Friday, December 30, 2005

Articles About UTA in today's Newspapers

Lawyer leaving UTA after 8 years

UTA explores bad-air, free-ride days

Comment: UTA says the system is too packed to have free ride days. While that is true on TRAX there is tons of extra capacity on the bus system. They should have free ride days on the local buses for sure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wasted Capital Assets

December means once again the Utah Transit Authority has started up its ski bus service that runs from Downtown, a couple of TRAX stations, Park N' Ride lots up to the ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons.

While the effort to get people up to the ski resorts in a safe way is great, at what cost is the current ski bus service being provided?

While the yearly reports from the UTA do mention the sales tax revenues for the ski resort areas, they do not show the route by route cost of the service or they do not mention the cost of lost opportunities.

A perfect example of the waste is the ski buses themselves. Most of the ski buses have sat since the bus service ended around April. That means for 8 months the buses sat being unused and not turning a revenue mile. The UTA does alternate the ski buses on the twice daily trips to the canyons during the summer but that is still means they sit way too much.

In many ways UTA (and other transit agencies) have way too much in common with Amtrak. Amtrak is one of the biggest waster of assets around. One of its biggest problems is that its trainsets spend way too much time sitting.

Can you imagine Southwest Airlines or any other airline for that matter having a major asset sitting three quarters of the year???

This once again shows how the management of transit systems including UTA are disconnected from reality. One of the causes of this is that UTA only pays a small fraction of the cost of the buses and gets free money for the rest. If UTA had to pay all of the cost of its buses do you think they would be sitting for eight months?

The high priced MCI Commuter Cruisers are no different. While some of them may see all day service, a majority of them make one trip from their location to Downtown Salt Lake City, sit all day and then return in the evening. Here you have the most expensive buses in the UTA fleet and they are not earning their keep.

UTA needs to put its assets to better use. The Ski service should be examined and see that it is worth the cost.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Day After Christmas Service

Last year the UTA got a lot of flack for its service offered on some holidays or the lack thereof. This year service improved but there still issues that need to be addressed.

One perfect example is the service that was offered today on December 26. Because the 25th fell on a Sunday many companies and of course the government considered the 26th to be a holiday and took the day off. The Utah Transit Authority ran Sunday bus service today instead of weekday.

This is a perfect example of how the UTA board of directors and the higher up employees are too disconnected from the customers that they are responsible to service. While they may have had the day off many of their customers did not but had very few options in getting to work.

UTA still has a extremely limited service on Sunday which for the most part is useless making it impossible for many of their customers to get to their destinations. However UTA still provided a normal schedule for the ski routes despite not providing adequate service for their every day riders.

Most transit systems at least provide a Saturday Schedule on days are unusual holidays. That way the people that still work normal hours are able to get to their jobs. This would have meant that most bus lines would have been operating today and a greater percentage of the customers would have had service.

UTA needs to make a better effort to see what their customers needs are.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

New Fare Collection

UTA to test contactless payment card system

The UTA is planning to test a new "contactless" fare system starting on the ski buses and eventually spreading to the entire system. The general idea is to make fare payment easy and more comfortable for the riding public.

While it is wonderful that the UTA is trying to do things that will make riding the system easier which should be one of the primary goals of the organization, trying an untested fare payment system, even if its limited to a certain service, is just asking for trouble.

The is the problem with organizations that have too much free money and do not have to worry about making a profit. Many times the only thing transit authorities seem to care about is having the latest and greatest, and not looking at the potential problems with unproven technology.

We have seen time and time again where a transit agency has tried something completely new that has not been test and it has been a complete failure. Early experiments with automation with such systems as BART are a perfect example. Another example is Amtrak's Acela trains that have never performed the way they should have but they line peoples pocket books.

UTA: let someone else try this out and make sure it works before spending precious dollars on a possible lemon.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Kennecott's vision: 'Nonmining assets' to become well-planned communities

This article from the Deseret News talks about the development at Daybreak and the other plans that Kennecott has to develop the west bench along a proposed light rail corridor.

While the development is wonderful, and I myself would love to be able to buy a house in the Daybreak complex since I do enjoy what they are creating there, how about all the other potential along the TRAX lines that already exist.

There is a proposal to build condos and townhomes at the Sandy Civic Center station which is the first of a planned development around that station.

In addition there is proposals to greatly change Murray with the redevelopment of the area around the 4500 South TRAX station.

However many of these projects are moving slowly.

The cities and UTA need to be more aggressive in developing Transit Oriented Development along the TRAX lines. Maybe if Mayor Dolan of Sandy would stop his love affair with big boxes that ultimately cost the tax payers more in services, and start looking at what is best for the community in the long run, he would start paying attention to TRAX.

There is a gold mine waiting to be developed, the cities need to take charge and start working toward developing it, and making it happen.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Time for Route Number Rationalization

One of the few things the Southern California Rapid Transit District ever got right was renumbering their bus lines in the early 80's. Before then many of the route numbers where either from the private companies that came before it or numbers that just happened to be available.

