Thursday, January 30, 2014

MY PROVO FRIENDS . . .

. . . and I fully acknowledge that I am using that term rather loosely with some of you.

Recently there appears to have been some confusion in certain corners of Provo about the purported far-reaching negative effects of a BRT line opening up on a segment of 9th East.  Given that such fears cannot be based on actual experience, I humbly submit in the spirit of long-overdue cultural education that

THIS is what a transportation project that divides a neighborhood looks like:

500 East at I-80, South Salt Lake
 

Not this:

S-Line at 500 East, Salt Lake City/South Salt Lake
Can you spot the station platform?  Very disruptive!

or this:
Jackson/Euclid Station, Green Line, 820 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City

Let me get this straight--they put in TRAX, but I can still see the other side of the street?  And all the children aren't dead?

or even this:

MAX station, 3300 South 900 East, South Salt Lake.  Notice also how the road is choked with buses so that cars can't even get through . . . wait . . .
In summary:
  • BRT is not going to ruin your neighborhood
  • BRT is not going to kill your children
  • Pedophiles and drug dealers are not going to descend en masse upon your neighborhood
  • One bus every 5 minutes in each direction is not going to turn 9th East into a gridlocked parking lot of doom.
Which is not to say it will have no effect:
  • Fewer people parking in front of your house and walking down your street every time there is a BYU sporting event
  • Fewer cars on 9th East, which makes traffic better
  • Fewer cars on the street in general, since more BYU students will not need to drive into or through town
  • The chance to transport hordes of happy missionaries on the first leg of their journey into the mission field, lowering the MTC's travel budget and freeing up your tithing for other things, like ward activities!
amenalready.tumblr.com
I hope tonight's post has been educational and productive.  Thank you and good night.

Monday, January 27, 2014

AIR QUALITY RALLY AND BRT

So last Saturday was the "Clean Air, No Excuses" rally at the State Capitol.  I wasn't able to go, but my sources tell me that there were between 4,000 and 5,000 people there, and that many of them took transit to get there.  Fortunately UTA had the sense to run CNG buses on the 500 (there are pictures of full 500's to be had on Twitter, if you are curious . . .)

I want to thank all the people who went to the rally, especially those who took transit.  Last week, commutergirl and I both expressed skepticism that much would come of the rally, since it portended to contain a lot of finger pointing and not many solutions.  That many of the attendees took transit greatly mitigates my skepticism.  However, I hope everyone involved realizes that one rally still isn't a solution--it will take persistence and sacrifice on the part of everyone, not just UTA, not just factories, not just the governor, etc., etc. to clean up the Wasatch Front's air.

This means you.
And what do you know, there's already a chance for you to put your money where your mouth is, my Provo friends.  Tomorrow there is a public meeting in Provo about the much-discussed Provo-Orem BRT from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the City Council Chambers (351 W. Center St.; Routes 834 and 850 will take you the closest, though the 834 doesn't run very late).

I got an email from a friend of mine who lives in Northeast Provo regarding this meeting, from which I quote with his permission.


Some perspective from myself as a resident. I feel like a few people living on 900 East have organized and recruited neighbors to their side, but they do not represent our neighborhoods. 900 East is a major artery in East Provo. It doesn’t divide any neighborhoods. Choosing Option 6 takes away convenient and efficient transit service from the residents of Indian Hills, Pleasant View, Rock Canyon, Oak Hills, and Tree Streets neighborhoods; not to mention the Marriot Center, MTC, Wymount Terrace, and Heritage Halls. It takes out 2 homes, costs $10 million more, and will result in less ridership. That is if, after going back to the drawing board, redoing the Environmental and Design Phases, and applying for local, State, and Federal funding again that those dollars are still available. Provo City Council should choose Option 4 - the recommended, convenient, efficient, funded, ready option.

I think this puts it very well.  While the Provo residents who oppose the bus going down 9th East are entitled to their opinion, I can't help but think they greatly overestimate the negative effect of running a bus where a bus is already running.  The benefits of this BRT line far outweigh a few residents' mild discomfort (personally, I would find it discomforting to have my neighborhood invaded by parallel parkers during every single BYU game ever, but maybe that's just me), and I would hate for a few residents to undo all the hard work that has gone into this project.

So if you have the chance, come out.  And stay tuned.  Transit is here to stay.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

BYU BUILT A NEW BUS STOP . . .

. . . but I don't think they know it yet.

I had occasion to visit the "walking plaza" between the Wilkinson Center and the Law Building last week.  The plaza is pleasant enough, if not particularly remarkable; what drew my attention more was the new roundabout and its associated bus stop:

See the green traffic light at the back of this picture?  The actual "BYU Bus Stop" is around the corner behind the NEXT traffic light.
OK, so it's not currently a bus stop.  But you can't tell me it never will be.

