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!

4 comments:

  1. Instead of writing long paragraphs, I'll present my observations of the last year in this jazzy format:

    • Person who makes me most thankful to not know him or her: @mcbusstop
    • Most transcendental moment: getting off the train at Lehi station during the PM rush and being among hundreds of commuters walking through the underground tunnel
    • Most pitiful moment: watching a combined total of four people get on the 806 and 807 that were waiting for those hundreds of people
    • Clumsiest UTA mistake: forgetting to account for the 218 serving South Towne Mall in its schedule (oops!)
    • Most recurring question in my head: why do Timp and Ogden buses feature sick-saver bags, but not Salt Lake buses?
    • Most painful announcement of the disembodied TRAX voice to hear: “Historic Sandy! Ninetieth South.” That, or every announcement on the S Line
    • Most ridiculously frustrating route to make major connections work: the Orem–Provo FrontRunner Connector
    • By extension, most difficult city to leave after 7 pm ever: Provo
    • Most concerning schedule change: when the last 3 was made to leave Central Station at 4:58 pm
    • Route that needs its night service back most: 21
    • Most brazen prediction for 2014: this will be the year of the Black Line

    ReplyDelete
  2. • Same
    • I have yet to get off at Lehi station during rush hour, but I do confess to feeling quite philosophical while standing at the bottom of the ramp, looking up, and feeling the cold wind blow through the tunnel, all alone, in the middle of the day.
    • I saw 6 people get off the train and onto the bus today at Lehi at 5:16 p.m. (long story; explain later). Progress! I guess.
    • At least UTA was able to fix it quickly, and before school started up again (I guess "school" is more pertinent to the 217, but they changed that schedule, too . . .)
    • People in Salt Lake must have stronger stomachs. People who ride the bus, anyway.
    • The last time I rode the Streetcar I totally forgot to pay attention to Littler Miss Matter of Fact. I was, in my defense, traveling with a baby. I shall have to make another Streetcar outing soon.
    • I had an idea about this the other day that I may draw up if I decide not to be boring--it would involve streamlining the 832 quite a bit (not that that's necessarily a bad thing) and having it connect to Orem Station on University Pkwy. It would give a reasonably fast connection from BYU, the Transit Center, and UVU _to_ the train, while the 830 would still connect people _from_ the train. A bit farfetched, perhaps, but I think it's clever, so I may do a post on it in the near future.
    • Second point about the 830 same as first.
    • Thankfully, the 4:58 p.m. trip has been bumped out to 5:15, so it at least catches one more train. But I still see that trip pull out almost daily when I'm at Central, and I think, that's the last 3 of the "night." And my heart fills with sorrow.
    • Amen. The 217 has shown us it is possible. So be it.
    • I hope my predictions regarding the Black Line have been satisfactory. Apologies if you're not a Dr. Who fan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think UTA is devoting a lot of its planning efforts in Provo into getting the BRT to solve all problems, and neglecting other planning there in the meantime.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol, I guess they can turn their efforts elsewhere, now . . . though I doubt they'll give up on BRT just yet.

      Delete