Wednesday, May 27

News bits

The National BRT Institute Workshop is being held at Rice Eccles on June 23. That's a Tuesday, so I would have to take work off, and it costs $30. Chances are good it isn't going to happen, but it sounds like it would be really interesting.

The Provo Intermodal Center has had the environmental assessment released.

This guy pretty much had the worst day ever. First his car rolls over. He gets out, dazed and confused, and heads to the phone... and gets hit by a train. For some reason, there have been a ton of mass transit related deaths lately... maybe it is just because I'm paying more attention to them.

Tuesday, May 26

Holiday Weekend = Carless Fail

When it comes to the holidays, it is really nice to have an extra day off, spend some extra time with family, and in general just enjoy life. Trouble is, doing those things without a car is extra difficult, as the mass transit system fails miserably on most holidays. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Ridership is down, plus the drivers want to be grilling and chilling too. It is, however, very frustrating.

Holly has been feeling sick again lately, but this time it is less to do with throwing up and more to do with having hurt herself somewhere along the line. Now... she has a hard time walking around. This, for us, is a major issue, because we like to go out and walk around Sugarhouse, or head to a mall and go window shopping, or go the park and let the Paladin chase ducks around. Unfortunately, when you are having a hard time walking, none of these things are easy.

Oh, and... Liberty Park has a cool Ferris Wheel. We decided to go (my brother drove), and got there... right as they closed. At 7 pm. Why does everything in the park go from Noon until 5 or 7? How are families really supposed to enjoy them if they aren't open during hours when a working parent could actually go?

Friday, May 22

Nothing but... Blind Hate?

Today is another rendition of the things I hate about living in Salt Lake! In case you aren't familiar with it, there are tons of things I both love and hate about living here in Salt Lake! Today, we're going to talk about Followers. Particularly those of the conservative bent. I talked about leaders before, and how great they are, and would like to say this: Huntsman is awesome. Huntsman going to China: totally sucks for Utah. But maybe he'll make a great President in 12 years. A Progressive Mormon Republican President? Wouldn't that be interesting?

Conservative Followers:

First, a disclaimer: This post is biased. If this post offends you, please take the time to reconsider your views before commenting. This post is discussing followers only, so if you have taken the time to deeply consider and meditate upon your views, this post is not about you. On the other hand, if you think this might be about you, pay attention! You could learn something, and become better for it. Although if that is the case... this probably wasn't about you.

One of the things that really bothers me about this great state are the Conservative Followers. Now, I'm not talking about the people who seriously care about their beliefs, and carefully look at the facts and the arguments at hand before choosing to support the conservative ideology. I can understand and respect that: my grandfather is among these, and his carefully considered arguments and discussions are worth paying attention to in my own quest for knowledge.

Instead, what I'm talking about are the people who blindly follow the ideology, because their parents do, or because the President is black, or because they want to fit in with the crowd. I'm talking about the people who are deeply opinionated, yet refuse to hear anything from a different perspective. I'm talking about the people who tune you out when you start talking about family, community, values, rights and responsibilities, and then claim to espouse those very principles.

I'm talking about people who drive Hummers because they are huge and have terrible gas mileage, because environmentalism is a load of crock so who cares? I'm talking about the people who move their children to a "safe" neighborhood to avoid the "gangs," rather than helping solve the problem.

Are these people limited to Utah? No way.

But as a state that regularly votes 70%+ in favor of the Republicans, all the while moaning about how the choices are both equally evil... Utah seems to be pretty high up on the list when it comes to this.

If it were only politics though, that'd be one thing. But it covers the spectrum, and effects every part of daily life, from the angry guy in the SUV trying to run the bicyclist over to the militant neo-nazi mom's on the mother community blogs, Salt Lake City is full of angry, blind, hateful people who follow the "conservative" ideology unveeringly, unable to see the affect their isolation and holier than thou attitude has on the world around them.

And the Suburbs are worse.

Thursday, May 21

Grocery Shopping

When discussing how to go about the process of grocery shopping without a vehicle, several things must be taken into consideration.

