Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grim story at the D-News

The Deseret News has a story about a body being found near FrontRunner tracks in Sunset:
SUNSET — The body of a woman apparently hit by a train was found near railroad tracks Thursday morning.

Just after 9 a.m., a passenger on a FrontRunner train spotted what was believed to be a body along the side of the tracks at an intersection near 2400 North.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Of dead trains and crowded cars ...

Caught the 4:27 p.m. FrontRunner home today, and we had to wait on the Centerville siding for a southbound train. But it wasn't the usual reason -- instead, it was because the 3:57 northbound train had broken down in Farmington, and all those poor folks had to wait, I guess, 30 minutes on the platform for our train to arrive so they could continue their journey northward.

The good news: Our driver told us what was going on -- that the train ahead of us had broken down and we needed to make room for the other passengers. This is progress, in my book: actually telling us why things aren't happening they way they're supposed to.

Thanks, UTA. That's a good thing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Behind the scenes regarding UTA-university negotiations

There's an interesting Deseret News story about how UTA and Beehive State colleges and universities arrive at prices for students' transit passes. In the past, evidently, UTA negotiated yearly prices/contracts individually with each school -- which sunds great for UTA, but lousy for the schools who don't have tough negotiators.

But the really interesting tidbit was reporter Geoff Fattah's report that UTA's ridership is 25 percent students. Wow, that's a lot.

The story is packed with lots of terrific numbers and information. Here's a sampling:

UTA to ditch Pleasant View FrontRunner connection?

The Standard-Examiner has a bit of bad news concerning FrontRunner service to the Top of Utah: "UTA may cut FrontRunner runs, increase bus service in Pleasant View."

The Pleasant View line always has been the bastard child of the FR line, as the story notes:
The station was supposed to open along with the rest of the line in April 2008, but UTA couldn't maintain right of way in the area and had to share the stretch of track with Union Pacific.

Improvements that needed to be made to the shared stretch of track were delayed when railroad workers were diverted to repair tracks damaged by a landslide in Oregon.

The Pleasant View leg of FrontRunner was finally completed Sept. 29, 2008, nearly six months after the rest of the line.

Tribune: 'Salt Lake City announces clean-air challenge winners'

The Salt Lake Tribune has a brief about Salt Lake City's "Clear the Air Challenge" award winners.
"Since the Clear the Air Challenge began in 2009, Utahns have saved a total of 3.6 million vehicle miles and 6.2 million pounds of emissions," Becker said in a news release. "This is not the end of the road to help clear the air, but rather a congratulatory milestone to encourage us to reduce even more vehicle emissions for a sustainable future." 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

'Mommy bloggers' and families take first rides aboard new TRAX line

Salt Lake Tribune photo
A story at The Salt Lake Tribune details the demonstration ride aboard TRAX for an invited group: so-called "mommy bloggers."
Showing how important social media have become, the first public demonstration ride on the new Mid-Jordan TRAX line Friday went to families of "mommy bloggers," who write online about parenting and children’s activities.

"These are some of Utah’s top bloggers," said Tauni Everett, who handles social media for the Utah Transit Authority. "They are read all over the state — and the nation. We hope they will advertise train safety for kids and parents."

Everett said bloggers will help spread the word about the new Mid-Jordan and West Valley City TRAX lines that begin service on Aug. 7.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tribune news story: 'UTA looks to future transit growth'

A story at The Salt Lake Tribune today notes the UTA board is peering into the future, as best it can, in an effort to guide its planning in the years ahead.
Allegra said if the UTA and developers encourage more “transit-oriented development,” or building residences where people can walk to bus and train stops, it could fuel much of that growth in transit use. Land use plans adopted by regional planning agencies are pushing that idea more as a way to handle housing and transportation needs amid future growth.

Perlich encouraged UTA to reach out more to young people and ethnic groups as it plans its future to ensure that it meets their needs. Allegra said UTA is in good position to help handle that with plans for expanded TRAX, commuter rail, new streetcars, bus-rapid transit, express buses and traditional bus service.

Today's Tribune editorial criticizes firing of state archaeologists

"Valuing History" is the headline on a Tribune house editorial today. The paper's editorial board comes out swinging against the state's "vindictive" action on behalf of development-loving politicos and private business interests. It's a worthwhile argument to be made, but does anyone believe it will get those jobs back? Didn't think so.
The positions of state archaeologist Kevin Jones and assistants Derinna Kopp and Ronald Rood were eliminated, not only to save money, but to settle scores. The three had become an annoyance to some of the powerful people in the Legislature, governor’s office and the Utah Transit Authority, and they had opposed powerful real estate developers.

