Tag Archives: mass transportation

Mass Transportation: To fund or not to fund, that is the question….

There is interesting discussion happening on the Utah Legislature Watch Facebook page on mass transportation.  Please add your voice by voting in the  poll  on mass transportation at the Utah Legislature website or right here (below) and offer your comments to the post.

Walkable Communities

I have been making a concentrated effort to use mass transportation as much as possible in recent years.  Tom and I have two cars that we try not to drive much.  During our work week in the winter time, we drive the 1.5 miles to the TRAX parking lot and take the train to our job 12 miles away (In the warmer weather we either walk or ride our bikes to the TRAX station or take the bus if it meets our schedule.).  At our place of work we keep our other car so that Tom can do the job related errands that require the use of a vehicle around the area where we work in uptown Salt Lake City.

As we were walking to the train yesterday after work we were talking about what Salt Lake City should do to change its downtown from a vehicle supported area to a pedestrian friendly area (When you walk, you realize how much dependency there is on vehicles and how vehicles are not friendly to pedestrians….).

All of downtown should be car-free.  Only buses and trains would be permitted downtown.  All parking decks downtown should be transformed into useable residential or commercial or office space.  Automobile users would park their vehicles in lots surrounding the city and take shuttles or trains into downtown.  (Better yet, as our train and bus system is improved and expanded to all areas of the valley, folks should be able to travel from their homes….).  Bicycles could be made available via rental fee for those choosing to transport themselves that way.  More people could then actually live and work in the downtown area.  For moving, designated times could be alloted after business hours for vehicles to move furniture and other items into buildings downtown.  Same thing for deliveries for businesses. 

With proper and efficient planning, this could work.

Utah’s new and “improved” bus routes and schedules

Yesterday was the first time I experienced the impact of Utah Transit Authority’s “new and improved” bus system, which took effect August 26th.

After walking around West Jordan to run errands (there is no bus route available to do this), I needed to take a bus to the TRAX station from my neighborhood in West Jordan so I could travel the 12 miles north to Salt Lake City.  What I discovered is that there is NO east west running bus in my area to take riders to the train.  The only bus I found was one that runs north south and into  Salt Lake City in a part that is far from my destination.

So I walked.  And walked.  And walked.

It took me one hour from where I was after doing errands to get to a train.  I love to walk, so it wasn’t too much of an imposition, however I was lucky that I was not on a strict time schedule.  What I discovered on my 5 mile walk was that as I meandered through affluent neighborhoods, near big box stores and golf courses, there were plenty of bus stops (for weekday travelers).   But what I then found as I wound myself through less affluent neighborhoods – trailer parks and small bungalows in more low income areas – was that bus stops had been completely eliminated (there were signs on former bus stop signs announcing the elimination of them).


It is even more apparent to me now who the UDOT bus system caters to.  And it ain’t the working folks who work trades or minimum wage jobs and it ain’t those among them who work to keep businesses open on the weekends.

There’s a LOT wrong with this picture.

I’m leaving now on this Sunday to walk to the TRAX station.  This time I have a shorter walk – only about 2 miles since I’m leaving directly from my home.  There is no bus available for me today.

Good thing it’s not raining.  And good thing my legs and feet still work.

New Bike Plan

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson announced a new bicycle initiative last week.  The plan calls for a bicycle center at the new downtown transit hub, new and improved bike lanes all over SLC, and bike rental and repair at the new transit hub and will be overseen by the SLC bicycle collective.

I am so glad to see this plan, which is being funded by the city, Utah Transit Authority and Utah Department of Transportation.  Now the next step should be to add more space for bicycles on buses and trains!

Mayoral Candidates Speak Out Against UTA Revision Plan

I have posted on this blog about UTA’s revision to its system and how it will adversely affect riders in Salt Lake Valley. It plans to not only decrease the number of routes (from 98 to 80) but also increase the fares.