First off, how far is the store? If your grocery store is more than a mile away, it is pretty impractical to get there without using a bus. This limits you significantly, as a stroller must be folder before getting on.

Second, are you taking the kid(s)? If you are, that massively increases your space available, as long as your stroller has storage space under the seat. This is one of the many things we are looking for when we go stroller shopping, probably in January.

Third, is it just you, or is your spouse along also? While this doesn't significantly increase capacity, it does allow one person to push the stroller and the other to carry groceries, which can make a big difference.

Regardless of your method, seriously consider investing in reusable bags, such as this one:

This doesn't have anything to do with saving the planet, it has to do with weight distribution and saving your hands. These fit more than a plastic bag, they don't break, the canvas straps are gentler on your hands, you can get thermal ones to keep your ice cream from melting, and more. These are amazing. Buy several. Take them with you. They will make the entire process a thousand times easier.

Wednesday, May 20

No (Real) Post Today

Sorry, but I'm not going to be able to do a real post today.

Between the fallout at work and the stuff from the last post, I just... can't.

I'll have something tomorrow, though.

Tuesday, May 19

Call the (Transit) Police!

Due to certain unpleasant circumstances involving my brother's fiancee, several questions regarding the Transit Police came up. Then, to complicate matters, over the weekend there was a report of serious issues with Transit Police in LA. Then, to make matters more confusing, the trial of a BART officer-related shooting is ongoing, with video evidence played in court yesterday. How much authority do these transit police really have? Where is the line between municipal authority and transit authority? What rights do we have as citizens? Where is the line between protecting our rights and punishing the guilty? What happens if the Transit Police cross that line?

Naturally, one of the issues is that this doesn't just vary from state to state, but also from one transit system to the next. In Los Angeles, for example, the transit police are little more than glorified security guards, and don't even carry guns. In San Francisco, they pack heat. UTA's Transit Police are full fledged, legitimate "Officers of the Peace" and are required to take the same trainings, plus another 40 hours a year. They have special teams, which can include (although I'm not 100% sure it actually does) a SWAT team, and Intelligence team, an Internal Affairs branch, and a CSI team.

For UTA, at least, their jurisdiction is pretty much anything that has to do with their property, and the land immediately surrounding it. Thus they have jurisdiction over the bus, wherever it is, and if they take you off the bus, they have jurisdiction to arrest you there, too. This applies across the state, from what I can tell.

The next major hurdle in determining anything is finding information in the first place. Although the Utah Code is publicly published and available on the web, it doesn't actually contain the information that UTA is codified under. At all. As in, section 17A is completely missing. Even when you do find it elsewhere, it only tells you the laws UTA has to follow in order to be legal, it doesn't tell you Police standards or anything like that. Practically useless.

Thankfully, UTA maintains a (relatively) accurate copy of the ordinances riders must follow, which is incredibly informative.

Unfortunately, the thing my brother's fiancee got in trouble for was "Failure to Obey a Reasonable Request," when he asked her to sit down and she refused. Ultimately the question here would be whether or not the request was truly reasonable. The officer was testy and aggressive, and treated her as though she were a criminal, rather than someone who made a mistake. If the request was to add intimidation, she would then have the right to refuse, as it would be unreasonable.

Try telling that to the police though. Their definition of "reasonable" tends to be "anything that doesn't involve pulling a gun/taser."

So she got slapped with a massive fine (the same amount you would get for defecating on the cop. Or for engaging in lewd or obscene behavior). I mean, the spirit of the law is fine, I understand, but putting it in the same category as applying graffiti to a train? Give me a break.

Worst of all, though, was her "refusal to sign." Here in Utah, when you receive a ticket, you are expected to sign saying that you received a ticket and that you understand the appeals process. It doesn't admit guilt, it just requires a signature. She wanted to read the legal fine print, which is actually really smart. He wouldn't let her. After she asked the third time, he simply put "Refused to Sign" on the signature line, and handed her a copy.

Fortunately, they are real police. Which means they have to follow real police protocol.

Just... in the future... sit down.

