Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Changes in UTA Plan

Well, I told you I would go over the changes UTA made is the great bus plan so here they are with comments:

I am going to do this in order they appear on the lovely UTA website.

Route 62: 6200 South. They discovered that buses will not be able to turn from 6235 South onto 1300 West Southbound so instead they will head north to 5400 South. I am sure that will please the people on 1300 West whose homes are close to the street, so they will probably scream bloody murder. Now call me crazy, but doesn't that mean that this route and the 5400 South route will duplicate 5400 South for a portion. The evils of it!!

Route 11: Route will basically parrallel existing Route 1 with the jog to 13th instead of staying on 11th between G and I Streets.

Route 6: This route will have evening/night service instead of route 3.

Route 3: Will service the VA Hospital but still looses service to the University of Utah.

Route 21: Will run north/south along 2100 East instead of Foothill Blvd that looses 15 min service for hourly service. This restores decent service along 2100 South which should have never been cut back to every 30-minutes but then again UTA planners are not held accountable from stupidity.

Route 213: Will use Highland/1100 East from Richmond & Highland to 9th South replaces a portion of old Route 8 (to be 220) which will run along 1300 East instead. Now if the people in scheduling will figure out if a bus ends at the University of Utah instead of going all the way to downtown it should arrive at TRAX at the U. a few minutes before a Downtown bound train, not at the same time (oh wait, we are talking UTA schedulers, forget it).

Route 220: As mentioned will use 1300 East north of Richmond/Highland to the U. In addition, Nicole from Where's My Bus, UTA? is hopefully jumping for joy because it will use 200 South from the U not S. Temple (S. Temple portion replaced by Route 209). Now if only we knew at what hours the bus was running since they have not addressed those issues yet (then again they could cut and no one will know!)

Route 223: Will run along 2700 South/1700 East/1700 South/1900 East/900 South to Guardsman Way instead of 2000 East/Parkway/2100 East. Service reduced to hourly during the day (I will blast this later). Restores service along 1700 East but the 15th/15th area still has no service.

Route 228: Will replace route 14 except will travel along 100 South instead of 400 South (why? wouldn't better service along South Temple made more sense since service was restored to 200 South). Also will run down Murray-Holladay Road to the Cottonwood Dead Mall. Once again will have hourly mid day service.

Route 209: Two changes: will use South Temple instead of 200 South to replace Route 220, will also use Winchester to the 6200 South TRAX station (so 900 East south of Winchester loses service because can't have duplication with revived Fort Union Blvd route). I bet UTA didn't even think about the fact that this restores Saturday service to a major mall that is under going major refurbishment (oh wait, of course not since UTA isn't good about serving major destinations properly that might actually build business with the proper marketing).

Route 207: Will replace the portion of existing route 10 south of the Murray Central TRAX station along Vine, 5600 South, and Fashion Blvd instead of using 5900 South/State. But since UTA made this change they of course cut service to hourly to teach people not to complain about their change ideas!

Route 217: Good service cut back from traveling all the way to 5400 South and instead will terminate at SLCC. Once again another major shopping and entrainment destination looses Saturday bus service.

Route 218: Gives southern part of Redwood direct service to SLCC. However Southtowne Mall and Redwood Shopping Centers loose Saturday service (of course Southtowne is essentially without transit service now except for the 811).

Route 519 and 520: Minor change in downtown routing that won't take effect immediatly because of City Creek construction.

Route 500: Will use 400 South and Main Street instead of 200 South and State street on portion of route.

Routes 517 and 522: The Crackheads are at it again. Since there was an uproar over loosing Route 26, UTA is getting even by creating a convulted route system. Route 517 will run peak hours in one way and back in the pm. During those times the 522 will not run the same direction even though it serves Redwood Road which is a good distance from 2200 West. This once again shows how UTA just does not make riding their system easy for their customers.

Route 313: Once of those Fast Buses that are a waste of capital assets. Instead of traveling directly down Union Park Ave to I-215 will diviate to service the Park and Ride lot on 6600 South. Now if only the replacement for the 32 as many stops as this route.