At a forum yesterday organized by Crossroads Urban Center, several Salt Lake City Mayoral Candidates raised concerns about this plan. Here are some comments:

House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake City, wants the agency to go back and talk to riders, hold public hearings, and then come out with a proposal. He said UTA did not include input from riders when drafting the plan.
“UTA needs to understand that when it starts a process like this, it should not start with a proposal,” Becker said.
Former Salt Lake City Councilman Keith Christensen and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson said the agency should look at using smaller buses or vans in areas where the number of riders is low. City Councilwoman Nancy Saxton said that UTA has designed its system to focus on commuters and that the city should eliminate free parking during Christmas to subsidize buses.
Surgeon J.P. Hughes said he would like to see buses operate for longer hours.

But UTA says that the new plan will be more reliable and efficient, even though The agency has received just over 2,000 comments about the plan. About 65 percent of the comments criticized the redesign, while 35 percent praised it, according to UTA.

It is clear that UTA is going to go ahead with its plan, even though it is also clear that most people are critical of it. What’s the point of public comment if they aren’t going to listen?

No Drive Day

I’ve been participating in No Drive Day for three weeks now (I actually have been doing “no drive days” for several years now, just not as part of a project).  It’s difficult with the way our current mass transportation system is set up, but not impossible.  Instead of 20  minutes to get to work in the morning, it takes a little less than one hour.  This is because of the distance we live from where we work causing is to take one bus, the train, and either walking or bicycling the rest of the way (although the latter distance affords the option of taking another bus, we choose to walk or bike).  Fortunately we are able to get bus passes through our work that are good for a year and cost a total of $50.

Yesterday we took our bicycles with us.  It’s a little cumbersome that way because of having to hoist the bikes onto the bike rack in front of the bus and then up into the train.  Taking your bicycle is risky because on the bus and on either end of the train (the only place bikes are permitted on the trains) there can only be two bikes at a time.  If your bus or train comes and their are bikes on there already, you are SOL – if you abide by the rules.  Fortunately our schedule gets us just ahead of the rush hour in the a.m. and after the rush  hour in the p.m.  But any other time it’s likely we would have to wait longer because of the bike situation, since there are more and more folks using their bikes.

My advice to UTA is to design train cars and buses to hold more bicycles.  I’ve seen it in other cities, so I know it can be done).

We will be expanding our “No Drive Day” to two days per week soon.  We just have to decide which day since many days we have to stay uptown for meetings and other events and mass transit becomes non-existent to our area after certain times of the evening.

Utah Docs say clean our air!

Utah is among the top cities for polluted air – especially in the winter time during inversions where the pollution is trapped by high pressure weather systems that don’t move – sometimes for weeks at a time.

It was interesting to see this item in today’s Deseret News about Utah’s Air:

Utah MDs campaign for clean air to ease ‘health crisis’
By Joe Bauman
Deseret Morning News
      Alarmed by death and damage to health caused by air pollution, several Utah physicians are calling for the state to take strong action.
      From mandatory dips in freeway speed limits during smoggy days to a ban on new coal-fired power plants, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment proposed what they acknowledge are bold actions Monday during a press conference at LDS Hospital.
      Among the proposals are reducing speed limits on bad-air days, a moratorium on building coal-fired power plants and an air-pollution course in elementary school curriculum.

They cited scientific studies showing that heart attacks and strokes are linked to air pollution; that methyl mercury pollution is blamed for declining wildlife; that ozone pollution may cause faster aging; and that air pollution could cause genetic changes that will be passed on from generation to generation.
      Such concerns prompted them “to be activists for our patients,” said Dr. Brian Moench, a Salt Lake anesthesiologist.
“Current air-pollution levels along the Wasatch Front constitute a health crisis,” he said. If the increasing levels of pollution aren’t checked, in 20 years a full-blown catastrophe could happen, he said.
      Because of population growth, motor vehicle traffic — the source of 65 percent of air pollution — could double in 20 years, he said. With climate changes, more droughts could be expected, also increasing ozone pollution, he added.
      Four new coal-fired power plants are on the drawing boards for the Beehive State, according to Moench; they are among 150 such facilities planned across America. The plants release mercury pollution, and there is no way to capture the vapor, he added.
      Mercury is deposited on the ground and into water. When bacteria transform it, the material becomes dangerous methyl mercury. That accumulates up the food chain, increasing many times, he said, and poses a danger. It is particularly serious for babies, the most vulnerable members of society.
      “More electricity from coal would simply be a full frontal assault on public health,” Moench said.
      In terms of health and other impacts, he added, air pollution costs Utah people at least $4 billion annually.
      The danger from air pollution extends beyond Salt Lake City and Provo, according to Dr. Richard Kanner of the University of Utah School of Medicine, whose speciality is the respiratory system. “It’s more than the Wasatch Front,” he said.
      “We know that Cache County has a problem.” And problems like Cache County’s high particulate levels might show up elsewhere in Utah if the state had monitors in many locations, he said.
      The very young and old are at most risk, along with “patients who have heart and lung disease,” Kanner said.
      Citing a Harvard study involving six cities and PM10 particulate pollution, he added, “They didn’t find a level below which it was safe.”
      The panel recommends that Utah:

      • Impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and retrofits existing plants with new air pollution control technology.

      • Reduce the speed limit along the Wasatch Front to 55 mph on bad air days.

      • Expand mass transit throughout the Wasatch Front, offering it free to the public.

      • “Reduce Utah’s air pollutants by 20 percent through numerous strategies such as assessing auto taxes based on a car’s M.P.G..”

      • Make people more aware of air pollution’s impacts, for example by adding an air-pollution course to the school curriculum.

      • Pay special attention when issuing warnings about air pollution to note the danger that pollution can pose to the unborn so pregnant women can reduce their exposure.

      • Ask that school buses not idle in school yards while waiting for students. “The engine should be shut off to decrease children’s exposure to diesel exhaust.”

      • Encourage school districts to use buses that run on alternative fuels.
      As air pollution worsens, said Dr. Scott N. Hurst of LDS Hospital, “we’ll see a further rise in people suffering from heart and lung disease.”

E-mail: bau@desnews.com

Utah Transit Authority Upsetting Things AGAIN……

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) keeps making changes.  Over a  year ago it completely did away with the bus route on the street in front of my house, running north and south between two TRAX stations.  Finally they added a regular route, running every 1/2 hour east and west on the street about 1/4 block away from my house,  to and from the TRAX station. 

But now UTA wants to change everything AGAIN and raise the fare!  As I understand what is listed as the changes, one of them will be totally cutting out the bus route added near my home, making it difficult for me to use mass transit easily. Many folks I know who use mass transit regularly will also be affected negatively by the proposed changes.   I don’t mind paying a higher fare IF the service is better.  These changes do not reflect better service, in my opinion. 

To that end, UTA is seeking public comment – please provide your input! 

      The Utah Transit Authority will be accepting public comment on its proposed route redesign until this Saturday (March 31). Public comment on UTA’s proposed fare increases will be accepted until April 18.
      To comment on both proposals, you can call 1-877-882-0200.
      To send a comment about the redesign online, go to www.rideuta.com/schedulesAndMaps/2007routeChanges/submitComment/.
      Comments about the fare increases can be e-mailed to ihuntsman@rideuta.com.

Move Over Fred Flintstone

A Human Powered Bus?

Image for the article Running bus, a human-powered bus
Manufactured by Honda, it features 10 stationary runners.

Here’s the Pledge (transit funds) -Now We’ll See

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune:

S.L. County transportation plan
Roads or rails? It’s both, and soon UTA, elected leaders say there should be enough cash to cover everything, including TRAX spurs

Utah Transit Authority General Manager John Inglish promised plainly that a new quarter-cent sales tax provides the resources to complete all four new TRAX spurs and commuter rail.
    “The bottom line is: This is a package deal,” Inglish assured a skittish cluster of politicians.
    And all those rail lines, he pledged, will be running within seven to 10 years.

In today’s Deseret News:

Officials push mass transit to top of list

The Salt Lake County Council and county mayors on Tuesday laid the groundwork to build a network of rails over the next 10 years that will span the Salt Lake Valley, by endorsing a list of projects that will be funded through a quarter-cent sales-tax hike that voters approved in November.
      The officials hanged priorities recommended in a list of 34 projects compiled by the Wasatch Front Regional Council and approved funding for four projects, three of which are mass transit.