Because otherwise, all he could have done was take away your pass:

Monday, May 18

Environmental Impact Study

As promised, I read through the Environmental Impact Study that UTA released for the Airport TRAX line, which is pretty much already under construction. I won't bore you with too many details, I just wanted to comment on a few things.

First, the location of the Airport line, and the nature of the area it is building through, fundamentally makes the line problem free when it comes to environmental issues. The trains run on electricity, so they have to prove careful use and what not, but they have practice on that, so it really isn't a big deal. At all. Also, there are two canals in the area, so they had to prove that water levels in the canals haven't risen too high, so the risk of the lines flooding is very low.

Interestingly, they also have to worry about Historic Preservation of any buildings in the area, which is something I didn't know Environmental Assessment had to cover.

I think, though, that when it comes down to it, UTA builds the bulk of the projects on existing lines or existing streets, making the environmental impact minimal. This is a major boon for mass transit, and something that should be emphasized more often.
Images used are artist renderings of eventual project, and are not owned by me. They are an attachment to the Environmental Assessment published by UTA.

Friday, May 15


For some reason this week, I've been feeling particularly uninspired in regards to this blog. Sorry if my posts have suffered for it! I will do better next week.

I plan to discuss the following (at least):
  • UTA's Environmental Impact Study.
  • The breadth of power available to Transit Police.
  • The first System Rank, with 3 benchmarks (small town, large city, true metropolis) so that Bus Envy/Transit Pride can be more easily evaluated
  • How to deal with a Toddler on the bus.
  • And of course, anything else that happens to come up.
So that's the plan. Next week.


Thursday, May 14

On Money

UTA sold a ton of bonds yesterday ($306 Million) in order to pay for construction of the lines.

The trouble with bonds is, someday they come due. Now, this sounds obvious, but when it comes down to it, Mass Transit faces a different profitability standard than Individual Transit does, particularly out here in the West. There have been tons of emails and blog posts flying around right now, with this topic as a primary subject. The basic question is: why are trains expected to make a profit, but roads can be a budgetary sinkhole?

The answer is: Trains are more visible, so people get more angry when they see their tax dollars going to something they never ever use.

Roads on the other hand, are practically invisible unless they blatantly need improvement, in which case most people just want it fixed, and don't care how much it costs.

Few things are going to resolve this issue, and I'm not sure propaganda is the right tool for the job. Instead, we need to make the roads more obvious (Your Tax Dollars at Work signs?) or trains less obvious. Not sure how to go about that.

In other news... I'm in the news! Yay! Thanks to Streetsblog for talking about me.

Wednesday, May 13

No Left Turns?

So... it seems that UTA and the SLC Police have a deal.

I was on the bus this morning, and they announced (over the driver's radio) that, in spite of there being a no left turn sign at a certain intersection, they were allowed. By special, direct mandate of the police department.

I find this very interesting. I'm sure I have more to say on the subject, I just haven't figured out what it is yet.

Tuesday, May 12

I need Cheese...

... to go with all my whining.

Yesterday was awful.

My first bus never showed up. At all. Like the route had suddenly shifted back to 30 minutes, and no one remembered to tell me. So the next one doesn't show until I had been at the stop for 25 minutes, which is really annoying.

I had to go to Wal-Mart. Pick up a few things for around the house, and some food stuffs. No big deal, except that I ALWAYS miss the bus coming out of Wal-Mart. No matter what. If I'm late, the bus is late, so it drives by as I go out. If I'm early, the bus is early, so it drives by as I go out. If I'm right on time, the bus is right on time, so... yeah. You get the point.

So I miss the bus coming out of Wal-mart. And the next bus doesn't come for...

half an hour.

So I left work at 4:40, and didn't get home until 6:50. Subtract an hour for bus waiting time, and I could have been home as early as 5:50 or 6, which isn't really that late. Instead, my whole evening was lost.

Monday, May 11

Airport TRAX and the Stimulus

The TRAX line to the Salt Lake International Airport has had its environmental impact study completed. The full text can be found here. I will read through it and let you know if I find anything interesting.

