Sunday, September 30, 2007

Challenges in Magna...

Magna: Tying old, new is a challenge

Interesting article on the struggles going on in Magna.

Sadly areas like downtown Magna and it's are have been abandoned in favor of big box centers and pedestrian unfriendly suburban tract homes.

Of course Magna has a lot of potential. After all, it has historic buildings, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, close to the 2100 South Expressway, one good bus route and a couple of others, the area has mature trees, in other words the potential is there.

Transit Related Article

Public transit popular choice in Cache Valley

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Danger with the Bus Riders Union

I have mentioned it before but after the complaint session this past week about the service cuts and the calls for a bus riders union, I think it's time for me to go over again the problems I have with it and the problems it can cause especially since I saw some of the rhetoric coming out at the protest.

The biggest thing I see happing is a direct attack on the rail programs. By demonizing the rail programs they create an us versus them attitude which will only lead to failure on both sides. First and foremost the voters want rail and have voted for it twice. Rail construction is not taking away from bus service.

In fact by making blatant attacks on TRAX and FrontRunner they are actually doing more harm than good. If you look at what financial numbers the UTA presents (which are not that great but they are all we have to work with), there are some things that are clear:
1. That revenues have gone up over the last 10 years.
2. That revenues went up substantially when both TRAX lines opened
3. That bus ridership has gone down over the last 10 years (and it started before TRAX).
4. That TRAX gets 14 million riders per year and the bus system gets only 21 million
TOTAL and that includes they entire system.

So what the numbers say is that the two TRAX lines are carrying 2/3rds as many riders as the entire bus system.

What this says is the problem is not TRAX but the bus system and how UTA is running it. Also you have to look at our cities as a whole and why they are not attracting bus riders.

Instead of looking at TRAX as the big evil one take a look at some issues that UTA has:
1. Poor equipment utilization: Ski Buses and Fast Buses are an example.
2. Almost no bus shelters in the system: Considering are weather extremes shelters are needed. Denver is doing a much better job providing shelters. Blame UTA and the cities.
3. UTA is falling into the same transit mentality planning which says duplication is bad (only in the way UTA does it: 307 and 320 on top of each other, the old 11 and 7 on top of each other, the list goes on).
4. UTA by trying to avoid duplication actually worsens it's market penetration possibilities and decreases ridership potential.
5. The UTA has gone to a grid systems. Grid systems have proven they only work if bus service is more frequent than every 20-minutes. While that is good for their new frequent routes, all the other routes are hurting because of the grid design.
6. Where UTA has made people transfer, like on Redwood, State, crosstown routes at TRAX, they did not create time transfers. In fact in some cases the if you are traveling westbound and need to transfer to a route beyond TRAX, the bus you needs leaves 2 minutes before you get there. UTA needs to work on timed transfers.
7. The way the buses like 4500 South/4700 South, 3900 South/4100 South were cut at TRAX also shows that UTA doesn't understand marketing dynamics. Life doesn't end at the TRAX stations it is only a stopping point.

UTA has problems but attacking the rail program is not the solution but attacking the direct issues with the bus system is.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Daybreak an Island???

In just a few years Daybreak has gone from being a wild dream to a very successful development. The development has become very popular and is a shining example of what can be done when using pedestrian and bike friendly development.

However, it seems that the city of South Jordan where Daybreak is based, has not seen the light of what can be done. While Daybreak continues to develop, South Jordan is allowing the Daybreak area to be surrounded by areas that go against the philosophy at Daybreak. I know anytime you talk about a philosophy of development, you always get the ditto head that have been brainwashed to say "social engineering". Well I won't even get into all that today as I have other things to talk about.

The big problem I see is that the surrounding areas are just standard sprawl developments that are not pedestrian and bike friendly. Just take a look at the Boyer development just across Bangerter Highway from Daybreak. The development and the roads to it are not pedestrian or bike friendly.

The way things are developing, Daybreak will end up being an island in South Jordan. While it will be pedestrian and bike friendly, you will not be able to leave the area of Daybreak by foot or by bike because everything surrounding it is auto centric.

