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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Monday, November 07, 2005

Bus Wraps: Great for UTA not for its Customers

Over the last few years Wraps have become the rage in the transit industry. Wraps are when buses are wrapped completely including the windows.

The transit agencies have fought tooth and nail in various communities that have tried to put a limit on wraps. What the transit agencies is the money that comes in from the wraps.

What wraps truly show is just how much transit agencies only look to riders as numbers and not as customers that are there to be treated with respect. For anyone who has ridden on a bus with a wrap know that you can barely see out the windows and if you try to look out the windows for more than a minute it will give you a headache and blurry vision.

It also shows that bus riders are second class citizens in the eyes of many transit agencies. While you see buses all the time with wraps, when is the last time you saw a TRAX car with a full wrap that covers the windows? That's different because they consider TRAX riders more important than bus riders.

I have no problem with wraps so long as they do not cover the windows. A couple of years ago GTE I think it was had a wrap but it did not cover the windows. You could still clearly see who paid for the wrap so GTE did not loose any exposure even though the wrap did not cover the windows.

Message to Transit Agencies: Wraps are fine, but treat your bus customers the same way you treat your rail riders, DON'T WRAP THE WINDOWS!!!!

Friday, November 04, 2005

UTA Poorly Serves Destinations

If you are traveling to the University of Utah, Gateway Center, the Delta Center or any other destination served by directly by TRAX, you will have an easy time getting there. But if your destination is served by a bus, good luck, you might be able to get there or you many not because UTA poorly serves destinations.

A perfect example of this is the Southtown Mall. You can get close by TRAX but from there you have to take a bus. On Saturdays you may be able to get a bus in an hour or so but that is it. On weekdays you have a little more luck as couple of routes do serve the mall but UTA does a poor job of directing people from TRAX to the mall. There is no signs telling people when a where a bus heads to the mall. Considering it is a major destination, UTA should improve getting people to the mall especially since its one of the few malls that actually allows buses to service the mall.

Jordan Commons and the Southtown Expo center are another pair of destinations that has pathetic bus service. The route only runs Monday through Friday (although night service does run on Saturdays). Jordan Commons went to the point of renting a Double Decker bus to run from the Sandy Civic Center TRAX station to Jordan Commons. However, these places will get a TRAX station that should be opening next spring.

Another major destination is Jordan Landing. This relatively new shopping center was designed to be transit center. However route 82 that directly serves the center has been cut back to Weekdays only and if you want to travel there on Saturdays you have to ride the 42 which is a north/south route. In addition if you ride the 42 you a have to walk almost a full block then cross a very dangerous intersection and take your life into your hands.

This is just a few examples of major destinations that are poorly served by the UTA. When UTA reorganizes its bus service in the next year it needs to look at the places that people want to travel and ensure that bus service is provided to those destinations.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Changes to Eastside Bus Service

Kingsbury Hall is a major venue for the perfor...Image via WikipediaWhile the UTA has made some changes to the eastside bus service since the opening of the University TRAX overall there was been very little change over many years. In fact looking at some timetables from going back to the early days of UTA shows very little change in bus routes.
If you look at bus service from Downtown to the University you have multiple routes serving all the way from South Temple down to the TRAX line on 400 South. In fact the only street without bus service is 300 South. This is just overkill but it goes back to the fact that there has been very little major changes in bus service over the years and that is one of the problems with the UTA.

While little has been revealed on the proposed bus reorganization that will most likely reduce bus in the wrong spots, I will give my opinion on how eastside bus service should be reorganized looking at it from someone who rides the system and sees the needs of the riders.

Route 5: Discontinued.

Route 7: Discontinued. Southern portion replaced by new route.

Routes 5 and 7 run along 100 South eliminating all service from 100 South, however it still leaves frequent bus service on South Temple and 200 South just one block north and one block south.

Route 8: Service Increased to every 15-minutes.

Route 11: Service increased to every 15-minutes. Service extended from Fort Union Blvd and 1300 East via 1300 East and 7800 South to Midvale Central TRAX station

New Route: Would run from University Hospital, Medical Center Drive, Wasatch Drive, Foothill Drive, 3300 South, 3300 East, 2920 South (Louise Ave), 2700 East, 2900 South, 2880 South (Lakeview Drive), 2300 East, 2810 South (Atkin), 2140 East (Connor), 2700 South, 300 West, to Millcreek TRAX station (this route should eventually extended to west along 3100 South to Magna). Route should run every 30 minutes using 30-foot buses and would provide alternating 15-minute service with route 14 along Foothill Blvd.

New Route: Would run from University Hospital via Medical Center Drive, Wasatch Drive, 2100 East, Parley Canyon Blvd, 2000 East, 2700 South, Imperial, 3300 South, 1300 East, Brickyard Road/1100 East, 4500 South, 900 East, 5300 South, and Vine Street to Murray Central TRAX station. This route would run every 30-minutes with 30-foot buses. This route would provide a good north/south route providing service to the University of Utah Hospital, University of Utah, Brickyard Plaza, St. Marks Hospital and the Murray Central TRAX station including the new hospital complex being built there.

This revamp of bus service would reduce duplicate bus service, increase bus service on important streets, plus create a couple of new routes that would service portion of routes being discontinued but also provide service to areas not currently receiving service and provide bus service in directions not currently served.
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Monday, October 31, 2005

Time To Split Up the UTA?

Is the UTA trying to juggle to many eggs?

It seems like recent actions by the organization clearly shows that there needs to be organizational change at the UTA. One of the problems with the organization is that it is just too big and is having a hard time answering to the needs of three counties.

Its is time to look at breaking up the UTA into three or four different organizations. The first couple would run bus service is the North Davis/Weber County areas. The second would be in charge of bus service in Utah County. The third organization would be in charge of bus service and TRAX in Salt Lake and South Davis Counties. This would allow boards to oversee their counties and the organization would be more responsible to the customers it serves.

The big question mark would be what to do with the commuter rail and bus service. One possibility would be to create a fourth organization that would run these services since many of the customers who ride these buses and will ride the commuter rail system will not ride the local bus system except for a short ride in say Downtown Salt Lake which should be in the free fare zone once commuter rail starts.

One of the biggest arguments that comes out of these proposals is that its balkanizing the system and making it harder for people to commute. These issues can be easily solved by creating a uniform fare structure and creating agreements before the split that requires joint fares.

