something would change.  This guy wasn't going to go all the way to the end of the line, was he?  Or was he?

People got on and off the bus, as people will.  Those of us who had been on the bus for a while inevitably had to answer the questions of the bewildered newcomers: "How long has been doing that?"  "Since WHEN?"

At 39th, a woman got off the bus and got her bike off the rack.  We all watched with glee as she berated the man who had been giving us so much trouble.  She read him the riot act.  He kept gesturing back at the bus driver, as though such a course of action could convince anyone that it wasn't his fault he had been holding up a bus for the last half-hour.  He's just lucky she didn't jump him.  Or that all of us didn't get out and jump him all at once.

FINALLY

at about 41st South, he slowed down almost to the point of not being able to keep his bike upright, dawdled into a left turn into an apartment complex, and raised his favorite finger at the bus driver as a final demonstration that he was in charge of the situation; that he had showed her who was boss; and that she would never, ever again be so nervy as to deny him and his sacred bike access to her conveyance.  That's right; this went on for twenty-five city blocks.

When I take the 205 home from work, I take it almost all the way.  It is indeed unfortunate that the police were not able to witness this charade firsthand, but by the time the bus got to 45th South, the driver was on the phone with them.  Because of this, she missed my stop.  I didn't have the heart to tell her so after all that had happened on this trip, so I sat on the bus all the way to Murray North.  And I stayed on the bus the whole time we waited there, which wasn't long, since we were by this point so behind that the bus behind us should have been waiting there instead of us.

I got off on State Street, even though it was a longer walk from there, because I really kind of needed to be off that bus.

There are many things I could say to summarize this experience, but I will limit myself to the sincere wish that the police did find him and shut him up in a tiny room in a faraway place so that his injured ego never delays me from seeing my wife and child again.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

THE PHONE CALL

A little while ago I was waiting for the 200 at Murray Central, as I often do, when the 54 pulled in.

As I've mentioned before, the 54 picks up WAY more people at Murray Central than the 200 ever does, even though the 200 is reputed to be the busiest bus at UTA. In addition to the people getting onto the 54, a sizeable number of people got off, one of whom was a woman with a small child and several large duffel bags. She came over to the 200 stop, and it slowly dawned on me that I should help her get on the bus when it came.

I mulled this over for probably longer than I should, but I did have headphones in, and when I have headphones in, I'm like

(ask commutergirl)


Fortunately, just as I was wondering this, commutergirl called me, which apparently is worthy of interrupting Shostakovich. I spent a couple of minutes talking to her, and talking to Baby on the phone (which weirds him out to no end). About the time we finished talking, the 200 pulled up.

"Do you need help with that?"

"Oh, yes," she replied with gratefulness in her eyes.

I'm not always a considerate person by nature, but I'm working on it. Sometimes phone calls help.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR A CHANGE



During these times when the news from the federal government is "mildly disconcerting" at best, it's good to know some good things are going on around here, for transit riders anyway:

The Salt Lake City resident pass.
Doesn't this trip your conservative Republican circuits at all, Busninja?  Well, no, not any more than decades of road construction at taxpayer expense does.  But all those roads weren't bad, were they?  No, and neither is Salt Lake City selling bus passes for $30 per month.  This is a great boon for the less-well-to-do in Salt Lake whose alleged mistreatment by UTA has been the source of so much useless invective on local comment boards lately.  If the program takes off in Salt Lake, it will assuredly spread to West Valley City, who is currently chasing after UTA


amenalready.tumblr.com

and asking through their tears why they didn't get to do it first.  Add in South Salt Lake and Millcreek (who am I kidding--nothing will ever happen in Millcreek) and the vast majority of Salt Lake county's transit dependent will have access to a very affordable transit pass.  I'll be curious to see what effect this has on service in Salt Lake City, as in

MORE NIGHT SERVICE PLZ

If this program does lead to more service, there are people itching to leave their cars behind.  We'd love to.  Things can only get better from there.  Of course, for people who don't want to leave their cars behind and only want to ride transit sometimes, there's

UTA's new Farepay card.
I'm glad Utah is finally joining the rest of the civilized world with prepaid transit cards.  I can't think of any other activity I do on a regular basis that requires me to fish change out of my pockets, nay, carry change around with me in the first place.  I have seen hundreds, nay, thousands of people get left by trains while they are frantically trying to read the screen on the ticket machines, or banging on them with their clenched fists because they aren't working.  Every time commutergirl and I go somewhere with friends or family we end up driving because we're generally the only ones with transit passes and everyone else doesn't feel like springing for a $2.50 transit ticket.  We're planning on having a couple of Farepay cards lying around for such an occasion:

THEM: Let's go do something fun that Mormons can do!
US: Cool.  Let's take TRAX.
THEM: Erm, errrrrrrrm, we would, you know we would, we're all cool with trains and stuff, but it's $2.50 . . .
US: Guys, just use this card, OK?  Our gift to you tonight.
THEM: OK, wow, you guys are the best friends ever.

or something like that.

