Friday, May 29, 2015

KEEP THE SURPRISE

As Baby learns new things about life, we learn new things about Baby. Like that sometimes it's good to hold back what the surprise is when we go out.

It happened that we went to Wheeler Farm a couple of weekends ago. When we got there there was a huge line for the barn, stretching out the door and down the sidewalk all the way to the parking lot.

I blame Daniel Tiger.

Almost every two- and three-year-old in the valley was there
The parking lot was, of course, completely overwhelmed. It's a bit of a hike from the 209 bus stop to the barn, but we were definitely not the people who walked the furthest.

And of course everyone in the parking lot was completely civil.

It made me wonder why more people didn't take the 209.

Looking at this picture, you might be tempted to theorize that Baby and commutergirl was nobody else on the 209. This isn't quite true--I, for one, was taking the picture
(for the record, I know why more people didn't take the 209; I just respectfully disagree with them)

When we got there and saw the line, commutergirl and I of course lost all desire to be there. We carefully checked Baby's nonverbal cues and it appeared he was just excited to be there, so we nonchalantly walked past the barn and out to the animals. We had a pleasant time seeing goats, cows, ducks, geese, and sheep, and we scrupulously avoided the mention of tigers. We got lucky. Baby didn't remember.

(Later that day, while we were grocery shopping, Baby made choices that resulted in his not being eligible to go to the "ice cream store" afterwards--and he yelled at us all evening about it. Guess you can't win 'em all.)

Another parent I know who also went to Wheeler Farm that day gave me some good advice: keep the surprise. He told his daughter that they were "going to the park." When they got there and saw the line, they freaking went to the park. No lucky dodge necessary. We'll keep that in mind, because Baby isn't likely to forget more things as he gets older.

(Until he gets really old. But I probably won't be worried about it then.)

As we walked back to the bus stop, we passed the same line, hopefully populated with different parents and toddlers, but still just as long. It began to rain. And as we walked past all the cars waiting to get out of the parking lot, that same old thought came to my head:

WE'RE THE CRAZY ONES?




Thursday, May 21, 2015

FOR OLD TIMES' SAKE

So yesterday I rode the 811.

It started with a brilliant trip down the bustling streets of Draper

Observe the bustle!

and a distressing junction with a certain freeway that I thought I had bid farewell to forever.

Observe the lack of hustle


After getting over the Point of the Mountain, we were about ten minutes behind, and stayed that way (I could see the screen). I had forgotten that part of my life where the bus being "only" ten minutes behind was a fortuitous circumstance. I had forgotten how much I hated sitting on a bus in stop-and-go traffic that stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions. I had forgotten the urgency of realizing that you might not arrive at your destination remotely close to the time you intended.

I earnestly worried for the mental health of the people who do this to themselves every day.

The current 811 is much faster than any previous version. Seems a shame it was only for eleven people.

Eventually we got to the Transit Center in Orem, after which the bus looked like this:

Your eyes do not deceive you.
I had forgotten how many people are anxious to cut off a bus on 2230 North in Provo. I hope you all enjoyed that extra three seconds you gained by cutting off the bus, at least until you lost it again at the next traffic light. The driver and I traded a few dry remarks about people who cut buses off. There honestly wasn't much else to do. Few people used that stretch of 2230 North at the best of times, so I wasn't shocked that nobody else got on before I exited the bus near the temple.

Honestly, if this is what the 811 has become, it's probably okay it doesn't run more service. Though it does feel a little odd that it's the only bus going past the temple now. Somehow I get the feeling that this situation won't be permanent; heaven knows the buses have already changed around many times in Utah County. All in all, it wasn't an unpleasant experience; just a strange relic of the bustling 811 I used to know.

Of course I took FrontRunner home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WELL

Well. It finally happened. The other shoe finally dropped.

Today UTA announced that they will be making a major investment in expanding service that wasn't included in a rail line opening (because those were actually expansions in service, btw), including on several bus routes, which you all know is my soft spot, even though I frequently use and love TRAX and FrontRunner.

UTA has been saying for years that they were going to focus on rebuilding the bus service that suffered during the rail openings as soon as they were done. Those of us who take note of such things have been anxiously anticipating every such development, and treasuring every nugget of information that gets passed down about a service increase. There have already been a number of them:

FrontRunner added more half-hour trips in both directions in February 2013, though this did necessitate the changing of, like, every single bus schedule ever.


FrontRunner on Saturdays went from 90-minute service back to 60-minute service, as was the scenario before FrontRunner South opened.

Route 217 was reborn, extending 15-minute service into Jordan Meadows and providing earlier and later service on Redwood north of 78th.