The benefits of splitting up the system is that people in thier respective counties would have better representation and have a bigger voice on how the transit system is run.

It is clear that there needs to be changes with the UTA. This is one change that gives local customers better service and better representation.
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Saturday, October 29, 2005

No Surcharge Until June

A Salt Lake City city bus with ski racks, in U...Image via WikipediaWell it looks like the riders of the UTA are getting a reprieve from the fuel surcharge that the UTA proposed putting into effect on December 1. It turns out that the agreements for some of the special passes that UTA has would not allow them to put on a fuel charge.

But rest assured the UTA does plane to put the fuel charge in effect in June when the existing agreements end and new agreements can be worked out.

At the UTA board meeting on Wednesday 10 advocates for the poor protested the surcharge but that had little bearing on the decision by the UTA.

It was interesting that one of the board members pointed out that the surcharge will not be charged on paratransit service. This is despite the fact that paratransit service is the mostly costly of all bus services and truly is not a transit service but instead a taxi service.

Also some have complained that the surcharge will also be on TRAX despite the fact that TRAX does not use electricity.

It looks like 2006 still will not be a good year for the riders of the UTA. January 1st brings in the already approved fare increase (wasn't the fare increase to offset higher fuel prices?), then in April they will cut bus routes which they haven't announced what will be cut, then in June the fuel surcharge takes effect.

Its just enough to make choice customers make a choice back to their cars.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

UTA Changes in April

A TRAX train passing the Frank E.Image via WikipediaIt sure would be nice to know what the UTA has in mind for riders when they cut bus service in April. While I cannot say exactly what is going to happen here is some of the things I believe will be on the table:

-Route 7: Discontinued-it runs along the same route as the 11 for much of the way. Of course one of the problems with this pair is that as I have mentioned before, the buses run a few minutes away from each other instead of providing coordinated service. So if the 7 goes, it can be laid directly on the incompetence of the UTA planners.

-Routes 5 and 13: One of these routes might end up on the chopping block due to duplication on parts of their routes. The truth is the whole eastside bus service needs to be reorganized by it most likely will be reorganized in a customer unfriendly way since the consultants usually just look at numbers and don't look at reasons behind the numbers.

-Routes 35 and 36: Truth be told these routes need some reorganization. They meander throughout the West Valley are but only run ever hour which is not enough service to build a customer base. The only problem is that there needs to be some new service out there primarily more north-south routes travel on streets such as 4000 West, 4800 West, 5600 West and so on.
-Routes 24, 33, and 222: These routes may see some cuts too although the 33 is already hourly and none of them run on Saturdays anymore so there is not a lot left to cut.

One of the big problems with the system is that there should have been major revamping when TRAX was started and when the University Line opened. However what was done instead was to cut the routes at the nearest TRAX station instead of a comprehensive revamp of the system. A perfect example of the poor cuts was the 33. The bus is so far away from TRAX at 1300 East and 6600 South when he starts heading there, people on the bus at that time would be in downtown if they bus headed directly there by the time they catch a TRAX train.

It is too bad that what cuts are proposed will go back to the fact that the planners have failed in their job. Why should UTA's customers be hurt because of poor planning?
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Monday, October 24, 2005

UTA Bus Service Changes

utah transit authorityImage by pbo31 via FlickrNot only is UTA going to give you two fare increases in the next couple of months, it also plans to give you another present in April: Bus Cuts.

While not planning to implement its mysterious bus changes yet because of issues downtown, it does plan to cut some routes in the spring shake up.

So far UTA has not said what routes it plans to cut, only that notices will be posted on the buses system and TRAX. Most of the time they never publish any of the proposed changes on the website or where the meetings to talk about the cuts will be. Last year when they discontinued the 12 line, there never was any notice published in the news section of their website.

To top off it all off, not only are they raising fares and cutting service, the fuel surcharge that every one will pay will not go in effect on Paratransit Service despite the fact that it is the most costly UTA service that is more taxi service than transit service.

Once again this clearly shows that UTA doesn't have a clue and doesn't truly care about attracting choice customers to the transit system.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fuel Surcharge A Bad Idea

Rail pictogram: see Rail Icons for more inform...Image via Wikipedia Well it looks like UTA is going to implement a fuel surcharge to cover the cost of fuel that is escalating and despite prices for gasoline going down recently, the price of diesel is actually going up.

However, while the UTA is incurring additional the cost, the fuel surcharge is the wrong way to about collecting revenue. What UTA plans to do is charge an additional quarter to all riders. That means that even pass holders will have to fork out a quarter every time they ride even after they go to the trouble of buying a pass.

The UTA needs to be making the system easy to ride in order to encourage the choice customers to switch from driving to taking the bus or TRAX. If the choice customers find it too hard to use the system they will go back to driving their cars. The fuel charge will drive many of this choice customers back to their cars.

To make it a double whammy, not only are they going to start charging this fuel surcharge in December, then the following month they are going to increase regular fares by 10 cents. How what a Christmas and New Years presents the riders of the UTA are going to get this year.

Once again, the people in charge of the UTA are not thinking out of the box. They are doing nothing to encourage increase bus ridership to offset the increase fuel prices. UTA needs to start thinking out of the box and stop this dumb programs that only hurt ridership not increase it.
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

All That Glitters....

City of Las VegasImage via Wikipedia On my recent trip to Las Vegas, in addition to riding the Monorail I also had the opportunity to try out the other great transit experiment, MAX which runs from Downtown to North Las Vegas. This is a Bus Rapid Transit service that has been highly touted and used as an example of a light rail "like" system but of course for less money.

The line uses dedicated traffic lanes for part of its journey along with million dollar buses that use Hybrid technology. The system also has Proof of Payment fare collection, and makes limited stops.

I will not discuss ridership numbers on my trip since it occurred on a Saturday, but in Las Vegas that should not play a role in the numbers. The first thing you notice is that the buses are slightly quieter than a normal bus but in no way is comparable to electrified operation of light rail. In addition you still get the road noise and other problems associated with rubber tire technology.

The buses are equipped with an optical sensor system so that when the bus approaches a stop the system takes over the steering and steers the bus to a perfect stop. Great concept that just doesn't work in reality. Because of the drifting sands of the area the optical sensor system has never worked and would not work in area that gets snow (ie: Utah) either.

Unlike the monorail this system is run the CAT the local bus system and does use normal cat fares, transfers, and bus buses. They have been touting the great ridership increase but in reality less than a thousand new riders are on board on a regular basis.