Someday, BYU.  Someday.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LEAP OF FAITH

It sure seems like people are talking about inversions a lot the last few years. Many people would like to cast all the blame on local industries for polluting the air with their noxious emissions. Many others, correctly in my estimation, have realized that automobile emissions make up a large part of the sickly haze, and tout the benefits of taking transit, if only transit weren’t so deplorable around here.

Oh, transit.  Why do you have to be so deplorable?

In my opinion, there needs to be a little less hand-wringing about how inconvenient transit is, and a little more hand-wringing about children getting respiratory infections every winter; a little less trying to blame corporations and the government, and a little more personal initiative.

Please understand that I know whereof I speak: I experience firsthand the inconveniences of transit every day. And I’m not talking about FrontRunner being 5 minutes late, either; I’m talking about how the 831 used to come every 90 minutes and the 822 every 120 minutes on Saturdays, meaning there were exactly two times a day when they actually matched up; I’m talking about spending the night at my ex’s house because I missed the last bus down to Provo; I’m talking about walking over a mile to the grocery store on a Saturday night to pick up some pre-Sabbath essentials because the last 45 was at 7:37 p.m. I do or have done all these things, and I’m not dead. A little walking or a little waiting won’t kill most other people, either.

I recognize that there needs to be more transit: more coverage, more frequent service, earlier and later hours; and that there are people who simply cannot meet their transportation needs with UTA’s current system. But the fact remains that there are many people who live near established transit corridors that drive to work during rush hour, some of whom already have access to free or discounted passes from their employer.

You want transit to get better? Take it. The more people ride transit, the more it will grow. I say this in defiance of the mantra of “service cuts, service cuts, service cuts” that UTA has adopted in recent years—but keep in mind that almost every transit agency in the United States that depends on sales tax has had to make service cuts in recent years; UTA has at the same time opened six rail projects. Can you imagine how it would feel if UTA had cut 10% of their bus service and NOT added any other service anywhere? Transit will grow. Even the bus service will grow again.

It takes a leap of faith for people to take existing transit service; it takes a leap of faith for UTA to put more transit service in. Unless you work for UTA, you only control one of those. UTA took quite the leap in the last few years building all the new lines. Your turn.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

HE'S A KEEPER

A couple of holidays ago I was out shopping for commutergirl with Baby. Since I was pushing him about in a stroller

I DON’T DO BUSES AND STROLLERS

And since it was the aftermath of a great snow, I opted to take TRAX and the Streetcar to get around Sugar House for my last-weekend-before-Christmas shopping needs.

The streetcar is about a block-and-a-half from all the businesses on 21st South. When the sidewalks are not clear of snow, and when you are pushing a baby in a stroller, this is quite a distance. There were a couple of places where the snow and ice was so thick that it was impossible for me to roll the stroller at all; I had to pick it up and carry it with both hands over the icy obstruction.

After one of these traversals I grumpily bent down to check on Baby—the stroller was covered in a blanket, so I couldn’t see him directly. I lifted the blanket to see . . . Baby fast asleep, his long eyelashes resting on the top of his cheeks.

Any baby that can sleep through all that is a champ. I think we’ll keep him around.

Monday, January 13, 2014

FEARLESS PREDICTIONS FOR 2014

Here we go again . . .

ONE.  With the FrontLines 2015 program, along with whatever that streetcar is called, all constructed and in service, UTA turns its attention to its much-neglected bus service.  Riding on the smashing success of the 217 in early 2014 (not a prediction; fact), UTA brings back the 207, 236, 327, 348, 356, and (the biggest surprise of all) 203, as well as the 84 and the 85 (despite the fact that the 84 and the 85 are still around as the 54 and the 72, respectively) and the 813 (despite the fact that this route has not existed since 2000), as well as increasing the service on all of its 15-minute routes to every five minutes.  Local news media report the story as:

UTA REJECTS PLAN TO RUN THE BUS EVERY 4 MINUTES

TWO.  Undaunted by negative media coverage, UTA continues to ambitiously expand its bus service, as well as broker a Mideast peace deal, solve world hunger, and develop a serum that cures most known cancers.  This last development is announced at a press conference on the shore of the Great Salt Lake, at which members of the press are startled to see UTA management walking atop the water toward them.  All surprise aside, headlines the next day read

MIKE ALLEGRA CAN'T SWIM*

THREE.  At some point, the Salt Lake Resident pass comes out, and Salt Lakers sign up in droves.  And why not?  A cheap transit pass, no parking hassle downtown, cleaner air, the opportunity to read or check Facebook on the way home from work instead of watching the tail lights in front of you up and down 200 South.  The only downside, really, is that Salt Lake residents who board buses like the 205 or 509 are met with a busful of South Salt Lakers, Millcreekers, and West Valleyers all giving them the stinkeye because they don't get a resident pass.