I think this is a great idea and opens up transit use to a lot of people for whom a monthly pass doesn't make financial sense.  The fact that it's going out at a discount right now is just gravy.  It's something any sane person would want to take advantage of.  Any sane person that doesn't already get an insanely discounted pass from their employer, anyway.  Which brings me, more or less, to

A moment of sanity at the Trib, however brief.
Today's Farepay story didn't attract any comments for a couple of hours, and I was hopeful that the all-caps haters would leave it alone.  Unfortunately, one did not.  But fortunately, someone else narrowly beat me to leaving an articulate, reasonable reply.  And the article about the Salt Lake resident pass was a veritable fête champêtre of reason and cordiality, with a couple of commenters even stating that UTA should get the sales tax increase, and clarifying that it was not an increase, but a redistribution of the current sales tax income (all of which is public knowledge, and was at the time the Trib was trying to slam UTA by misrepresenting it).   Either someone has been forgetting to send out the mass email to all the haters lately or my favorite Trib reporter finally got in trouble for asking all his relatives and co-workers to comment on his stories so that he doesn't get laid off; either way, I'm glad for the respite.

Things are looking up in the transit world lately.  Now if the Feds will get over themselves, we'll all be able to sleep better at night.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013

LINE OF CANS

A while back, I was placidly running errands on my lunch hour, when I got back to the bus stop and found this:







I searched for mention of it anywhere in the local news, even among purveyors of news I don't personally approve of, but I couldn't find anything about a line of cans stretching from 100 South to South Temple on State Street (and yes, I did follow the line of cans all the way up to see how far it went).

It was all well and good for me, being young and able-bodied and all, but there was an elderly woman who had to navigate the cans with her little grocery pushcart (I'm really not sure what you call those things) and encountered some difficulty.  I thought about springing to her rescue and . . . moving the can? . . . but she got on the bus before I could get close enough.

I don't think these cans were put here to make it hard for old ladies to get on the 470.  Anybody else have some idea?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CONTINGENCY PLAN

Last month there was a tense couple of days when we didn't have the internet on our desktop at home (and were forced to such drastic measures as having to respond to blog comments BY PHONE . . . ). After the first couple of days of internetlessness, and shortly after spending over an hour with tech support so they would believe me that the problem wasn't that my router was unplugged, or disconnected from the computer, or turned off, I came up with a plan for how to blog on a computer anyway. The next day our internet service was restored, since it was apparently an issue with a box outside our apartment complex (I had to assure the tech support representative several times that I understood I would have to pay for the visit if the technician had to come inside, and that I wasn't going to pursue legal action against the company because I had not been informed of such); but if we are ever internetless again, I know what to do:

Harmon's has free WiFi, right? So I'll just go over there on my lunch hour with my work laptop, buy a nominal item to consume with my lunch that I brought from home (like chocolate-covered raisins! Mmm . . .) and type like mad.

It would mean short posts, but I bet I could do it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

THE PROVO-OREM FRONTRUNNER MISSER

I was looking at bus schedules in Provo the other day, for fun, and also because I have been idly entertaining the idea of going to the fundraising barbecue for Civil Engineering alumni, which I totally am now.

I was forced to confront the fact that if you are at BYU in the evening and trying to get to Salt Lake County, the 830 is not the bus for you:

FrontRunner: Leaves Provo Station at :20 and :50 after
Route 830: Arrives at Provo Station at :21 and :51 after

FrontRunner: Leaves Orem Station at :28 and :58 after
Route 830: Arrives at Orem Station at :30 and :00 after

Your shortest possible wait is 28 minutes, with a bus that comes every 30 minutes at that time of night. I suppose it is possible that FrontRunner could be behind and you could squeak onto the train if the 830 was right on time. But those kinds of things only work when you're sitting at the station watching the bus pull in, not when you're actually ON the bus. Years of experience have borne me out on this one.

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY,

you may ask, does the bus do this? I wondered this myself for a while, until I studied it from the other direction:

FrontRunner: Arrives at Provo Station at :12 and :42 after
Route 830: Leaves Provo Station at :22 and :52 after

FrontRunner: Arrives at Provo Station at :05 and :35 after
Route 830: Leaves Orem Station at :10 and :40 after

Lovely transfers, particularly in Provo. Clearly, the transfer is meant for people going home to Provo in the evenings, not the other way around. I grant that this is probably quite a few more people, and that this is the way the bus service has always been (the 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807, and 810 all went to Salt Lake in the morning and back to Provo in the afternoon, but the 817 was the only express that went the other way), but it's sounds like a nightmare for people who have to regularly go north in the evenings.

The only way I could see to address the problem is to push the northbound trips back (leave at :17 and :47 after); then you would get to Orem at :25 and :55 after, giving you 3 minutes to scamper across the the bus lane, hunt for the stairs, give up and clamber up the side of the platform on the other side, and run onto the FrontRunner platform, which is possible if the bus is right on time (hahaha, I kill myself). I can respect UTA wanting one good transfer instead of two bad ones, I guess. The 830 is just the wrong length to make both transfers work with one bus.

It bears mentioning that if you are trying to get off either University campus by 8:30 p.m. you can catch the 831 (from UVU north) or the 832 (from BYU south) and make it to the train very nicely. But as neither the 831 nor the 832 is the 830, people will probably never catch on to this. Seriously, though; the 831 connected BYU and UVU for 12 years, and the most people I ever saw make that trip with me was 2, even though it took the 831 almost exactly the same amount of time and you could totally have a seat to yourself, even when BYU was a thing.

I guess if I stay out later than 8:30, I'll have to bring a book. Or some flour.