When it comes down to it, MAX is nothing but a glorified bus and many local residents I talked to see it as nothing but a glorified bus. It is not attracting the choice riders that Light Rail does but does serve a purpose of getting people along the corridor faster. However, the Limited bus that used to serve the area did the same thing at less cost.

Much like the monorail, the MAX system is all glitter and no gold.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Good Idea from Vegas....

Las Vegas BoulevardImage via Wikipedia While I do not see a good transit ideas coming out of Vegas, there is one project they are doing that UTA should look at and implement.

The service is called Silver Star service. The concept behind Silver Star is that it runs from Senior Citizen housing and other senior citizen buildings to major shopping destinations in the area. The routes only run a couple of times per week, they run primarily from 9:00am or so to about 4:00pm so they are not out at rush hour, and they use small cutaway vans since they go into the parking lots of major stores and small apartment complexes.

While these services primarily target senior citizens, anyone can ride the buses and they are equipped with wheelchair lifts.

The service has been successful and has grown from one route to 11 in only a few years.

This service is an excellent idea and should be tried here in Utah. There are many seniors in housing that are fearful of riding regular transit especially with walking to it. Both Las Vegas and Utah have many bad drivers and being a pedestrian in either area is dangerous. This will allow seniors to ride the bus and not have to worry about crossing dangerous streets.

Like in Vegas, the buses could run a couple of days per week on each route, and serve and many locations as possible within an hour time frame before being back at the origination point. Most of Salt Lake city could be covered in a couple of routes then find the best places to put a couple of routes in the suburbs.

UTA needs to be looking at innovative transit ideas like Silver Star. It serves the population that needs transit the most and is very useful for others. It serves a market that is waiting for good transit service.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Impressions of the Las Vegas Monorail

The Las Vegas Monorail over Paradise RdImage via Wikipedia If you lived in Salt Lake City before the first TRAX line opened in '99 you may remember that there was a big campaign by the monorail folks to saying that a monorail should be built instead of light rail. What was interesting about the campaign is that it was run by some group that had offices in Seattle, Salt Lake City, and one other city and called the Wilmore Group. What was interesting about the whole thing was there was no website for the company and if you wanted to contact their Salt Lake office you could only get a recording or send a fax. Well Salt Lake went for Light Rail and it has been successful.

However the monorail folks did have two successes although one of them is in financial trouble now before turning a lick of dirt. Las Vegas now has a monorail operating and Seattle approved funding for theirs but there is many issues now.

The Las Vegas Monorail opened last year only to be closed for some time because of a drive train falling from one of the trains (that can hurt!) and reopened right before the first of the year.

The Seattle folks used the Las Vegas monorail as a example of a transit system that could be built and run without support from the taxpayers and used this example in getting voter approval for the Seattle proposal. Of course this does not take into account that Las Vegas is unique and that the casinos payed for portions of the line and that the financing package just wouldn't work in most cases, but has been used to bash light rail lines.

This past Thursday I had my first ride on the Las Vegas Monorail. I drove down to the Sahara Resort and board the train at the end of the line. The fare is $3.00 or you can buy and all day pass for just $10.00 (twice the cost of a all day pass for CAT that allows you to ride their entire system!)

There was a train sitting in the station but it was not taking passengers. In a few minutes a train showed up. I boarded the train and a few minutes later we where on our way. Here are a few observations of the trip:

1. Most of the ridership rides from the MGM stop to the Harrah's stop which is the last one on the strip. Few people rode beyond to the Hilton and the Sahara but that changes when there is a convention in town.

2. The monorail does not have smooth ride. While there has been some criticism of Light Rail because it bounces some, it is much smother than the ride on the monorail. It sways back and forth severely and will give some people motion sickness.

3. Wynn has a shuttle from the Convention Center station to The Wynn Resort and it is actually buses. So people who can afford the Wynn will ride buses!! However the bus station is across the street from the escalator to the monorail.

4. There is very little coordination from CAT to the monorail but since this is a separate system and has nothing to do with CAT there is obvious reasons why. However if it does get extended to Downtown there will need to be better coordination between CAT and the monorail.

5. One of the reasons monorailist use to justify a monorail line is speed, but don't look for it in the Vegas monorail. It automated message brags when it hits 50mph! (TRAX can go up to 55mph and some other systems can go 65mph).

6. It doesn't take much of a load before it is SRO. There is not much seating available on the monorail, plus it has fixed consists which means it can add cars easily like light rail, so even small loads overwhelm the cars.

While monorail may have a purpose, it is designed mainly to be a feeder in dense urban areas. If you look at many Pacific Rim countries they have monorails that feed into other transit systems that handle the main commuting.

What monorail is not the greatest thing since sliced bread that many make it out to be.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

UTA to Cut Service and Increase Fares???

Today the UTA board is meeting to discuss the possibilities of raising fares and decreasing service due to the increase in fuel prices and increased ridership.


OK, they are getting more riders, which should be increasing revenues, and since they are not increasing service by that much, why is it that they have to increase fares?

Instead fares will be raised and bus service cut for the people who could least afford to have the cuts made. Meanwhile Rep. John Dougall says that it is great because people should pay more of the cost and taxpayers less which is the same stuff that comes out of many right wingers but ignores that taxes going to roads especially local roads.

If UTA is going to raise fares it should do so on the most expensive routes to run the commuter runs. Routes from Utah and Weber counties that run to Salt Lake in the morning and back in the evening are some of the most expensive the UTA has. This is because there is a big capital expense in the luxury commuter buses on those routes that spend 75% of their day sitting and not earning money. Because these routes use special buses and are all expresses, rates should be raised on them so that it balances out for the distance traveled and the express service.

Here is a radical concept of the UTA which comes from the business world. On the local routes how but lowering fares? That's right do something that might bring even more people to the buses and increase revenues that way. Or even do what some other cities have done and charge more for traveling during peak periods and give a discounted fare for traveling during off peak periods when more people are needed on transit.

These are some pretty radical ideas that will probably not make it. The way the philosophy works at transit agencies (unfortunately UTA is no different from most) is that they can't lower fares because they will loose money. What they are saying basically is that no one new will be attracted to riding the buses so they will loose money. So in other words, people prefer to ride rail not the buses which is common knowledge.