A number of Flex Routes were created or expanded, including F504, F522, F526 (which became the 526 because it was too awesome), F94, F570, F578, F590, F518, F546, and F547; several of these routes now have better service than current or previous 40-foot bus service in the same parts of town!

Routes 664 and 665 began servicing Hill AFB.

Routes 9 and 17 were restored to 30-minute service all day on weekdays, and were lengthened to loop around the whole U of U campus.

Route 45 was restored to 15-minute service, with a greatly expanded span.

15-minute frequency was extended on Route 612. Route 650 was added between the Ogden Transit Center and WSU.

Route 850 was upgraded to 15-minute service, and some evening trips were added, using money that had previously been used on the extremely empty 832 and 835. Apparently this change has been very successful in its first few weeks of life.

Which brings me to the extremely pleasant subject of today's brief:

TRAX will extend its Sunday hours of service to match Saturday, and the S-Line will increase its hours of service to match TRAX 7 days a week. Both have been major sticking points in that they prevent (allegedly) large groups of people from using the transit system more fully. Whether this will create an algal bloom of ridership caused by everyone living near a station selling their cars and relying solely on transit, or just give ridership a little bump from little-used Sunday evening service, I'm for it. With the S-Line running later, I won't pine quite as much for later 21 service, though I still think late-night 21's are a good idea.

Route 54 will move to 15-minute service, and Route 220 to 15-minute service all day. In the past, frequency changes (like the 850) were announced without broadcasting the span improvements; I'm hopeful this is the case here as well, though the 220 already has about the best evening service in the system nowadays.

Route 2X will increase the number of trips it runs in the morning, hopefully to connect to FrontRunner in both directions, and maybe free up some room for more local trips on Route 2.

Routes 603, 612, and 470 will increase Saturday service, with the 603 and 612 joining the 200 as the only 15-minute Saturday bus routes, and the 470 running every half-hour instead of every hour. I can't speak for the 603 and 612, but I know the 470 can be a real chore on Saturdays, just like the 811 used to be when it was the only game in town.

In addition, FAREPAY will be $1.50 for buses starting July 1, and the Group Pass will be $10 instead of $15, which means you'll need to find friends every time you ride FrontRunner so that it will actually be cheaper than if you bought your own ticket.

There will surely be nitpicking on the social medias about how this route or that route wasn't increased; how TRAX will be "useless" until it runs 24/7; how UTA is an evil organization that grinds the face of the poor and stomps on widows; how these improvements are too little, too late to regain the trust of the wounded riding public.

I have my own opinions about what should and shouldn't be changed at UTA, but that's not the point.

The point is that we've seen little trickles of improvement since 2013; and this bigger change seems to indicate that we really, seriously are on the upswing.

This is definitely a change day I'll be rabidly anticipating.

Monday, May 11, 2015

BANKY

Becoming a parent changed me forever. I see the world with different eyes than I did two years and twenty-six days ago--I appreciate things I took for granted a thousand times; I find joy, through my son's eyes, in places I never thought to look, because the world is continually new before him. I never knew I could love someone so much. I never knew someone could love me so much.



I never realized until Baby came along that I would someday break his heart. And I didn't realize it would be before his second birthday.

It was such a simple thing. Which, of course, made it all the more tragic. I left Banky on the train.

Banky is Baby's favorite blanket. We bought Banky before Baby was born; we figured Baby would be friends with the matching teddy bear that came with it, but he's barely given the bear a second thought. Banky, on the other hand, became one of his best friends; this is a child that, when he inevitably falls down, sometimes cries "Mommy! Mommy!" but more often cries "Banky! Banky!"

You can imagine what happened when I left Banky on the train.

It still gives me pause to remember how Baby ran through the house, crying "Banky! Banky!" How he wouldn't accept any other blanket, or pillow, or stuffed animal. How we ended up rocking him and singing and cajoling and soothing for three hours before he finally succumbed to exhaustion.

The only ray of hope was that I tweeted UTA and received confirmation that Banky had been found. The next day I went to the Lost and Found on my lunch hour, because that's the least you do when you leave your son's Banky on the train. I sent commutergirl and Baby a picture of Banky from my desk at work to reassure them that I would, in fact return home with Banky that day.


In the end, commutergirl and Baby met me at the door of my place of work, because Baby was tired and grumpy and there was no reason to wait any longer. As I handed Banky back to my son and witnessed their joyful reunion, I was finally free to muse on what a bad parent I was, and how this would just be the first of many times my son's heart would break.

And I felt a sad sort of peace, because I knew that someday, when it was something bigger, I would be there to help him through it. Because when someone opens up a new world of light and wonder to you, it's the least you can do.