South Jordan should be working harder to encourage developments surrounding Daybreak to become more pedestrian and bike friendly. Notice here I am not saying that cars should be banned or anything like that, but the area should be made more friendly to others.

Once Daybreak starts getting bigger and starts developing it's commercial and industrial properties, Daybreak may need to look into becoming it's own city. After all, if the city it is currently part of is going to make it a segregated island, maybe they would be doing better by looking out for themselves.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Bus riders give UTA routes 'F'

First of all a couple of comments:

-What is the one rider along 900 East complaining about? 900 East has every 15-minute service all the way to 6200 South now plus it goes downtown.

-Once again UTA is bragging how ridership increased in Weber and Utah counties after there service was changed. Of course no mention how many actual "riders" or revenue.

-Sounds like ridership is not doing too well. I can tell from experiences on the buses that ridership is down on several routes.

-What will be interesting is what revenue is doing. I would really like to know what revenue per passenger mile is doing because that would really tell you what is happening but sadly the way the system is set up we can't get those kind of numbers.

More on the Sugar house Streetcar

at JakominiplatzImage via Wikipedia South Salt Lakers favor streetcar link

There is something wrong with the numbers. If BRT will only cost $18 million and the streetcar will cost twice that much, something is not right. It would be interesting to see how many things are being added to the cost of streetcar system compared to the BRT since BRT cost will often be higher if you are calling for the same features.

Also to the guy that says that buses will be quieter than a streetcar, I wonder how you could come up with that conclusion? BRT means buses. Whether it would be Hybrid, CNG, or Diesel it is still a bus and is going to make more noise than a streetcar.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Transit Related Articles...

UTA on track for U.S. funds

Mayoral candidates oppose proposed 600 West TRAX bridge

State Street...

There is a wasteland out there that pedestrians fear to tread, it stretches for miles from downtown all the way to Draper, at one time it was the main route for travelers in the region when it was Route 89 and 91 and nobody had heard of Interstate 15. Today, the street is still there but it has become a waste land of car dealerships, a few restaurants and not much else for miles on. Bad planning has created a street that is not friendly to the pedestrian but is only used by motorist to get from point A to point B.

I have stated before that Murray has missed a big opportunity. When the plans were first announced for the Murray Central TRAX station, there was mention of transit oriented development were pedestrians and transit riders are taken into account. Instead we got a Costco and a hospital complex neither one that is very pedestrian friendly. There is no connection from TRAX to the State Street area or to the west. So much opportunity lost.

Murray is now working on the Murray North Station at 4400 South. Once again we hear great plans for a transit oriented development. We will see what happens but so far the only action is the new Deseret Industries building that is not pedestrian friendly.

Now here is some ideas to improve State Street and make it a more pedestrian friendly area:

1. In areas where TRAX Stations and State Street are close together (1300 South, 2100 South, 3300 South, 3900 South, 4400 South, 5300 South, 7800 South) create planning zones that integrate the two areas to make State Street more pedestrian friendly.

2. Right now State Street seems to be a sea of car dealerships. Car dealerships sprawled out the way they are on State are a deterrent to a pedestrian friendly area. How many people do you see walking down state street from 3900 South to 5900 South? The answer is not many. The City of Murray and to a lesser extent South Salt Lake should work with the dealerships to decrease the car dealerships footprints. Reducing the footprints not only benefits the city by opening up areas to development, it benefits the car dealerships by reducing their property taxes.

3. Look to create green spaces between the TRAX stations and State Street.

By doing this we improve transit oriented development, pedestrian friendliness, and to improve several miles of State Street.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Draper NIMBY Idiots...

Utah Supreme Court to settle Draper TRAX fight

You can tell the people at "Citizens for Responsible Transportation" just hate the thought of big evil TRAX in their neighborhood that they can't even connect the dots and figure out the advocating the State Street route makes them look stupid. Of course all they care about is making sure that TRAX doesn't use the old UP line despite the fact that the line makes the most sense.

For those who actually believe that State street would be a good route for TRAX, I dare you to go to the intersection of State and 123rd South during most hours of the day and see the traffic nightmare created by bad planning and picture adding a TRAX line to the mix.

The UP line makes the most sense...
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Battle over 600 West Continues...