Of course one the problems making this situation truer on UTA is the fact that bus service is not good outside the immediate downtown area. Some buses make there last trips at 5pm (11 Inbound) while nightride starts too early at 7:00PM. If UTA is going to improve bus ridership it needs to look at some of these situations.

Next year UTA is going to ask for a tax increase to speed up construction of TRAX lines. While I support this because TRAX does attract choice riders, it makes it hard for UTA to justify increase taxes when it is cutting bus service and increasing fares. Part of the last increase was supposed to increase bus service but the only real increases has been limited Sunday service.

If UTA is going to cut service and raise fares, UTA needs to make changes from within. There needs to be more focus on customers at UTA to increase ridership and revenue.
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Monday, October 10, 2005

When Will Changes Come to Bus Lines?

Last year UTA did a study of all the bus routes in Salt Lake County and they where planning to do massive changes in the bus system over this year. However, UTA has put off many of those changes but still plans to do most of the changes in the next year.

However, few people know exactly what these changes will be. UTA has not released the details of the plan or what kind of changes will take place.

The problem with most of these plans is that they are made up by consultants that never rode the bus system and don't have a clue about the who what where and why people ride the bus. Orange County, California reorganized their bus system a few years ago on the advice from a consultant yet after only six months they started returning to the old system because of the negative effects it had on thier system.

I am not putting down all consultants (after all I am breaking into the business myself), but when the consultants only go by the "numbers" and do not find out the information on riding habits, the changes will not help out the UTA's customers: the riders on the buses and TRAX.

I am not saying that there is not the need for changes in the bus system, on the contrary there does need to be changes. Currently the bus system is in the immediate Salt Lake area is largely based on old streetcar lines that buses replaced 70 years ago! The times have changed and its time for the bus system to change. However, the system needs to change in order to make riding the system easier for the customers of the UTA.

UTA needs to work with its customers to make a better transit system that will not only work for existing riders, but also be more attractive to choice riders.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Will Utah County Ever Gets it Act Together???

Well there is always news on the transit front coming out of Utah County but usually its it pretty nutty or just plane dark ages thinking. I actually thought there might be some hope when Utah County decided to pull out of the Mountainland Association of Goverments which had a very rural planning attitude and decided to start its own association, however the more things change in Utah County the more they stay the same.

Utah County is working on a vote to increase the sales tax to support transit just like Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties did a few years ago. Part of the measure will fund the construction of the commuter rail line from the Utah County border to Provo and Payson. However, some politicians don't want the transit agency to get the funds until it is ready to build the system so it wants to put the money into freeways.

However there is still some politicians down there that still have the no body rides transit attitude and wants no money at all invested in commuter rail. This attitude is so backward because even before the rapid rise in gasoline prices ridership on Utah County bus routes especially the commuter routes have been going through the roof. This despite the system is not that good and still could use a lot of improvement.

Of course the main newspaper the Deseret News which is now has a board headed by a developer by the name of Ivory is not helping matters only producing negative articles. There have been several anti-commuter rail editorials in the paper one being written by and Economics instructor at BYU. Unfortunately I don't see any changes at the Deseret News until Ivory is gone from their board. Of course the best course of action is to hit the newspaper with as many well written letters to the editor as possible telling the truth about rail.

Hopefully some changes will come in Utah County as gas prices continue to be high and I-15 becomes more of a bottleneck. Transit will work in Utah County as it has proven with the rise in ridership.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Don't Hem in TRAX at Daybreak

Planning continues on the West Jordan branch of TRAX which will travel from the Fashion Place West station to the new community of Daybreak.

If you look at the UTA maps on the Environmental Impact Statement is shows nothing but empty land in the area. However by the time TRAX makes it to Daybreak there will be a town village taking shape. Looking the the models that are present in the Daybreak Welcome Center, it shows the line ending in the center of the commercial area but having no way to be extended.

However it makes no sense at all to hem in TRAX so that it cannot be extended in any direction. Kennecott Lands has lands for many miles to the west and eventually plans to develop it. An extension of the TRAX line as this development seems natural but will not be able to happen under the present plans.

Daybreak is an outstanding concept, a beautiful community (that I hope to be living at in a couple of years) and showing that even in conservative Utah a forward thinking community can be built. Lets make sure that the TRAX line is built with the same future in mind.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chance for Redevelopment

It was only a few years ago that you could not rent a spot at the Family Center at Fort Union for any price. It was the premier spot in that part of the county. All the stores where full and there wasn't a spot to be had. Have things changed in the last couple of years. The former Joannne's spot has been empty for more than a year (now being filled for the second time by a Halloween Store) as has several other spots in the center. To top it all off the Mervyn's store which is one of the largest in the mall is closing which will leave a large open hole.

Some of the blame for this can be directed at the owner of the shopping center who seems to be doing little to change the slide. There also has not been any upgrades to the center which is starting to look very dated.

To top it all off, the center is not pedestrian friendly. Even if you park your car with a short walk to the store you intend on using you take your life into your own hands as there are very few sidewalks and cars travel substantially above a safe operating speed.

Instead of letting the shopping center to continue its slow decline, how about making it a shining example of a mixed used pedestrian friendly environment. Here are some ideas:

1. Move some stores so they face Fort Union Blvd making the center friendly to pedestrians.

2. With a major apartment complex across the street, how about building a pedestrian bridge from the complex to the shopping center.

3. Some goes for the Union Plaza shopping complex. It is more trouble than it is worth to cross the street into the shopping center but with pedestrian bridges it would be easy but also would require more restaurants in the center (3 have closed-could it be the fact that the place is too hard to get into?).

4. Move Chili's and Bank One so that you rebuild the main entrance to the center to make it safer not only for pedestrians but also for cars but currently it is very dangerous.

5. In the rebuilding build a back alley for trucks so that they do not have to use the crowded drives as they have to do now.

6. The current location of Mervyn's would make a great area for a mixed use development that would curve around and head toward 1300 East. It could include offices or apartments and designed to create more foot traffic.

These changes would also make it easier for people riding transit to access the center. Currently people who arrive or depart on the westbound 85 have to cross very busy Fort Union Blvd, but the pedestrian footbridges for the apartments could be used by bus riders as well.

