Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Draper TRAX line essentially finished, reports Tribune

Tribune photo
Here's an interesting story about what it takes to get a TRAX line up and running after construction. Read the story at The Salt Lake Tribune.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Brilliant idea: raise fares

Hey, the system's working so well since change day -- southbound FrontRunner's been on time to the North Temple station two out of eight times on my weekday runs, meaning I miss my bus and have to make trnsfers -- that UTA poobahs have decided to hike fares. Read about it at The Salt Lake Tribune.

A snippet:

Just after 10 anti-poverty and environmental groups asked the Utah Transit Authority board Wednesday to work toward lower fares to increase ridership, cut pollution and assist the poor, the board adopted a final 2013 budget that counts on an already approved 6 percent fare hike.

That will raise regular one-way fares from $2.35 to $2.50 for bus and TRAX trips beginning April 1 and is the last of several fare-hike steps approved last year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Interesting Tribune story about TRAX ridership

From The Salt Lake Tribune:
"The new West Valley City and Mid-Jordan TRAX lines are still carrying far fewer riders now — 16 months after they opened — than projections estimated they would attract when they first began operation.
"Critics say that means Utah Transit Authority made a big error with its estimates and raises questions about whether the agency can really afford to operate them and other new rail lines." Read the rest here.

Change day + 4&5

Thursday was perfection for my commute. FR on time, the 516 bus waiting at North Temple. And the same on the return route. Only disappointment was no Comet car.

But today, Friday, I'm seated in a Comet on the way to SLC. I'll update later on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The streak continues

First train to Clearfield is due at 5:31. Actual arrival time: 5:37.

Thanks, UTA.

UPDATE: Got off the FR at North Temple and a 516 bus was still waiting. As I was walking up to board, the driver closed the door and began pulling away. A UTA employee basically threw herself in front of the bus to get the driver to stop so I could board, and had to tell him to wait until passengers had cleared the "ramp."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The D-News reports on UTA lobbying

According to the Deseret News, UTA spent a bundle on lobbying the past four years:

SALT LAKE CITY — When the Utah Legislature convenes next month, one publicly funded agency will have as many as eight lobbyists bending lawmakers' ears on Capitol Hill.

The Utah Transit Authority spends more on in-state lobbying than any local government entity. From 2008 through September 2012, UTA contracts with state lobbyists totaled nearly $1.3 million, according to figures provided by the agency. On average, it pays out about $260,000 a year.

Another delay day

First train of the morning at Clearfield FrontRunner station heading south? Seven minutes late. But, I'm sitting comfortably in a Comet car.

We'll probably miss connections at North Temple. I'll update later.

FR rolled into the North Temple station at 7:09 a.m., so the 516 bus had already rolled (empty, I assume) and the 500 left as the train was pulling into the station -- that had a number of fellow passengers hopping mad.

I grabbed a 209 to City Creek, then waited for a 500 to my stop at 300 South State.

Again, I emphasize: People were angry at the North Temple FR station bus stop.

Monday, December 10, 2012

FrontRunner South's opening day headaches

I was willing to forgive when it came to mix-ups and a littlechaos on the day Utah Transit Authority began FrontRunner service south toProvo. The opening of the new North Temple station and others south of SaltLake Central necessitated all manner of bus-route and even TRAX-train reroutingand schedule changes. I get that.

Still, I’ve been riding FrontRunner to downtown Salt LakeCity for more than four years, and despite questions and complaints fromsqueaky wheels like me, there are some things the UTA simply refuses to getright.

From what I read in the paper, the people who manage UTA arehighly paid for their expertise. Indeed, their competence is offered as thechief defense of what some observers view as outsized pay and benefits andretirement packages. Good for them; I wouldn’t turn down a raise, either.

Given all that superiority in the transit-agency-managing profession:

  • Why is there no mid-platform crosswalk at Salt Lake Central Station? It would allow customers departing incoming buses to cross the east set of FrontRunner tracks to board a train awaiting them on the west FrontRunner tracks. There’s a crosswalk at the Farmington station. At Salt Lake Central, those trying to connect between buses and FrontRunner at or near departure times must sprint half the length of the platform, or wait 15, 30 or 60 minutes for the next connection, depending on the desired bus or train route. I’ve asked UTA’s “station hosts” at Salt Lake Central about the lack of a crosswalk. They’ve all said it was supposed to be done long ago. With all due respect to UTAmanagement, why has the agency been able to construct hundreds of millions ofdollars’ worth of rail lines to Utah County but neglected to install a simplecrosswalk?
  • And why do buses – empty ones, at that -- at various FrontRunner stations pull away just as the commuter train is pulling into the station, forcing passengers to miss connections and wait? Instead, the buses should be queued up in a line waiting for FrontRunner passengers to disembark.
  • I have more complaints, but I’ll conclude with this one, which is specific to my weekday experience on FrontRunner between the Clearfield and Salt Lake Central stations: Why do full southbound trains sometimes have to pull over on a Centerville siding and stop to wait for nearly empty northbound trains in the morning? It creates a five-minute delay that causes us to miss bus and TRAX connections at the North Temple and Salt Lake Central stations, further lengthening our commute. Just as puzzling and frustrating is the habit of northbound afternoon-drive-time trains, full of passengers, parking at the same Centerville siding while nearly empty southbound trains fly by.
If UTA’s goal is to move as many people as quickly andefficiently as possible, that goal is too frequently not being achieved. On“change day,” Dec. 10, I asked a good-humored UTA employee assigned to work theNorth Temple station’s bus stop why my 516 bus pulled away before FrontRunnerarrived. “I don’t know,” he answered, “because they’re not supposed to.” Thenwe chatted for a few moments in the pre-dawn cold as I pelted him with more ofmy complaints, none of which he could speak to with authority. He was polite; Ihope I was, too.

“If I try this stop again tomorrow, will that 516 bus waitfor the train?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I hope so.”

I hope so, too.

UPDATE, 6:20 p.m.:
The 516 bus arrived on time, but the 6 p.m. FrontRunner was 20 minutes late. Had a very pleasant chat with a UTA employee on the North Temple platform, though, who said he'd seen several trains with Comet cars in the four-passenger-car setup. I hope they begin including them as a matter of course. He said the learning curve for Utah County riders has not been steep and it's been difficult to get them on and off the trains in a hurry.

Now we're parked at Woods Cross awaiting a southbound train.