Route 307: Replaces route 32, no changes but where are the limited stops going to be? Are you going to screw the many people who board along Van Winkle like several people I know? Inquiring mines want to know.

Route 240: A couple of trips added because of heavy ridership, plus will exit I-15 at 500 South/600 South instead of the 400 South HOV exit.

Route 35: Route will service UTA like existing route 37. Ok, its fine to make your customers walk great distances to a bus, but your drivers can't walk a couple of blocks or take the 39? What a bunch of bull.

Route 227: Will service Welfare Square, what a concept.

Route 232: Will use California instead of 1700 South due to restoration of service along 4800 West. Once again UTA is cutting service to hourly.

Route 518: Well heres a concept, instead of having the bus run empty dead heading one way, the route will run "live" back to starting point.

Route 248: I mentioned when I rode the 48 route it seemed to have good ridership despite it being a new route. Well, it looks like UTA will keep the route but to show it really doesn't want the route it will end at 5400 South instead of 6200 South loosing service to the Cougar Shopping Center that seemed to create many trips.

Route 348: Route will use 9000 South instead of Old Bingham Highway which is now closed off. Is this the new service the one Board of Rubber Stamping was talking about creating new service? It sure doesn't seem to be creating a great deal of new service.

Route 356: One of those great new Fast Buses will have minor reroutes in the 6200 South/5600 South area and in downtown. Service slashed in half from 4 trips to 2 trips.

Route 551: Restores service to International Center but only 4 trips AM and 4 trips PM.

Route 236: Will service the business park west of Bangerter Highway north of 2100 South.

Wood Cross Routes: Will not be revamp just new numbers with some minor changes. So who is politcally connected here?

Route 471: Replaces route 71 which was to be killed.

Route 72: Reinstated by the good graces of UTA. Of course to get even service will be cut to hourly.

Route 78: Extended from 4000 West to 4800 West.

Route 389: Service cut from 4 trips per day to 2. Minor reroute leaving Judge High School.

Route 90: Extended to 4800 West to interline with route 78.

Route 94: Instead of being peak hours only, UTA will make this Salt Lake County's first Flex Route. This concept has the bus diviating from its route to service the neighborhood. This will restore full time weekday bus service to the route. Too bad UTA doesn't have decent buses to use on this type of route unless they plan to use Flextrans buses.

Thats what UTA changed from the orginal plan.

Now the hourly crap: UTA even admitted a few years ago that hourly service doesn't work. Optional Customers will not be attracted to a service that runs this infrequently. By running a bus every hour they are killing all the potential that route has. They plan to run these buses every hour and tell you next year, oh well there not working, we are going to kill them off.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Deseret News Editorial

Transit needs higher priority

Surprisingly good editorial coming from the Deseret News. Wasatch Regional Council has been a big supporter of TRAX since 1999, but it seems that it is still taking the highways are priority stance. There is many reasons why the focus needs to be on transit and will have to be to keep the quality of life good on the Wasatch Front. We will see what happens.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Transit Related Article

UDOT picks Corridor link

Changes in Bus System Approved, Suprise, Suprise, Suprise

UTA revises its bus-system redesign

I will comment in the next couple of days about some of the changes they have made which some are good, some are OK, some are bad, some are really bad.

Right now I want to comment on the board meeting.

First of all, it seems that the impression that the board was trying to get across to their customers was: you had your information meetings to talk about the changes, don't bug us about them we already made up our mines.

While I will complement the chairman for actually going through the audience and greeting everyone that was there, I would have to say that the general tone of the meeting was one of scolding the children for talking back.

Then we had three of the members lecture us on how they know the bus system and do ride it. The first guy to talk told us how he was dependent of the bus when he went to the U. I thought to myself: looking at you I would guess that was twenty to thirty years ago, how does not apply to today? Then he told us how his area was getting bus service for the first time. Interesting he said he was on the west side but there is little new service there except for the capital wasting fast buses but they are primarily traveling down routes that have service and the new route along 6200 south but for the most part the area still has service now. So I question the sincerity of his comments.