With new developments going in to the south, the owner of the Family Center needs to wake up and realize that if changes are not made the Family Center will be left in the dust. Instead, turn into a state of the art center, friendly to both people in cars and pedestrians: in other words turn it into a winner.
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Saturday, September 24, 2005

UTA should look to Portland and their buses

TriMet bus parked near MAX tracks (helping out...Image via WikipediaOne of the weaknesses of the UTA system is the buses. They cost more to operate than light rail and do not attract the number of choice riders that TRAX light rail does. So what can UTA do to improve its bus system and make it attract more choice riders?

UTA needs to look at what Portland is doing on its busiest routes. Since we are stuck with the Low Floor buses that are inferior to the high floors, UTA like Tri-Met in Portland needs to take advantage of them.

What Portland did was go route by route and assign the low floor buses to their busiest routes that will take advantage of the faster loading and unloading. In addition they reduced the number of bus stops (but still keeping them close together), and adjusted the sidewalks and curves to make getting in and out of the low floors as seamless as can be.

This gives the best invest for the dollar short of building streetcar or light rail systems. It speeds up the buses and is more attractive to choice riders.

Among the routes that would be perfect opportunities for this kind of investment is the 8, 9, 22, 30, 31, 39, 40, 70, 603, 612, and the 830 (probably this route will be served more by this than the BRT scheme).

Expansion of TRAX is very important, but still is maintaining and increasing ridership on the bus routes.
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Opportunity Lost: The 1300 South Wal-Mart

A typical Wal-Mart discount department store.Image via WikipediaWal-Mart gets criticized at every turn from closing small businesses to being the cause of sprawl to how much it pays its employees. When Wal-Mart built its new store at 1300 South and 300 West in an area with a high degree of transit dependence it had the opportunity to show a new face and truly show it cares about the community.

Instead Wal-Mart snubbed its nose at the transit dependent in the area and showed its true hatred toward transit. Instead of building a store with access from the street since the store is only a half block from a TRAX station and on two bus lines, it builds a normal store with a two story parking lot as its only access. In addition it made access from the street so dangerous that many will not take there lives into their own hands to use it. To walk into the building from 300 west you have to walk along the parking lot with cars speeding through to their parking spots.

This store just is a slap in the face to many of the residents of the area who are transit dependent. However this is no real surprise when it comes to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is a large donor to such anti-transit groups as the Heartland Institute that has Highway Lobbyist Wendell Cox and is also supported by an array of highway institutions.

Of course blame also has to be leveled at the city of Salt Lake that let the poorly designed store be built in the first place. Like most cities all they saw was dollar signs in their eyes and couldn't give a rip about how well it was designed. There needs to be changes across the board to improve transit and to improve buildings to allow easy access for transit riders.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bus Assignments Need Work

Many years ago I had a close family friend who drove for the Southern California Rapid Transit District. It was not uncommon for the RTD to put a 30-foot bus on a route that should have nothing but a 40-foot bus and would have 40-foot buses on a route that should have only 30 foot buses.

The problem at the time was that the RTD had such a diverse fleet, many different types of buses, from many different sources so it was difficult for them to insure the right bus was on the right line. Of course this was in the days before they high tech computers of today.

Today UTA has a much more standardized fleet than the RTD back in the late 70's early 80's, but seems to have the same trouble with assigning buses even with the advent of computers.

A perfect example of this is route 22. This route is one of the busier routes the UTA has, yet many times it is assigned 35-foot low floor buses. It is bad enough that the low floor buses reduces seating capacity, then you add the fact that you are using a smaller bus often leads to standing room only on the route north of 3300 South. I can see running low floors on this route but they should only have 40-foot buses on this route.

There is no reason why this cannot be done. In fact if you ride the same route every day you will find that often you will ride the same bus number every day. When I road the route 24, I road the same Orion V buses on the regular basis. The other bus I rode was usually assigned bus 9222. So why can't they make sure the routes that need the 40-footers have them?

The situation is gets more ridiculous when there is special events going on. When the American Public Transit Association had there national meeting in Salt Lake, a rodeo was held for bus drivers across the country. Many of the newest Gillig Advantages was pulled from revenue service carrying their customers and used them instead for the rodeo. During this time I rode another very bus route line 37 which runs to Magna. This is another route that runs with standing loads on many runs. Because they wasted buses on the rodeo, they had to assign 35-foot ski buses to this tripper. Not only is the bus smaller but several sets of seats are removed for ski's.

Why? They wanted to show off for APTA and showed how they could care less about their customers that ride with them every day. Why couldn't the rodeo use the ski buses which are sitting anyway? It would make much more sense to use the ski buses on the rodeo and keep the other buses on their regular assignments for their PAYING customers.

The sad thing is that UTA is one of the better transit agencies when treating the customer. However, it is clear that there still needs to be changes at UTA to make it more customer friendly. If it is going to attract the option riders, UTA needs to reinvent is service.
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Need for a Pedestrian Friendly Environment

The pedestrian Bauman Street in Kazan.Image via WikipediaFor anyone who is attempted to catch a bus in Utah, it is common knowledge that of the most part Utah is not friendly to pedestrians.

Among the issues facing pedestrians in Utah:

-No Sidewalks even in established neighborhoods

-Narrow Sidewalks where sidewalks exist

-No seperation between high speed auto traffic and pedestrians

-Poor Lighting

A running joke we have is that is about how backwards can you be when you have to use flashlights to flag down buses in the 21st Century????

Lack of sidewalks is a big problem. Even in Holladay where I live, when I walk to the bus there is several sections of street with no sidewalks. At least it is a residential street, however it is a through street and despite there being two schools along the road many people travel 40mph along there despite the 25mph speed limit.

It would be even worst if I had to ride the night ride (I don't ride because of this). I would have to walk north along 1300 East for about a 3/4 of a mile to reach the residential street mentioned above plus cross Van Winkle Superspeedway (oh I mean Expressway). With no sidewalks for part of the distance and people often traveling 50+ in that 40mph zone there is no way I will walk from that bus.

Where there is sidewalks along 1300 East and other roads, the sidewalks have been narrowed so far that the cars are passing you way to close and if a car was to loose control only slightly, there is nothing you could do especially at the speeds they are traveling. Add the fact that there is very few places where there is adequate separation between the sidewalks and the road, makes walking in most places even more dangerous.

Another major issue when walking after dark is the lack of lighting. There is very few places where there is adequate light and there are places where the lighting doesn't even work. How long have the lights on State Street north of 8680 South in Sandy not been working? If you add all the problems mentioned above and add the lack of street lighting, it is clear that being a pedestrian in Utah is not safe.

