Sunday, February 18, 2007

Transit Related Editorial

UTA death warrant: Bill to kill transit agency would be a train wreck

An excellent editorial on the bill started by Representative Harper of West Jordan which is trying to kill UTA and give the funds over to the highways.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Transit Related Article

Big changes coming for bus system

UTA plans route redesign for 'better service'

Changes to bus system

Well, we knew the this was coming and here it is. The grand plan to reorganize UTA bus service and my fears have been realized, major cuts in bus service and once again the west and south sides of the valley take the brunt of the cuts.

Across the nation for the last 30 years whenever a bus system has been reorganized, some areas get better service but a majority of the riders get the shaft and UTA's plan is no different. While some areas will get better service, mainly from downtown south to 4500 South, the rest of the county gets little. While some cuts make sense such as the 7 and 11 along 1300 East due to idiot scheduling on the part of UTA, instead of improving service they are leaving the 11 but it will only operate to the U of U and not all the way to downtown. It will be extended to Midvale TRAX replacing the section of the 27.

What is interesting about the way bus systems are being reorganized is that it flies in the face of the anti-transit advocates try to push. Highway advocates say that rail systems such as TRAX and Frontrunner are inflexible and do not allow changes in routes, however the UTA proposal does the same thing. Instead of routes being flexible, such as my proposals where routes would have branches to different important destinations, the UTA proposal creates a system that is less flexible and less customer friendly. You have to travel the corridor and transfer to get your destination, if your destination is even still served by a bus.

Another part of the plan is to introduce more "fast buses" some of which will replace regular lines such as the 32. This another case of wasting capital dollars much like the ski bus service. Buses make a run in the morning then they sit all day then make another run in the evening. So in other words, a $325,000 piece of equipment may get used less than 4 hours a day and that includes dead head time. Once again this shows the difference between a business mindset and a government organizational mindset.

I encourage everyone to make there voices heard and attend the public hearings.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Transit Related Article

State takeover of transit proposed

Our state legislature strikes again. First they try to steal the money that the voters in Salt Lake voted to tax themselves for, and now because the money is not going to their pet projects especially highway projects, a West Jordan legislature is trying to steal the money another way.

Does anyone really want UDOT running the UTA? They cant run what they are supposed to much less the state's biggest transit system.

Make sure you make your voice heard on this issue!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ski Bus Service

Well, we are about halfway through the ski season and the ski buses are making their frequent trips up to the ski resorts. While the ski bus service does provide a great transportation resource, is the ski bus service doing more harm than good?

The Ski bus service runs approximately 4 months out of the year. The other 8 months the ski buses largely sit in the yard. That is $10 MILLION in precious capital resources that are not doing any good. In addition, it means your employee force is lopsided with a bunch of drivers needed for a short period of time that have to be absorbed into the regular system or laid off.

The worst problem is the capital resources that go to waste. Having $10 million dollars in equipment sitting a majority of the year when UTA has plenty of uses for that money. The biggest problem is the attitude. A typical transit planner (government worker) figures that if the bus isn't moving it is not loosing money. Contrast that with a business attitude that says if the bus is just sitting there it is loosing money because it is not out on the road earning revenue. Do you think Southwest Airlines would be profitable if it allowed its 737s to sit 16 hours a day? Of course not.

Then their is the human resource issue. Every year the UTA needs a big pool of drivers to run the ski service. However, when April comes along these drivers once again have to work their way into the regular route system. This is fine when you are loosing a lot of drivers, but generally the turnover is not that high. The alternative is that you have to pink slip the drivers that are not needed. The other way around this is to be short on drivers 4 months out of the year. The problem here is that your drivers get overworked, they get burned out, then they either leave or loose their customer service skills.

So what to do?

On the capital front UTA should look to partner with someone to use the buses in the off season since the off season for UTA is the peak season for many others. While it is too late now because the park already has its buses, UTA could have teamed up with Zion National Park. Since Zion only needs the buses from May 1 to September 30, UTA could have used the buses for the ski season, taken off the snow tires, and sent the buses to Zion to be used in the park during the summer. That way the buses just don't sit there loosing money. An example of this is a few years ago the Union Pacific and a Canadian railroad worked out an agreement where UP would use a group of locomotives one part of the year and the Canadian railroad another part of the year. That way the railroads where able to split the cost of the capital purchase but have the locomotives when they needed them.

However that would not take care of the human resource issue.

The other alternative would not be popular with the union and that would be to contract out the service. That way a private operator would operate the service plus provide the drivers and the equipment. That way the UTA does not shoulder the problem of having equipment sit for 8 months a year plus the human resource issue. Since many private operators need more buses during the summer than winter, this could work out perfect for the right operator.

Its time for UTA to think "out of the box".

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Transit Related Articles

Draper TRAX line foes press their petition effort

OK, the "new" Draper people say they got sixty more signatures. That still leaves them sixty more (even if all of the 60 are good), so they still didn't make it. But these idiots have more money than common sense so the fight goes on....