The third board member try to chastise everyone for thinking that the board is made up of rich people in their Mercedes. She saids her family does take the bus and knows the system. Then the chairman mentioned that he has two daughters with MS and another in a wheelchair but he said he could not let personal feelings affect his decision.

After all the talk they went ahead and approved the fare increase and the changes.

I still say the Board of Trustees needs to be revamped. The board needs representation from labor and from the riders. Then maybe people will start having more faith in the board. Well, maybe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Transit Oriented Article

American Fork Rotary, UTA unveil bus shelter

Wow, a nice little fluff piece the day of the big board meeting.

Too bad your chances of having a shelter waiting for a UTA bus is notta unless you are downtown or along one of the TRAX lines. Then again if your riding a bus from 3300 South to 2100 South along 900 West you have a choice of nice shelters. Oh thats right! There is no bus service along 900 West in that area any more so the bus stop shelters are useless.

Another example of UTA failing its customers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Important Article about the changes....

Fliers on UTA redesign irk riders

I encourage everyone if they can, to be at tomorrow's Board meeting of UTA. I was not planning to attend since usual changes like this are rubber stamped by governing Boards, but this article clearly shows how misguided the UTA is.

I think Justin Jones from the UTA has opened up another can of worms (and you thought they could not open another on over this issue!!).

Its is clear that the Board of Directors of UTA needs to be changed. Their purpose is to run the agency and to take into consideration the needs of their customers when making changes. What Mr. Jones implies is that the UTA employees will do whatever they want.

If the UTA board had any guts, it will ask Mr. Jones for his resignation for making them sound useless. If I was a board member I would be very angry at this statements.

What is needed is a new board format that includes a representative from the riders, a representative from the drivers, and then representatives from the jurisdictions voted on by each city and county.

I have changed my schedule to be at tomorrows meeting, I hope everyone who can come will show up and start asking for heads to roll.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Transit Oriented Editorial

Don't dismantle UTA

Good editorial from the Deseret News opposing the bill by Rep. Harper of West Jordan that would help kill TRAX expansion.

UTA needs a wake-up call

Then there is this letter to editor in today's Deseret News. This guy does get one thing right, it would put the brakes on UTA and kill off all transit expansion. Would he rather have UTA in the hands of people who would like to eliminate most service? Apparently so.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bad Proposal Back again....

Proposal to restructure UTA resurfaces at the Capitol

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am not a fan of UTA management. With that being said, this proposal to bring UTA under the control of UDOT is one of the most dangerous and stupid proposals to come out of our legislature and that's saying a lot.

While UTA needs some reorganization, it is not a bad agency, UDOT on the other hand is a highway agency not a transit agency. If this merger takes place you can kiss our badly needed TRAX expansion goodbye. The state will steal our tax money and put it into only highway projects. Remember our state legislature is made up of primarily right wing extremist who tend to be very anti-transit zealots.

If UTA is merged with the state, the counties should take votes to take over their own transit service.

So much for Republicans being for local control.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Drivers: UTA's Ambassadors

Yesterday I took another journey through Salt Lake county on the UTA. Among the routes that I rode where the 11, 3, 50, 9, 10, 39, TRAX, 22, and the 24.

One of the things that has always bothered me about many bus drivers, while they may be friendly, they do a poor job of being Ambassadors for the transit authority. After all, they are probably the only UTA employees most people ever encounter unless someone goes into one of the UTA shops to buy a pass or something. So the drivers ARE the UTA.

One of the problems is the drivers attitude toward their customers. Many drivers have a disdain from the customers thinking they are all idiots and such and a major inconvenience (despite the fact that like any business, without the customer you don't have a job!). Having worked with customers for many years I know that sometimes you feel that they are pains in the ...., they are still customers and still needed to be treated with respect.

This comes especially true when people ask questions. As the UTA, the driver needs to have a working knowledge of the system to answer questions. I can name at least 5 times yesterday that the driver was asked a basic question and could not answer it or got agitated about the question being asked. The drivers need to remember that the person asking the question is from out of town or something and may be confused about the area. The more they help the better the UTA looks.