The UTA, the cities, and all those concerned need to work to address these issues. If it isn't safe to walk to the bus people are not going to ride the bus. We need to have safe ways to ride the bus, and pedestrian friendly environments benefit not only bus riders but everyone especially children who have to walk. It is time for change.
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Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Anti-Rail Rant in the Deseret News

UTA TRAX Sandy train at the Gallivan Plaza sto...Image via WikipediaEver since Ivory has become head of the Deseret News' advisors it seems that the paper has taken a very large turn to the anti-transit side. This is an ironic turn of events but not all that unexpected since Ivory is an anti-transit developer.

The latest rant is from a Economics Professor at BYU. He basically says the same old garbage on how rail transit only attracts bus riders, it is a useless and commuter rail will not work. (sheeze all you have to do is change a few words and he says the same repeated message of the Road Warriors).

He starts of with saying that Commuter Rail will not attract riders only divert riders from buses. In addition he says that rail will not create a big enough share to affect congestion. Of course this is just looking from one point of view. Congestion is relieved: for anyone who rides the trains they do not have to deal with congestion. Also, once again people are more likely to ride trains than they are to ride buses.

He also says that the trains will be slow despite they traveling up to 79mph. Yes, the trains do have to stop but then they pick up more passengers. But speed is not the issue. I much rather be relaxing on the train than dealing with the idiots behind the wheel. You arrive at your destination relaxed and more ready to face the day. You are not upset at all the cars that cut you off, ran over the top of you, went 35 in a 65 and so on. Of course that is taken into account by the them.

Then he begins his attack on TRAX. Once again he gets on the same old bandwagon on how TRAX is only attracting former bus riders and that ridership hasn't gone up. Of course it flies in the face of reality where TRAX parking lots are full, its trains carry many more people than the buses it replaced, and they are many people on TRAX who would never ride the bus. In fact when you look at previous bus ridership compared to the numbers that TRAX is pulling in, it is clear even by conservative measures that TRAX is attracting about 49 to 50% of its riders from cars. You add the fact that there is currently not even a real network of lines open yet and you can clearly see that TRAX is a success.

At a time when we need more and better transit service, it is sad to see that some people still have their heads in the sand and will not see the realities that we are facing today. Of course it doesn't help when one of the major newspapers who has been a supporter of transit seems to be turning to wrong way. Today transit is becoming more important than ever, and we need to improve the system not attack it.
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Great Job UTA

City of Salt Lake CityImage via WikipediaThe last couple of days I had the opportunity to attend Rail-Volution here in Salt Lake City. Rail-Volution deals with land use and transit systems.

Salt Lake is one of the first smaller major cities to hold a Rail-Volution event that started 10 years ago. UTA provided good information to people attending the conference, passes for the length of the conference, and many of its employees attend the conference.

The only downside to the conference was the head of the UTA John Inglish. On Friday morning he did the morning introductions and introduced the other speakers of the morning session. However, when announcing some of the events, he wasn't sure if the Utah State Fair was running. What is wrong with that picture?

Overall I have to give UTA a big thumbs up in its leadership with Rail-Volution.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Goodbye to the Classics

MTA Bus Company MCI Classic #5887 (ex-Green Bu...Image via WikipediaUTA is in the process of pulling from service the 1990 MCI Classics that have served many miles for the UTA and being replaced by the new 30-foot Optima Opus buses.

The Design of the Classic is based of the GM New Look buses that first started production in 1959. Production in the United States was stopped in 1977 and replaced by the RTS series which UTA never used except during the Olympics. However the New Look continued to be produced in Canada and was updated in 1984 and became the classic. UTA purchased these buses in 1984 and 1990. In 1987 GM sold its bus division to MCI which at the time was part of Greyhound but the buses remained the same.

The problem with the newer buses is that they are not built to the same standards as the previous buses. The new Optima's and the Gillig's that UTA purchased over the last few years are not the same quality as the Classics or the New Looks that proceeded them. While the motors are essentially the same it is in the passenger cabin that you can really notice the differences in the buses.

If you where to ride on of the few remaining Classics that are left in service, while you will notice a couple of rattles here in there, it would not be major. Meanwhile even when the Gillig Advantage's where just a couple of years old they had major rattles and are not a passenger friendly bus to ride on.

Sadly there are several reasons why this happens.

1. Lowest bidder-may not always be the best bidder.

2. Fed's 12 Year Policy-Buses only have to last that long even though many of them are falling apart before that.

3. Policy Makers don't ride the buses-This is probably the biggest reason why the quality of today's buses is poor compared to older vehicles. For the most part the big wigs and especially the board members of UTA DON'T RIDE THE BUS. Unless it is for some public relations reason they are not on the buses. They do not ride the bus and see the condition of the buses so it doesn't even enter their minds that the customer compartment of the bus is poor. All they look at is the mechanical performance-that's all.

Do you think those big wigs would allow their personal cars to rattle like the buses that their customers have to ride in? Of course the answer is no, they would be screaming bloody murder to the dealer and the manufacturer. They should also not permit it on the buses their customers have to ride in either.

The board of directors and the top corporate people of transit agencies in general, not just the UTA need to demand better products from the manufacturers. It is their responsibility to their customers to do so.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Will UTA ever learn how to coordinate schedules?

When UTA came out with its most recent schedule changes, I got really excited because they announced that they would have route 3 serve LDS Hospital and provide coordinated schedules with routes 1 and 2 which also service the hospital. Since I first started riding UTA I felt this should be done and finally it has.

However after looking at the schedules I am trying to figure out what UTA means by coordinated schedules.

I will take a look at the off peak schedules since they run at a set pattern. All three routes run every 30-minutes. Well logic assumes that if they run every 30-minutes then there should be a bus by every 10-minutes. Instead lets take a look at one late morning block of buses and I will use the LDS hospital outbound timepoint as an example since this is the primary point of coordination. Lets look at the 11:00AM to noon and look at the times: Route 2 11:10, Route 1 11:15, Route 3 11:25, Route 2 11:40, Route 1 11:45, Route 3 11:55.

This is coordination UTA style. The previous 3 ran at 10:55 then you have 15-minutes until the 2 comes along, then you have a route one in 5 minutes, a route 3 in 10 minutes and once again a 15 minute wait. I even gave UTA the benefit of the doubt and checked inbound schedules leaving the University Hospital and once again the schedules are not coordinated.