Residents opposing a TRAX line down 600 West

MCI on the 307...

This past week a new face has presented itself on the so-called Fast Bus 307. It is the face of an MCI D4500 Commuter Cruiser. That's right the buses that normally see service on such routes as the Utah Counter Commuters, the 472, etc is now on the 307. While the seats are pretty comfortable here is some reason why this is a bad idea from an agency that we have come to aspect bad ideas from.

First of all the bus is not geared for city driving. The gearing on this bus is designed for primarily freeway speeds and short trips on surface streets. The only place where the bus gets to strut it's stuff on the 307 is from 4500 South to 6200 South. Otherwise you are dealing with stop and go traffic that is doing long term damage to the transmission and engine on the bus.

Second, the bus is not designed for frequent stops. You have 4 steep steps that you enter the bus with and there is no back door. In addition the bus has wider seats than a standard transit bus so the aisle way is narrower than a standard transit bus. Despite UTA' s best attempts to kill all local ridership on this route, the line is carrying the local riders that used to ride the 27, 32, and the 44. So in other words there is people frequently trying to get off and on and this bus wasn't designed for it.

Third, the wheelchair lift on the bus is not designed for regular transit use. To load and unload a wheelchair on this bus takes more time than on a standard bus (and significantly longer than a low-floor bus), so the bus is greatly slowed down by wheelchairs. It's like UTA is telling wheelchair customers that they are not wanted on the fast buses because their too much trouble.

Fourth, the bus is 5 feet longer than a standard 40-foot bus. There is a couple of turns along this route is difficult for a 40-foot bus so making a 45-foot foot bus try to make the turns is much worse. In addition the commuter cruisers are taller and have a higher center of gravity than a standard transit bus so it makes the turns all the more difficult.

UTA putting the commuter cruiser on the route is kind of like the UTA throwing the riders of the route a bone for the deep cuts that took place on the route and trying to rebuild the ridership. The problem is a commuter cruiser is not designed for the route.

If UTA wants to put a nicer bus on this route and the other so-called fast buses, it needs to start purchasing Suburban Buses again. Suburban buses are a cross between a regular bus and a commuter cruiser. UTA used to have a large number of these type buses but they were replaced by the MCI D4500's. You would often see them on service on such routes as the 811. They are a standard transit bus but have have raised seating, luggage racks, reading lights, just to set them apart from a standard bus.

I hope the riders on the 307 enjoy their bone while it lasts...
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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A downtown proposal...

For anyone that has been to Downtown Denver and rode transit, there is two things you see different from Salt Lake City. First you do not have a fare free zone like Salt Lake however, they have the 16th Street Shuttle that serves a good portion of the downtown area. While Salt Lake's downtown area is more spread out than Denver's, the system can work here.

First we eliminate the Fare Free Zone entirely and I will get into the benefits of that later. Second we turn the Capital Shuttle into a operation like the 16th Street Mall. The only difference would be is that the 16th street mall is a dedicated transit mall while this proposal would use mixed use streets.

Here is the proposed route and the benefits of the route:

From the Intermodal terminal via
600 West,
200 South,
-serves the southern part of the Gateway
300 West,
-serves the motels/hotels near 300 west
500 South/600 South,
-serves hotel row along these streets
200 East
-serves the Downtown Library and the new Metro Residential Complex
400 South
Main Street
-serves all the retail along main plus the new City Creek complex and all the office buildings.
North Temple
-Temple Square
State Street
-Brigham City Apartments and the other apartments along State Street
300 North (counter-clockwise) 500 North, E Capital Blvd, 300 North (clockwise)
-Serves the Capital
Main Street
-serves residences along Main
North Temple
-serves Temple Square, Conference Center, a couple of smaller motels
300 West
-Serves the Arena, Radisson Hotel
100 South
-Serves the Gateway
600 South
-Back to the Intermodal Depot.

What has been created is a shuttle that serves all the vital areas of the Downtown Core. Once the Harmon's opens at 100 S/100 E, the shuttle could be rerouted from Main via 100 South, 100 East, North Temple, and State Street to service that vital spot also.

So whats the benefits to the regular bus system?