Once again though, if there is a problem with the employee management is to blame. If I have employee that is not giving good customer service I am to blame. I have not trained well, or I have not motivated right, but it comes down to the fact of management error. Maybe UTA needs to throw out its personality test that potential employees has to take because it doesn't work.

Then again we have another factor with drivers and thats the union. One of the reasons I am no fan of unions is that a union will protect bad employees. Instead of helping weed out the bad apples and keeping the best, unions will protect to the death any employee no matter how bad they are. There needs to be a change of attitude that allows for drivers with the right personality to be removed from the buses.

The drivers are representatives of the UTA and each one should be an ambassador for the system. After all, the better they are with the customers, the more likely people will be willing to ride the bus and the more buses UTA will need to put out on the road and in turn, the more drivers the UTA will need.

Monday, May 14, 2007

UTA bike ride in Provo....

UTA plans bike ride with Provo's mayor

Wow, UTA is putting on a bike ride in Provo to celebrate National Bike Month.

I am sure that UTA people will be out handing out promotional things, but of the UTA big wigs planning to attend the event, do you think any of them will actually take their buses down to the event? If John Inglish or any of the other big wigs are attending they should ride the 811 down to the event and hopefully get one of the crappy wrapped buses. (Of course they would probably end up getting a commuter cruiser of the bus division's management knows the big wigs will be riding).

UTA management needs to be on the bus more to see what is happening with the system they are in charge of.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Day in Salt Lake County.

Well I talked about my days in Utah, Weber, and Davis counties and now to discuss my travels within Salt Lake county which actually comprises a couple of days plus my regular travels.

One of the trips I took was on the 48 line. This line was created from the cuts last year in the West Valley. The line travels from the Ballpark TRAX station to 6200 South and 4800 West with some trips serving the industrial complex to the west of Bangerter Highway.

Despite the fact this route is less than a year old ridership was good even in the off-peak hours and generally it takes about 3 years to build the ridership up an a new route to adequate levels. However, this route will cease to exist with the bus reorganization despite it providing good cross valley bus service.

One of the biggest things I am noticed was how bad the low floor buses are falling apart. The interiors rattle so bad even the one year old Opus buses, there are rattles throughout and give a generally poor ride. Now if UTA management and the Board of Directors cared about the riders they would be paying attention to these facts and working to solve the problems and communicate the problems with the manufacturers.

One thing I have mentioned in the past, why does UTA have the 11 & 7 run on top of each other? How much better would ridership be if they provided coordinated service along 1300 East? The same can be said of the 32 and 21 which run 2 minutes apart inbound and on the same schedule outbound.

Overall, almost every bus was on time and the drivers where friendly. The system did its job.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Trip to Utah County

Earlier I covered my trip up to Weber and Davis counties. Today, it will be some observations about my trip down to Utah County.

I was wondering in this was the wrong day to take this trip. While nothing went wrong catching the 40 line, once I got to TRAX things went wacky.

I had a 17 minutes before my train which would be the first southbound train of the day from downtown. When the northbound train showed up it was on the wrong track so I knew something was wrong. I then worried about making my short connection to the 811.

Next one of the University trains came into the station also on the wrong track followed almost immediately by another Downtown train. Then a two car train of San Jose cars pulled in heading north but on the right track. The train sat at the station for several minutes so I went up and asked the operator what was up and he ignored me.

After he left another University train pulled in also on the proper track. I then wondered how late our train would be. Finally nine minutes late our southbound train finally showed up. One person commented that the 811 driver always leaves on time no matter what is up with TRAX so I gave up making it, however the bus was still there when we arrived. Sadly, it was one of the low floor Gilligs instead of a Commuter Cruiser and wouldn't you know it was wrapped!!

A couple of observations:

1. UTA Dispatchers should be able to use the loudspeakers at TRAX station platforms in order to keep their customers informed what is going on.

2. UTA TRAX operators need to do a better job of keeping their customers informed of what is happening and if buses are going to be held.

Once I got to Orem I rode the 862, 833, and 832 which have all changed since my last trip here. Surprisingly all the changes seem to make some since except for the poor service to the MTC and Provo Temple.