This isn't the only example of UTA's ability not to coordinate schedules. Routes 7 and 11 both travel 1300 east from the University of Utah to Stratford road which is just north of 2700 South. Both routes run every 30 minutes but instead of providing coordinated every 15-minutes service along this stretch of road that takes almost 15-minutes to travel down. Instead on the outbound runs route 11 runs just 4 minutes behind route 7 and five minutes behind running inbound.

Another example is routes 21 and 32. While this only covers one run in the morning it not shows the lack of ability of the UTA planners to properly schedule buses but also gives the anti-transit people something to howl about. Route 21 and 32 run from 6200 South and Highland Drive all the way to downtown along Van Winkle, 700 East, and 200 South. Every morning at about 7:30am there is a 21 and 32 running neck and neck along the same route. Both are limited service from 4500 South to Downtown so this is an incredible waste resources.

This type of poorly coordinated service makes transit harder to use. UTA needs to make the bus system easy to use like TRAX currently is. UTA still has a long way to go.

Friday, August 26, 2005

UTA Needs to Improve Website

Today most companies depend on their websites to attract customers to their stores.

While UTA has a useful website, it needs improvements to become a truly usefull website that will drive customers to their services.

1. Better News and Updates-A perfect example of how UTA's website is not functioning presently was the recent cuts to route 12 and the other changes that took place August 21. While there was a notice sent out to the newspapers at no time did this information EVER make it to the website. This is inexcuseable. When dealing with such important information like the cutting of an entire bus route, this information including how to comment and where the meetings are need to be on the website weeks before they happen.

2. When changes are posted to the website, the maps of the changes are often not updated until the day of the changes or later. While during most change days the changes are not that dramatic, the changes that took place on August 21 where dramatic effecting many routes but the route maps where not available right away. In addition the new 805 in Utah County was not even on the website more than a week after the changes.

3. Make more products available on the website. Currently you can purchase monthly passes and day passes but the website should also have available such items systems maps and such. The more products you get out describing your services, the more likely that customer will be able to use your services.

4. The Transit Planner needs some work. I was plotting a trip to a meeting in Orem that I had to go to and I was able to plan a faster trip myself than the trip planner showed. In addition the dates where wrong on the calander, and there was times that some streets that buses travel down would not show up on the website.

While UTA currently has a ok website, it needs some work to become an important assett to getting people on transit. UTA should learn from transit agencies that are successfully using their websites to drive customers to their services.

Monday, August 22, 2005

UTA Board Makeup

There has been lots of talk lately of changing the make up of the UTA board of directors. Most of this talk is coming from politicians do not like John Inglish making the amount of the money that he is currently making.

Most of this talk is not coming from politicians who want to improve transit, most of the talk is coming from either anti-transit zealot politicians who are too caught up in their political dogma to see reality or they are out for power.

However the truth is there is no transit system that is run directly by politicians that is better off than UTA, in fact most transit systems run by the politicians are usually in worst shape than the UTA.

To give an example of a system run directly by the politicians is the Spokane Transit Authority better known as the STA. Most the of the time the politicians just rubber stamp what the planners have to say since they truly have no idea what is needed on the system since most of them would not lower themselves to ride it. To make matters worst most of the people on the board are only part time. This means they work a full time job, have their regular city council or county commissioner duties, and the STA board along with several others. Is it any wonder that STA does not get the proper attention?

However, that is not saying that the UTA board is much better because generally the board is made up of politically connected hacks who are appointed by the politicians. They also would not lower themselves to actually ride the bus, so they do not truly know what is happening on the system and could care less.

What is really needed is better rider representation on the board. Why not require that one of the board members be a regular transit rider so that the other side of the coin is giving? The ridership of the transit system needs better representation on the board and at the UTA. Instead of changing UTA for the worst, lets change it for the better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

UTA: Bring Back the Day Pass!!!!

In 2003 UTA eliminated day passes except for the "roundtrip" tickets purchased at TRAX stations. This put the use of day passes out of reach for most UTA customers especially those who live in counties outside of Salt Lake County. The excuse for doing this was that too many people where abusing the system by not marking off the dates when they rode TRAX. So in other words, because a minority of the people where abusing the system and because TRAX was not adequately enforcing, all had to suffer.

This move is opposite of what most transit agencies are currently doing. Most transit agencies are actually eliminating transfers and using day passes instead. While I am not for eliminating transfers day passes are an important ingredient to getting casual riders on transit.

I am a perfect example of the rider that UTA is losing. I cannot take the bus every day due to the lack of good bus service between where I work and live. When I work to six o'clock the last bus leaves at 5:45PM but there is night ride but it doesn't start till 7:45pm then I have to walk a half mile to get to it, ride the bus about a mile and walk another mile home. Just doesn't pay.

But there is many times I can use the bus, especially on days I am not working. But there is not day passes so I would have to pay full fare and get a transfer that is only good for 2 hours which means I would have to pay three or four times.

However even when UTA offered day passes you could not purchase them on the bus. To get one you either had to go to a place such as Dan's that sold them or once again go to a TRAX station. I would buy a few day passes at a time and have them ready for when I needed them. This makes it difficult for the customer. A better system is the one where there is a section on the regular transfers that bus drivers issue that you can punch it and it becomes a day pass. Yes this system can be abused to but then UTA has an issue with the driver not the system. I like Portland because it uses this system and made it much more convenient to use the bus.

UTA needs to get more people on the transit system. The best way to do that is get make sure the system is as easy to use as possible. The day pass makes using the system easier.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

New 30-Foot Buses-Where should they be?

The UTA is now recieving its purchase of the Opus 30-foot bus. These buses are designed for routes that do not have large amounts of ridership or for areas with tight turns and such.

So far UTA has assigned the buses to Ogden and to routes 1 and 2 in Salt Lake. They will also be assigned routes 442 (which will now interline with route 2) and route 23. However I have already seen these buses running route 7.

In one way assigning the buses to routes 1 and 2 make sense. They travel through the avenues and they do have some narrow streets and tight turns on these routes. However, in another way it makes no sense to assign these buses to this route. I have ridden these routes several times and almost every time I ride them they have a large load. Because these routes service LDS Hospital they attract a large amount of people traveling to the hospital in both visitors and employees who ride the bus. In fact, I have seen 40-foot buses run with standing loads on these routes so they will probably have to pass people up with the 30-footers. Relief will come somewhat from reroute route 3 and will give riders more options to reach the hospital.