Also, Utah is one of only nine states to be receiving stimulus funds for their mass transit projects. Although it isn't "new" money (we'd have gotten it anyway), it is early, so UTA intends to accelerate work on the Mid-Jordan TRAX lines. The money is expected to support a total of 3200 jobs over the next several years. You can see an 'update' video here.

Frontrunner, which is a lot more expensive than regular transit, and only nominally cheaper than driving, has seen a significant drop in ridership lately, putting this months numbers well below projections.

Friday, May 8

Attention Please?

I think most people are aware, in truth, of the many problems out there. I think we're just too scared of acting, too scared of what the world could be like if people worked together. Too scared of a world that has never existed, to our (limited) knowledge. Too scared of Ponzi schemes and Communist bread lines.

But the question remains, how do we get the word out? Observe:
Is violence an answer? Would it get the word out? Would it wake people up?

Not to advocate terror, or terrorism, but what, exactly, should you do when you try and try and try to get the message out, and no one listens?

Keep trying? Keep watching corporate America flow around you, destroying not only the earth but also ourselves? Our once proud nation? Our once great nation? Clearly, some of the message is starting to leak out, but is recycling and wind power enough? Is cap and trade enough? Clearly our economic sector's method of handling things failed, but instead of replacing it, or finding alternate methods, they just keep on pouring money into it.

I'm very frustrated today, if you can't tell.

Surcharge on Bikes

Caltrain (the service that runs between San Francisco and San Jose) is going to start charging a bicycle surcharge fee, a major step that is going to anger a lot of people, but one that I think is actually a really good idea. Someone with a bicycle can easily ride almost as quickly as the bus, often playing leapfrog as the bus pulls ahead, then stops for passengers. They ride the bus, though, slowing it down considerably (mostly due to loading/unloading the bike). Worse, when there are already two bikes, the drivers will often allow a "third" to actually be on the bus.

My father has experience with this, and is probably half responsible for the policy, due to a letter to the editor he wrote years ago, complaining when the buses would only allow two riders.

I think, given the time difference and the amount of space they take up, that they should most definitely be allowed on. For a charge.

Oh, and expect a press release from UTA today, regarding the incoming stimulus money for the Mid Jordan Trax Line.

Thursday, May 7

Near Accident

If you haven't voted in the poll yet, please do so? Here is the post.

There is something fundamentally terrifying about the concept of a bus or train getting into a vehicular accident. You know that your vehicle will win (unless you go up a semi, and then the odds are less like a critical failure and more like a coin toss). You know that every single person on the bus will go flying, so the victory isn't remotely important, because people are still gonna die.

Normally, incidents like this are the fault of the other guy, but not today.

The driver pulled into the intersection before the light was green. And it wasn't a little bit before, it was almost a full minute before.

I was the only one on the bus, other than the driver.

The driver realized, and stopped, but was still ten feet out, so cars were shifting and honking as they hurtled past.

No caffeine for me this morning; I'm already wired, thanks!

Wednesday, May 6

Can I get a Press Pass?

Where do you draw the line?

In the amorphous world of blogs, journalism, and blog-o-journalism, where is the line between someone who blogs for a living and someone who writes articles for a living? Now, for some things, this is clear: blogs, no matter how factual, are written from a personal perspective. As a result, someone who runs a blog is less fact-oriented than you basic run-of-the-mill wire writer.

Once you get past the basic news, though, things aren't so simple, so cut and dry. Reviews, Editorials, Humor Columns, Advice Columns, and more all exist to bring in readership, and these are functions that many blogs cover (although generally in a more focused way). Can these guys get press passes? Maybe not for everything, but for a lot of things, absolutely. This is primarily because most places, including the government, aren't going to pass up the opportunity for free media coverage.

So when I see something that says:

If you are a member of the media, please contact:

Should I do so? Or should I simply use the other avenues?

Tuesday, May 5

Provo Whines about BRT

UTA is working with Utah Valley officials to determine the route of the Bus Rapid Transit that they are setting up down there. Unfortunately... they aren't willing to be flexible with Provo, and you can see why. (Story here).

Provo wants things rerouted, so that the BYU students go south, to their mall instead of North, to Orem's.