FOUR.  After receiving a particularly nasty phone call from an angry customer who was mad the train didn't show up after three minutes, UTA develops a new ad campaign called


While a PR flop, the campaign reportedly "makes the Customer Service staff feel much better."

FIVE.  In August, with little preamble, the Black Line opens.  Local residents and tourists alike are pleasantly surprised by this development, as well as by the fact that the new line runs 24 hours a day and features light refreshments and soothing background music.  It quickly becomes the most popular rail line in the UTA system.  Until one fateful day, when Little Miss Matter of Fact's voice on a particularly crowded train on the way to Comic Con gets stuck in the middle of a station announcement, endlessly repeating

NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT NEXT

Passengers begin to look up in bewilderment at Little Miss Matter of Fact's inability to continue in sentence, as the voice gradually changes to

EX EX EX EX EX EX EX EX EX EX

Bewilderment gives way to unmitigated horror on the faces of many Comic Conners as the voice becomes more and more gravelly and finally gets around to saying

EXTERMINATE
EXTERMINATE
EXTERMINATE


**
 


It turns out that the Black Line is just another attempt by the Daleks to take over the Earth

wikia

and humanity can do nothing but watch as the planet is devastated.  All is lost.

But wait . . . into the smoldering remains of the Provo FrontRunner Station rolls the 836, a bit dented; but the driver is unharmed inside.  He steps out of the bus and contemplates the grim scene before him, still unaware that he is humanity's only survivor***, its only hope . . .



Because even the Daleks forgot about the 836.

Happy New Year!


* It's an old joke.  But I stand by it.
** I realize some of these pictures are not in context.  You try googling "Jack Harkness."
*** There were no passengers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2013 IN REVIEW

Ah, 2013.  The agony and the ecstasy of transit.  I think we can all safely say there has never been another year quite like it.

January saw us still fresh and optimistic from the opening of FrontRunner South: images of crowds flocking to the free-ride day despite the freezing weather, Utahcountyans traveling in great masses to see the lights at Temple Square for Christmas; making trips possible that were impossible before and making trips accessible that used to require Machiavellian methods to execute--if only the train would just get there.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes; who knew when the train was going to arrive?  The app, that's who.  Sales of the UTA tracker app skyrocketed, leading me to speculate to whoever was listening (sorry, everybody) that the whole thing was just a twisted marketing ploy.  The new sport of choice for the nouveaux-transit became sitting in their cars watching the train inch along the screen, then running for the platform like mad just before the train pulled up.  Meanwhile, the transit veterans who did not arrive at the station in cars stood on the platform stoically, heartily wishing they had put on another pair of socks that morning.  Apparently it was bad enough that in

February UTA announced an extra change day, in addition to the usual ones in April, August, and December.  This gave us geeks plenty to talk about, and had the extra advantage of reducing FrontRunner delays to single-digit numbers of minutes.  It also meant that you could make your connection in Provo after work instead of waiting around twenty minutes for the 831 because every other bus was already halfway across town.  It did not mean, however, that the connection with the 200 at Murray Central got any better . . .

By March everyone that was determined to ride FrontRunner was riding it (and it was an astounding number of people, mind you), and everyone that was determined not to ride FrontRunner had created a Twitter account.  March was the first "Treasures from the Internet" post, if anyone's counting.  Nor would it be the last . . .

April saw the opening of the Airport line, the festivities for which I took no part in, since I was otherwise occupied.

Whatever do you mean, daddy?
The Airport line opened on April 14th and promptly became more popular than the rest of the Green line, to the surprise of absolutely no one.  Changes in bus service for the Airport line were surprisingly modest, especially in the wake of the FrontRunner opening.  In fact, the 218, which had been proposed for a rerouting, survived completely unscathed, continuing to run all the way down North Temple next to the TRAX line (that change would come later, *cough* *cough*).  No, the big change for April was that BYU closed Campus Drive, which necessitated the long-feared kicking-out of the bus from campus.  The final insult came when a large number (two) of concerned citizens voiced their utter abhorrence at having a bus stop on 9th East next to campus, because there is an elementary school on that part 9th East, and the presence of a bus stop nearby would cause pedophiles and drug dealers to descend en masse.

Like BYU students, who are clearly all pedophiles and drug dealers.  C'mon, you guys, they don't even cuss.  Picture from news.byu.edu.

This meant that the "BYU" bus stop got moved to its current humble location on 9th North, next to no part of campus except maybe the Knight Mangum Building . . . no, wait, they tore that down . . . so the bus stop is next to a big grassy field.  Cool.  At the end of April Baby had his first FrontRunner ride so that I could walk in graduation for the degree I had finished four months earlier.