It seems they became targets after they fought a proposed site of a new FrontRunner station in Draper when it was discovered also to be the location of an ancient American Indian village. It was a major archaeological find, the earliest known example of corn cultivation in the Great Basin. The three pushed to get the station relocated, raising the ire of Terry Diehl, who was a member of the UTA Board of Trustees and, at the same time, an owner of a real estate company that wanted to locate transit-related developments at the original site.

Powerful people tend to be vindictive. Now this trio of knowledgeable scientists is off the state payroll, and the state is the poorer for it.

Tribune editorializes on TRAX safety

I missed it last month, but The Salt Lake Tribune's editorial board offered its collective opinion on the subject of train safety in a house editorial. It's headlined, "Watch for Trains."

It concludes:
On the West Valley line, drivers will have to learn to share the road with trains. On the Mid-Jordan line, where the trains will operate in their own rights of way, pedestrians and drivers will have to be vigilant at crossings.

Experience shows that when new lines open, there is a rash of accidents until people become familiar with the new hazard. We hope that last week’s death will warn people to take extraordinary care around the new TRAX lines.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tribune: 'Bus from Salt Lake City to Park City — will it work financially?'

The Salt Lake Tribune has a piece on the possibility of UTA extending service to Park City.
For decades, folks in Park City have wished for mass transit over Parleys Summit and down into the Salt Lake Valley. But now that one is set to arrive in October, the financial outlook for the public bus route remains unclear.

Deseret News: 'Businesses still patient during TRAX construction'

Deseret News photo
The Deseret News has its own version of a story about the North Temple viaduct project that previously ran in the Tribune.
SALT LAKE CITY — Businesses along North Temple have been in "survival mode" for months — trying to hold out through the next 12 months of projected construction that will eventually produce a new light-rail line and revitalize the corridor between 300 West and Salt Lake City International Airport.

And by various accounts, many local business owners have struggled to stay afloat.

Tribune: 'TRAX moves to color coding'

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that UTA has begun color-coding its TRAX lines.
The Utah Transit Authority has decided what new “color name” to attach to each of its TRAX lines. Not surprisingly, the line that travels to the University of Utah will become the red line.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tribune's story about North Temple viaduct adds info on new Airport TRAX-FrontRunner connection

Admittedly, I haven't been paying close attention to the progress of the airport TRAX line. So it was a surprise to read in The Salt Lake Tribune this morning that, as reporter Lee Davidson writes,
The $71 million viaduct will include a transfer station between TRAX trains that will stop atop the bridge, and FrontRunner commuter trains that will stop beneath it. “The stops will be connected by escalators,” [UTA spokesman Gerry] Carpenter said.

Cool FrontRunner photo

Found a cool FrontRunner photo on the Web today here. It's by a photographer named James Belmont. Makes me want to find more.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tribune: 'Salt Lake cops: TRAX station-area death was homicide'

At The Salt Lake Tribune:
Salt Lake City police are investigating the death of a 27-year-old man early Thursday as a homicide.

Salt Lake City Fire Department dispatchers received a 911 from Utah Transit Authority at 12:07 a.m. Thursday reporting a severely injured man down in the area of the TRAX train station at 350 W. South Temple.

UTA refuses atheist organization's ads

The American Humanist Association posted notice on its website that UTA has refused to carry ads by the United Coalition of Reason.
The proposed advertisement, which was submitted to UTA, included the text: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” UTA claimed that the advertisement did not meet its advertising policy. “Consistent with our policy,” UTA told UnitedCoR, “we don’t allow message ads from non-governmental organizations.”

UTA: Information on handicap access to new TRAX trains

As I ride FrontRunner, buses and TRAX each day, I notice a lot of people who use wheelchairs, walkers and the like accessing public transit. UTA just posted a page explaining the improved handicap access to its newest TRAX trains here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tribune: '10600 South to close this weekend'

A section of busy 10600 South in Sandy will be closed this weekend as Utah Transit Authority construction crews work on the future Draper TRAX line.

FOX13: UTA tests TRAX safety measures along Mid-Jordan line

At FOX13, there's a story about UTA testing the newly modified safety measures on the Mid-Jordan TRAX line. Read it here.

Watch the video here:

'Dangerous West Side Improvements' -- Letter to Salt Lake City Weekly

An SLC Weekly reader says during the North Temple viaduct project, she's seen adults "climbing over" trains to get to and from downtown to work and shop.
Almost every day when school was in session, the students from West High had to wait up to 45 minutes for a Union Pacific train on 300 North that had their only path home blocked, or they could chance climbing over it. When U.P. offered to split the bill with the city to build an overhead walkway, our city couldn’t afford it. Countless times, on my way to get to TRAX, or downtown to work, I’ve been late. Although I consider my self too clumsy to attempt it, I’ve seen many adults climbing over trains on 600 West. 600 West is the only way in and out of our neighborhood to get to public transportation, to get to our jobs. There aren’t even any sidewalks for a block in this urban neighborhood.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tribune headline: 'Utah ex-official alleges retribution behind layoff'

At The Salt Lake Tribune, there's a story quoting a former state official who says he was fired for not helping to develop a FrontRunner station -- and associated building and infrastructure -- at an important archaeological site in Draper.