But let's be honest... University Mall is far superior.

So screw you, Provo! Stop your selfish whining! It makes sense for BRT to run down University Ave, and it doesn't make sense for it to run all the way to your crummy mall that gets all the freeway traffic anyway. And if you really want the money channeled the way you want it, YOU pay the $100K+ they would need to redraw a route and refile an environmental impact study.

Am I a raving lunatic?

I was riding the bus home yesterday, minding my own business, when this guy gets on the bus, and screams at the driver, "You NEED to make SURE you stop at that STOP." The driver apologizes, but he isn't fluent in English, so it comes out feeling a bit half-hearted, and the guy stomps down the aisle to the back of the bus. Figuring that was that, I went back to my book.

Not two minutes later, I hear behind me, "I'm on BUS 0119, and this DRIVER almost missed me. These guys DON'T care about US." The capitalized words were the ones he emphasized, even if they don't make sense that way. I almost feel like I should be adding periods between half the words, to take into consideration the way it sounded.

"I'm going to CALL customer service on THESE DRIVERS, because they don't CARE about the people who RIDE the bus."

So he finally finishes this conversation, and then he calls in customer service. To complain. About the bus he is sitting on! Every single other passenger had a miserable experience because this jerk called customer service while he was STILL ON THE BUS.

Then, he calls his friend back, "I talked to THEM. THEY don't care about US. I told him THESE drivers HAVE to pay ATTENTION. He almost missed ME. The JERK at customer SERVICE told me it WASN'T their FAULT, that they don't DO it on PURPOSE."

And he rants for another five minutes. And calls someone else. And rants all over again. I seriously wanted to go over, grab his phone, and fling it out the window, while telling him to shove it, that he CAUGHT the bus, and that he needs to learn some manners and at least wait until he is out of the situation before calling customer service.

But as I sat there, the thought sunk into my head, "Is this me?"

Am I like this? Do I sound like this when I'm angry? I complain about various aspects of the bus system from time to time; do others feel about me like they do about this guy?

Monday, May 4

First LONG car trip

So the Paladin took his long car trip, as we went down for a wedding in Manti (which was awesome and pretty and I got a super adorable picture of the Paladin in a suit, which makes him look three even though he is only 19 months). He drove down with his grandparents, and back home with us (and the photographer, my dad).

Given how rarely he is in the car in the first place (generally to and from grandparents, and that's about it), we were pretty concerned about it.

Needless to say, we didn't need to be. He took it all in stride, even us showing up late (apparently, Price isn't on the way to Ephraim, but is on the other side of a huge and impassable mountain range, through which no roads have been carved. Who knew?) and him waiting with two total strangers (siblings of the bride) who couldn't go in.

All in all, he was pretty much perfect.

Oh, and please vote in my poll, from the previous post?


Friday, May 1

Mega Swag Bucks and a Poster Poll

I won! I got ten swag bucks from one single search today!

I don't have a ton yet, but I'm getting there: I have 91.

I use this search function instead of google. Sometimes it doesn't work well enough, and I have to switch back to google for a minute, but for the most part, it works pretty well.

I'm saving up enough to "buy" a PS3. Seriously.

Today definitely helped.

You should go sign up too! Here is a link:

Search & Win

Also, I'm in the market for a Wall Poster for my cube. I'm considering the following. Vote for you favorite(s) in the poll on the left!







TRAX Wires, Bike Tires

UTA is upgrading the wiring for TRAX between May 3rd and May 9th. Be aware of these changes, as they will affect you if you take the train this week.

Special Schedules can be found here:
Weekday Schedule
Friday Schedule
Saturday Schedule
Sunday Schedule

Also, the 14th Bike Bonanza party thing will be held at the Gallivan Center on May 15th, from 4-8 PM. It includes a fashion show, food, and free giveaways, which is pretty cool. If you ride a lot, you should consider going. If you ride a little, definitely go. If you don't ride at all, and just drive your car? You HAVE to be there. You could win a free bike!

Also, go here for other Bike Month stuff going on in Utah.
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