May, shockingly, contained the opening of no rail lines. But it did contain a lot of Baby for me.  The last vestiges of the ice mountains that had dominated the western Millcreek landscape for so long were at long last departed, and the weather warmed up enough for lengthy transit adventures to become enjoyable instead of excruciating. The first hints started dropping that we might finally be seeing the end of service cuts . . .

In June a significant number of anti-UTA articles began appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune (actually, they had begun appearing before June, but they became significant in June because that is when I began to notice them).  I spent a while yelling at them but eventually grew bored because
  • The articles kept repeating the same things over and over
  • The comments kept repeating the same things over and over
  • The comments (and often the articles) betrayed the writers' utter ignorance of transit
  • The same few people comment on every article on the Tribune
  • Every time I brought it up to one of my friends, they said, "Really?  I didn't know; I don't read the Tribune . . ."
 There were always a few good treasures, though . . .

There were missionaries on FrontRunner long before July (indeed, a few of them, bound for Salt Lake missions, had been using the train to get from the MTC before the Airport Line opened in April).  But as the summer progressed the crowd of missionaries got steadily stronger and stronger, and the crowd of their luggage began taking up an entire bottom half of a train car, to the great discomfiture of the regular commuters (or the minor discomfiture, depending on who you ask).  Apparently that message did make it through to either UTA or the MTC, because the MTC began breaking up the missionaries into smaller groups, allowing the discomfited to sit amongst the missionaries and even occasionally strike up conversations with them.

It was as though the August Change Day knew it had something to prove after going a whole four months without any changes.  There was FrontRunner going from every 90 minutes to every 60 minutes on Saturdays, the second rearrangement of every route going through BYU . . . oh, yeah, and the Draper Line opened.  The final opening of the Front Lines 2015 program was surprisingly tranquil, almost unnoticed compared to other, far grander openings for the other lines (though the Trib did quip that it had apparently had a retroactive negative effect on UTA ridership; I still can't get over that one . . .).  They had good donuts, though.  And snow cones.

September brought the start of school again, and with it a transit awakening for U of U students commuting from Utah County; those of us intrepid enough to try to get on a northbound FrontRunner train at Murray in the mornings were met by a seething mass of humanity headed in the other direction, all wearing red--far more people, I must insist, than could ever have fit on two MCI's running the 810.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist rather strongly on that point.  Also in September, every event ever converged on downtown Salt Lake City, leading MoTab concert goers, State Fairers, and Greek Festivalers to share seats, however uncertainly, with Comic Conners and football fans wearing several different colors of sports paraphernalia.  TRAX was rather busy that weekend.

There was some good news in October, when UTA announced the new FAREPAY cards were coming out, and Salt Lake City announced that its residents would be able to get the equivalent of a premium transit pass for $30 per month.  When I heard the Salt Lake City announcement, I resolved then and there that if I ever lost my discounted work pass I would move to Salt Lake--immediately--so that I would only have to pay $30 for a pass that currently costs $198.



November.  Famous this year for "Black Thursday," or, in other words, "Let's screw our employees over even more by making them start work on Friday at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday!"  As if that weren't bad enough, UTA ran no service on Thanksgiving and limited service on Black Friday--UTA has been doing this for several years, after many years of running scandalously empty buses on Black Friday.  I worked in retail for 4 years, and while I had a pretty good gig, there were definitely days I felt used--my favorite was having to inventory the store on Presidents' Day (when the bus also didn't run in Provo at all).  By the same token, I can't imagine bus drivers being very excited to work Thanksgiving evening to transport all these workers to fulfill their companies' sales projections.  But since Black Friday is more likely to evolve into "Grey Wednesday" than to go back to being just Friday, eventually something will have to be done about it . . .

Last of all, as generally happens, December came, bringing visions of streetcarplums dancing in children's heads.  The streetcar duly opened on December 8th, and did about as well as could be expected, given its modest initial ridership potential.  The streetcar, along with its associated walking path, was notable for featuring art such as the "rock snowman" and the "lego duck" (I don't care what it's supposed to be called; it's a lego duck), as well as being the only sidewalk in the entirety of Sugar House that actually got cleared off during the weekend before Christmas when I was trying to go shopping with a baby in a stroller (if I ever start posting again, I'm going to post about that, I promise).  In loosely associated news, the 217 and 218 got a makeover, resulting in there being one bus for all of Redwood Road between 7800 South and 1700 North, as well as big-bus service to South Towne Mall (the F546 was going there before, but really . . .) and the River Park Corporate Center (where the F514 went once upon a time, but really . . .).  This change is significant to me because it marks the first time since I was old enough to talk that a UTA route did not dry up completely after being partially replaced by a train.  I was as surprised as anyone to see the 517 not only stick around but be upgraded to 15-minute service as part of the new 217.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that some people I have spoken with have more optimistic ridership predictions for the 217 than for the new streetcar.

And on that happy note, happy 2014!