After the route renumbering all you had to do was look at the route number and you had the general idea of where the bus was going. While I have not seen the UTA's plan for restructuring the bus system (boy are they keeping that a secret) here is my idea on renumber the bus routes in order to make the bus system easier to understand and better for the choice riders and first time riders it needs to reach.

One of the problems of the present system is that once again many of the route numbers are from the streetcar days and have no bearing on today's world.

Route Numbers: Route Information:
1-50 Local Routes too and from Downtown Salt Lake City
100-149 Local Routes not going through downtown traveling mostly east/west
150-199 Local Routes not going through downtown traveling mostly north/south
200-299 Night Rides
300-349 Salt Lake County Express Routes traveling to downtown
350-399 Salt Lake County Express Routes not traveling to downtown
400-499 Limited Stop Routes (such as BRT)
500-549 Intercounty Express Routes (present lines 72, 73, 801, etc)
550-599 Intercounty Local Routes (present line 70, etc)
600-624 Ogden Area Local Lines
625-649 North Davis Area Local Lines
650-699 Weber/North Davis Express Routes
800-849 Utah County Local Lines
850-899 Utah County Express Routes

This renumbering system would make the UTA even easier to use. With the growth in Utah and Weber Counties you could even break up the routes further when more routes are added in the father reaches of the counties.

Also, this route renumber would leave plenty of room for the expansion of bus service in the future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The BRT Dog and Pony Show

NABI 60-BRT Hybrid BusImage by Bill.Roehl via Flickr For those of you who didn't know about it or didn't see it, the BRT or 'Bus Rapid Transit' dog and pony show rolled into town a couple of weeks ago once again proclaiming that BRT is the transit answer and how it is a cheaper alternative to Light Rail.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually in most cases BRT is more expensive than light rail if you look at comparable systems. The only problem is that when BRT is compared it shows a system with less features that light rail. However few BRT schemes are actually comparable to light rail so its impossible for people to see the price difference.

The only BRT scheme that has come close to the true nature of Light Rail is the new Orange Line in Los Angeles however it still has to deal with traffic lights instead of grade crossings so it is also no where close to light rail. Although ridership looks impressive right now they it is still impossible to determine if the ridership is all from the neighboring bus routes.

Ridership is also less than impressive with most new BRT lines. The line in Kansas has attracted little ridership, the Las Vegas system is carrying only a fraction more people than the buses it replaced, the Harbor Freeway busway in Los Angeles attracts few riders, and ridership on the El Monte Busway in Los Angeles has been stagnant for years. In addition busways in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Miami have failed to live up to expectations.

At least in Salt Lake County UTA is using BRT where it should be, in corridors that would not see TRAX in the next 30 years. 1300 East, Redwood Road and 3100 South are perfect areas to have BRT. BRT is not a low cost alternative to TRAX, it is a supplement to the TRAX system that can be an effective system of feeding riders into the much more popular TRAX system.

Now if only Utah County would see the light...
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Friday, December 09, 2005

700 East Loses Service

Well it looks like the December service changes will have little effect on most riders. The Ski Bus service starts up again with some realignments but otherwise there is little change.

The biggest change will the the lost of bus stops along 700 East.

For many years during rush hours, buses traveling in the rush hour direction would run as limiteds from 900 South to 4500 South making stops only at signalized intersections. However the bus stops where never properly marked as which stops would be served and which ones where not which created confusion amoung riders and created a lost opportunity to create new riders.

Now instead of fixing the problems with the existing service, the UTA has made the unilateral decision just to cut all the non signalized bus stops along this route. So instead of making a bad situation better they decided to make it worst.

What would have been a better solution to the problem was to make one of the 3 routes that service 700 East a local route and make the others limiteds. The 27 would have been the ideal candidate to make a local route while the 21, 32, and 44 should have all been made full time limited stop routes.

Once again UTA is looking at numbers and not considering their riders. They need to make the transit system friendly in order to capture the choice customers. The people making the decisions do not ride the bus enough to understand the needs of the riders. Too often they look at charts made by computers and do not understand why things are they way they are. There needs to be a change of thinking to improve the UTA.
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Service to Park City

With the Park City area experiencing rapid growth including the areas around Heber, the time has come to offer commuter and transit service from the Summit County areas down to Salt Lake including the university of Utah and Downtown Salt Lake.

At the present time Park City has its own transit service which provides free bus rides around the Park City area. Currently Park City is not part of the Utah Transit Authority and should not become a part of it.

In my previous entry: Time to Split Up the UTA?
I proposed a new transit authority that would oversee both the commuter bus and commuter rail operations of the UTA. This new outfit would be perfectly suited to offer commuter bus service to the Park City and Summit County regions. As the region grows and traffic becomes a bigger issue, the need for effective transit service will become even more evident.

Not only could Summit County be linked to the Salt Lake City but also routes to the Provo area and up to Ogden via Echo and Morgan would be natural extensions of the service. Service to Salt Lake City could service the U of U, Downtown, and the airport although private bus companies will scream bloody murder because it will effect them. One way to take care of this situation is to have the service contracted out to private operates, so long as there is monitoring of service quality to ensure customers are being treated fairly.

As Utah continues to grow, it needs new ways to deal with growth. An effective transit system is at the heart of that.

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