What is it with the busiest bus routes in the UTA system getting the worst buses in the system? Many of the buses running around where UTA's oldest Orions. Why did Weber/Davis get new buses while Orem that has even higher ridership gets the shaft?

Well I guess that Utah County is getting the BRT line so they should be satisfied even thought should be a streetcar line. It makes more sense as a streetcar line since that will attract more riders than a bus.

The Utah Valley Visitors bureau has a nice brochure that shows all the trails in the area plus bus routes (even though the bus routes are about 4 years out of date). Since I walk an hour per day I like walking new trails and would like to know where they are. UTA should be promoting the use of these trails and be using items such as this brochure more to encourage ridership.

Overall, Utah County seems to work but there needs to be more improvements in order to improve non-BYU ridership on the local routes.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Transit Related Article

Utah Subway diners will learn about transport issues from UDOT brochures

Transportation open houses planned for Utah County area

Driver in crash with UTA bus on U.S. 89 identified
-Looks like heavy damage to UTA's new Gillig buses.

My Comments about Weber/Davis County

Last week, I took a trip up to Weber/Davis counties. There was a couple of main reasons why I wanted to head up there: 1. To ride line 626 which I have not had a chance to ride since it was changed several years ago. 2. To ride one of the new Gillig buses that UTA claim are so wonderful and much better than a standard bus.

I will so glad when I can jump on FrontRunner and head up to Weber County but right now it was a trip on the 11 to the 72.

Riding the 72 is nice with the nice Commuter Cruiser MCI buses. However, the driver need some customer service training. While he wasn't unfriendly he was not friendly and when asked the question answered very Borg like and refused to give a straight answer.

On the 626 the driver was friendly to most customers including myself but on the other hand did yell at one elderly lady for standing up when he was stopping at a light and a Junior High student for taking to long to load up his bike on the rack.

All the other drivers through out the day where friendly which is not unusual as most of the drivers I encounter on UTA are good.

The next bus was the 610 and it was one of the new Gillig buses. I do not see much difference between this bus and the 1999 and 2001 Gillig buses UTA has except for seamless windows, new front and rear caps, and a more deluxe cloth on the seats. In addition two of the buses had problems. The first one on the 610 had very back breaks that squealed worst than any other bus I have every ridden. To top it off I got this same bus heading back later in the day. The other problem was the back door was broken on one of them on the 603. Not good for a bus that is only a few weeks old.

Overall ridership on all the routes I rode was good except for the 626. In the morning I was the only customer for more than half the route. Returning in the afternoon toward WSU Davis there was several customers on and off along the whole route so ridership is building.

Another observation was that there was construction on the 612 that is delaying the buses up to 10 minutes. Yet, there is nothing posted on any bus stop sign mentioning that there could be delays which since this will last through the summer. UTA needs to keep its customers better informed on what is happening. (Look for more on this when I talk about Utah County). Customers need to know if their buses are going to be delayed.

Overall, ridership was good on all the routes I rode, most of the drivers where friendly, and the system seems to do the basics of what needs to be done. However, there is plenty of room for improvement in the system and UTA needs to continue providing better service to its customers.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Over the next few days, I will be talking about my travels on UTA over the last couple of weeks. I spent one day in Salt Lake County, one in Davis/Weber Counties and journeyed through Utah County yesterday.

My feelings on wraps are well known, and after being stuck on several buses that where wrapped its time to vent again.I think that the UTA Board of Directors should have to ride a wrapped bus for several hours and try to see out the windows.

A perfect example of what is wrong with wraps is while going through Roy on the 626, I was trying to see what businesses where along the line. The problems is, because of the stupid wrap I could not see about half of the signs. Here they are trying to encourage people to ride the bus but wraps are a turn off.

To top it off, I rode when of their new Gillig buses that are based out of the Ogden division and it was wrapped!! Talk about the height of stupidity in wrapping a brand new bus. Most transit systems wrap buses that are due for repainting or the paint already looks bad. The reason for this is very simple, when the wrap is pulled off, it can often remove or damage the paint despite what the manufacturer tries to claim.

This once again shows that the UTA is often not a good steward of our tax money. In addition the Board of Directors and Management of UTA continue to be too disconnected from their customers.