In fact the question needs to be asked, considering the ridership on these routes are the 30-footers being assigned to this route because of the geography or because of NIMBYism. It seems like in the recent round of changes such as to route 40, the UTA is giving into well off NIMBY's and stabbing their regular riders in the back. Hopefully UTA will not become like Metro in Los Angeles that will do anything a whiny NIMBY wants no matter how much damage it does to bus or rail service.

UTA has needed smaller buses for many years but went by the philosophy of not wanted too many different types of buses. However, this train of thought is quickly loosing favor as transit systems realize that they have to have different buses for different purposes.

Hopefully as UTA gets more of the new buses it will start assigning them to routes that truly should be using them such as the 90/94, 24, 33, 14 (although now interlined with the 20 it won't work), 222, 345, 46 and others.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

UTA's August Changes: The Good, The Bad, and Ugly

Markers for UTA buses in Salt Lake CityImage via WikipediaAugust 21st is change day for the Utah Transit Authority. Three times a year they change schedules and the drivers bid on new schedules and routes. While there has not been major changes for about a year when UTA gutted south Salt Lake Valley Saturday service, there is some major changes in store for the 21st.

Here is a list of changes and comments on them:

Route 1: Route will travel along 200 South instead of 400 South. All I can say about this is that this and other downtown changes are only going to confuse the public. You used to count on most routes going State, 400 South, West Temple and routes traveling down 200 South. Now you have some using 200 south others not and there are more changes. UTA needs to make service easier to understand not harder. Also the route gets the new 30-foot buses which I will talk about in a later edition.

Route 2: This route will use South Temple instead of 400 south and instead of interlining with the 18/19 will interline with the 442. Once again where going to be more confusing and not counting the fact that the 442 only runs hourly while the 2 runs every half hour and does not run on Saturdays. Also will be assigned 30-foot buses.

Route 3: Will service LDS Hospital. How a change I proposed over 6 years ago. Provide better service to a major traffic point. At least UTA is getting some things right.

Route 7: Last trip will go all the way to Brickyard. No big deal here.

Route 14: Will interline with Route 20. So instead of assigning 30-foot buses to this route which should be done we will interline it with a busy route so that 40-foot buses still will be needed. A couple of trips canceled on this route that needs major revisions.

Route 12: Dead, Dead, Dead. So instead of adjusting this route to improve it we just kill it. The only major traffic generator on this route is Southtown which as bad service to start off with. How much better would this route do when the new Hospital Complex opens in two years? Try to fix a route before killing it.

Route 15: 3 trips added and will now interline with route 42 at the Meadowbrook TRAX station. Extra trips on infrequent route good. Route has potential serving SLCC 1700 Campus and now interlined with 42 services 2 SLCC campus (runabout way to get there).

Route 18: West High School Tripper Added.

Route 19: Will use 200 South instead of 400 South (Interlines with route 1-see those comments).

Route 20: Will interline with route 14 (see those comments).

Route 23: Will no longer interline with route 442. Instead of using Main Street both directions will use State Street and Main Street in a loop. Since this route serves the capital it is always assigned the newest buses so it now will get the 30-footers which fits its passenger loads most of the time. The loop thing doesn't make a whole lot of sense unless there is more changes planned in the future.

Route 32: One minor change.

Route 34: Saturday Time Changes

Route 39: Service to UTA headquarters cut, service along 6000 south cut, service rerouted to service SLCC. Is UTA admiting that it made a mistake by reroute 39 away from SLCC when TRAX opened? Good thing they never took the arrow signs that direct the drivers down. Of course they are the old ones.

Route 40: Route will no longer service Olympus Cove. This change smells of NIMBYism. There is a lot of expensive homes in Olympus Cove with people who hate transit. But every time I rode this route older people rode the route.

Route 42: Minor Change in route and six trips added. Changes are needed but what is really need is a reroute to better serve the Jordan Landing complex.

Route 442: Route will be dropped south of 3300 south serving Millcreek TRAX station intead of Meadowbrook. Will interline with route 2. Well most of the time I have ridden the 442 there is several eldery and wheelchairs that board along this short segment. Sure the 22 is one block away but its one of the busiest routes in the county do you really want more wheelchairs and eldery on that route?

Route 51: Minor change in Toole

Route 53: Minor change in Toole. Saturday service canceled. Ok, you want BRT along this route but your going to cancel service?

Route 54: Change in Route Times

Route 66: Minor changes in Times

Route 817: Minor time change on one trip

Nightrides: Several routes change downtown location and they flip times they leave.

Route 803: Route south of Orem replaced by new route 805. More seats available to people boarding route from Orem North.

Route 805: New express route that will service Payson, Spanish Fork and Springville before heading directly for Salt Lake City. Best thing the UTA has done in years. Now people in the southern part of Utah County will not have to travel all the way through Provo and Orem before finally getting on the freeway to head to Salt Lake creating a much faster trip. More service on rapidly increasing ridership routes.

Route 862: The big Orem loop will no longer be the big Orem loop and instead be the big Orem U. Will travel from Utah State to North Orem then down to the University Mall and the transit center. Route does need some help.

Route 820 and 822: One evening trip each disc.

Route 816: Minor Changes in timepoints

Route 833: Minor Route change, just moving the westbound buses one block.

Route 817: More stops added at BYU.

Route 55: Change in name of timepoint

Route 70: One time changed by 5 minutes.

Route 72: Now here is a concept. The bus deadheads all the way from Ogden to Salt Lake so lets actually carry passengers on it! WOW! Additional southbound trips added from Ogden. Latest one is currently in the 2:00PM range, this will add one at 4:00PM. People will have an alternative to the slow 70.

Route 73: Change in name of one timepoint.

Route 77: New trips that use buses that would be deadheading anyway to service Parc School.

Route 610: One trip canned on Saturdays .

Route 612: Earlier trips on Saturdays.

Route 613: Minor Change

Route 626/627: Minor Schedule Changes

Route 640: Changes in times to improve transfers. Wow, this is a change for UTA, which rarely takes transfers into consideration when making schedules. Great change.

Route 645 and 685: One Saturday Trip Cancelled.

Well, those are the changes. There are a couple of good ones (803 and 805), some bad ones (downtown reshuffle) and some ugly ones (12). Now what is needed is better voices in Utah to improve transit service.
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