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.
Zemanta Pixie

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Welcome to Transit in Utah

This blog is dedicated to improving transit service in Utah especially in the Wasatch Front. What can be done to improve the Utah Transit Authority? What changes are coming up in UTA service? What is UTA doing right? What is UTA doing wrong? Where are changes needed?