Another former state official says he was laid off — more than two years ago — for getting in the way of plans to develop an ancient Indian village archaeological site for a Draper commuter rail station.

Friday, July 1, 2011

New TRAX trains in service July 7, etc.

RailwayAge reports that,

Some TRAX passengers in Salt Lake City and vicinity will begin riding Siemens S70 light rail transit cars Thursday, July 7, as the cars begin entering revenue service. The S70s will enter limited service on direct trains that operate from Fashion Place Station (6400 South) in Murray to the University of Utah Medical Center Station on weekdays. The new trains will be featured on 10 northbound and 10 southbound trips each day.
The Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines are scheduled to open Aug. 7 and will operate exclusively with the new vehicles.
Those of us who frequently ride the downtown TRAX lines will find interesting:
UTA notes the S70 vehicles are low-floor cars that allow riders to board straight from the platform without climbing stairs.

I'm just curious as to whether the new trains work with existing platforms at established stations. I'm guessing they do, but maybe not.

And at The Salt Lake Tribune: "TRAX replacing broken electronic sign system"

When electronic signs at TRAX stations were new, they displayed when the next trains would arrive. But they quit working, and have been little more than digital clocks amid such problems as not being able to obtain replacement parts.
"The old signs had reached the end of their life cycle. We couldn’t get replacement parts. Support was not available. Some of the [companies] that built the original system had gone out of business," said UTA spokesman Gerry Carpenter.
He said UTA found that because of such problems, the old signs would not be compatible with new signs it is installing on the new Mid-Jordan and West Valley City lines (scheduled to open on Aug. 7) and other extensions that are under construction to Draper and Salt Lake City International Airport.
So UTA decided to install a new sign system. It has removed the old signs on the existing Sandy and University of Utah lines.

Carpenter said new signs will be installed at the older stations over the next several months. Transfer and high-traffic stations will receive them first, and they will be added at other stations as crews and resources are available, he said.
The Deseret News reports on a new UTA board member: Troy Walker, a Draper city councilman.

And a press release notes that:

Lawson Products, Inc., an industrial distributor of more than 300,000 maintenance and repair solutions, was awarded a three-year contract to supply all of the Utah Transit Authority's (UTA) fastener needs. As per the agreement, Lawson Products will provide a minimum of 2,500 different fastener products including bolts, hex head cap screws, miniature fasteners, nuts, screws, socket products and washers to the multi-modal transportation leader that will be used for ongoing train track, rail car and bus maintenance.
Finally, at KCPW: "Salt Lake-Park City Bus Route Slated for October Launch"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rail to Jeremy's Ranch?

The editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune takes a wise position: Instead of adding a freeway lane up Parley's Canyon, why not work with UTA to create an express bus route or -- even better -- a rail line to Jeremy's Ranch?

"Summit County officials have said they would be open to putting a sales-tax measure on the ballot to fund UTA service. But nobody seems to be seriously considering that sensible approach to dealing with growth."

Test runs on the Mid-Jordan TRAX lines have been delayed

The Utah Transit Authority is again delaying resumption of test runs on its new Mid-Jordan TRAX line as it considers how to avoid accidents like the one that killed a 15-year-old in West Jordan on June 8.

Let's try this again

OK, I got sidetracked (pun!) a while back, but maybe this time I'll stick to it. Like I said: not so much to complain as to offer news and maybe a viewpoint now and then.

So, what got me blogging again? Two passenger cars on this morning's FR train to SLC. Most mornings, I take the 6:31 from Clearfield to Salt Lake Central. There are typically three Bombardier (the double-decker) cars in the morning. Today, only two. And one of the cars was a bicycle car, meaning one whole side of the downstairs compartment on my car was devoid of seats.

I stood to allow a couple of women to sit (I'm always surprised more men don't offer their seats). No big deal, but as I wrote in an email to UTA later in the day, it would have been nice to hear why we had only two cars. There was a train host aboard, but he made himself scarce. And the driver offered only that there had been a "malfunction" that left our train with only two cars.

I believe UTA could reduce most of the passenger frustration simply by offering as much information as possible. The host should have been telling everyone aboard exactly what went wrong. Lots of people around me were complaining; information would have silenced them and let us know what had happened.

This is quite common. When the trains sometimes start out of a station, then stop-start-stop-start even when no other train is approaching, we should know why. Most of us have schedules to keep, and it's a courtesy that's not too much to ask to be informed what's going on.