1. By eliminating the buses stoping at every bus stop they would only need to stop if there is passengers boarding speeding up service.
2. Outbound buses would be wouldn't be slowed down by having to have everyone exiting the bus to pay their fare in the front then load new passengers which really slows down the process.
3. Faster times through downtown because people will not be jumping on the main routes to go two blocks.

In other this will truly speed up bus service and improve bus circulation through downtown.

Monday, September 17, 2007

A trip to Denver....

I spent a couple days in Denver to attend a meeting. This was my second visit to Denver in three months and this time I had the opportunity to explore some of RTD's bus routes.

I arrived in Denver on Wednesday at 8:15pm on Amtrak. I walked off my train, took my luggage and walked over to the light rail station that is part of the Union Station complex and jumped on the train. My hotel was right next to the bus area of the Southmoor Light Rail station so I stepped off my train, walked under Interstate 25 through a well lit tunnel and walked over to my motel.

Between the meetings I got a chance to travel extensively on the RTD's bus system.

Here is a couple of things that RTD does better on it's system:

-They understand the concept of timed transfers.
-There is multiple bus transit centers in addition to the light rail ones. UTA promised these with it's long range plane with the first tax initiative was passed but I haven't seen any yet.
-There is a better security presence on their system especially light rail. While I feel safe on TRAX even in the evenings, there are those that don't feel comfortable. However, you see police and security riding the trains before Sunrise and after Sunset to make customers more comfortable.
-Their call n' ride service is vastly superior to UTA's flex route F94 and UTA needs to look closely at that service.

Well, that's the major biggies. The last week of October I will be spending in Reno so hopefully I will get the chance to test their service and then spend October 31 to November 5th in Miami for Railvolution so I will be able to compare those systems to the UTA.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Off to Denver Again...

I will be leaving on Amtrak's California Zephyr for Denver tomorrow morning and will return on Saturday. I will be running around extensively on Denver's transit system the RTD so I will of course have some comments either Sunday or Monday depending on how I feel.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Buses are not Light Rail

On my morning walks I often see the 307 and 320 so called "fast buses" heading toward downtown. While they may be doing better along 700 East mainly because everything else has been slaughtered in this major corridor, it seems like those two routes have less people on them than before the bus service cuts (OK, not scientific). So why is this?

Well it looks like they looked at the success of TRAX which is doing extremely well and decided to emulate it. So they cut out a bunch of the stops and stopped serving the neighborhoods. However, the market for buses and the market for TRAX is different and cannot be applied the same.

Let me use the poor 320 and the previous route 21 as comparisons. The old 21 used to travel through Sandy neighborhoods then make a bee line for downtown. OK it was a little slower than the current 21 but not by much especially when you consider that the 320 has been running late frequently.

So the new 320 eliminated all the stops in Sandy and along Highland Drive so now people have to either walk long distances (and there are lots of hills in the area) or drive their cars to the park N ride lot then board the bus instead of walking to a bus stop and getting on. In other words the service is not convenient.

The 320 has loss a large amount of its market. Not only does it not service the neighborhoods anymore but all the bus service in the area is gone. So in other words the UTA has force people either to drive to park n ride lot, walk long distances or in many cases just go ahead and drive because its more convenient.

In addition if people do take the bus into to town they can't live until the evening rush service starts because there is no bus service along Highland Drive except at 9400 South.

The Fast Bus system has made buses less flexible, less convenient, and less marketable thanks to the bus cuts.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Unhappy Passengers...

Today I had the opportunity to talk to some people I know that used to regularly ride the 21/32 and now ride the 307/320.

First of all they complained that the buses have been running late every day and that drivers are complaining that the schedules have been made so tight that they cannot stay on schedule. In fact the buses have been averaging anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes late. So in other words they eliminated all the stops but they are taking the same amount of the time to do the route.

Another affect that apparently was not considered was that the new routes would be making more stops since all the other buses along 700 East have been cut, passengers from the 27 and 44 are now forced onto the new routes which slows down those supposed "fast buses".

The problem that occurs too many times with transit planning is that lines are look at individually instead of considering a systematic systems approach where you see if you change Route A, how that changes Route B.

We will see what the next few months bring us...