Pollution solution? Think UTA

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  • UtahEngineer Sandy, UT
    Dec. 17, 2017 2:03 a.m.

    "You and I know we should do more about air quality, mainly by riding transit. " Mr. Bell has bought the UTA spin hook line and sinker! UTA carries only 1% of all trips on the Wasatch Front.

    "But it isn’t always convenient, ..cut... We need to do better."

    This is easy, Mr. Bell, Just review the values impressed on UTA by Legislative leaders Rep. Sam Taylor, Dem, and Senator Dixie Leavitt, Repub. at the initiation of the first 1/4 percent tax for UTA. By 1996, UTA had legitimately earned its APTA award for the best, most cost effective U.S bus system, With high ridership growth and low cost growth and a fair semblance of service equity between suburbs and Downtown SLC and great connectivity to 85% of homes being within 1/4 mile of a bus stop.

    Now all this has been flipped on its head with large areas of suburbs having nearly no connectivity via buses and SLC getting almost all the benefit of nearly $4 billion in rail investment, that should have gone to roads.

    " Los Angeles and Atlanta have taught us that you can’t build enough freeways to handle all the traffic. " This is another canard of transit scammers. Census data shows no work-trip gain by UTA since 1990.

  • RedShirtHarvard Cambridge, MA
    Dec. 15, 2017 4:11 p.m.

    To "marxist" Yes, a lesson can be learned from Bamberger Railroad. That is people in Utah don't want to ride the train. There is a reason why that service declared bankruptcy in 1933 then closed down in 1958. People didn't want to ride on a train, no matter how fast you thought it went from SLC to Ogden.

    It wasn't as fast as you remember either. Historians recorded it going 36.25 mph for the Flyer (express) and as slow as 27 mph.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 4:06 p.m.

    @2 bits: "Who gets rich when UTA builds a new TRAX Station?"

    UTA insiders who engage in insider trading. They know the routes well ahead of time. They can alter routes a block here or there if needed. They have the power to condemn if needed.

    They buy land on the cheap, then announce the new rail route and sell the land for the station at a premium.

    Or they spend taxpayer money buying equipment from vendors who have lavished trips and gifts on them.

    Additionally, a billion dollar budget seems to justify much higher salaries and retirement packages than does a 10 million budget. Why do UTA elite get paid so much more than agency or department heads at public safety, parks and recreation, UDOT, etc?

    "Where will your kids live?"

    Wherever the jobs are.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have jobs in Utah not along the Wasatch Front? Fillmore, Cedar, and Beaver are all wonderful places to live if only there was work. Ditto Price, Page, and a slew of towns along US 89.

    We have a big State with clean air off the WF. We just need some jobs someplace other than in the big bowl subject to inversions and perpetual traffic jams.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 1:13 p.m.

    RE: "I am old enough to remember the Bamberger Railroad"...
    Man... that's old.

    Bamberger Railroad was operational between 1908-1955 (before I was born). But it sounds like it was the cat's meow.

    But you don't have to go back to 1955 to remember when SLC had the FINEST electric interurban railway in the country.

    UTA was named "Transit System of the year" in 2014.

    Google "Utah Transit Authority Named Transit System of the Year | 2014-07-02"...

    So maybe we're not as bad as some people think.


    Simon Bamberger was an interesting man.

    -4th Governor of Utah.
    -First Jewish Governor of Utah (3rd Jewish Governor of any State, after Idaho and California).
    -Very Progressive (for his time). But not a Marxist. Very "Capitalist" entrepreneur before politics.

    Quite a man.

  • Thomas Thompson Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 11:56 a.m.

    And you, Greg Bell. Do you use transit regularly to get from place to place? Why or why not?

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 11:33 a.m.

    I am old enough to remember the Bamberger Railroad. That outfit, according to transportation history scholars was the FINEST electric interurban railway in the country! Why? First, it was of course all electric. It was fast, maintaining 70 mph speeds over many areas. It offered easy access, making many stops including flag stops. It got to Ogden in 1 hour with as many as 20 stops! Also Bamberger hauled freight - lots of it - so it had a diverse revenue stream. Moreover, the bulk of population in Davis County was close to the Bamberger line.

    Can any lessons be learned? Bamberger was private sector with a hands on management which believed in railroading. Bamberger by all accounts was a humane place to work (and was union). Public transit should focus on TRAX expansion - lots of it - getting out to where people live. Also UTA might establish a working relationship with now present Genessee and Wyoming freight operators for a cooperative freight agreement giving TRAX a diverse revenue stream like Bamberger had.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 10:19 a.m.

    RE: "Another $B in mass transit won't materially reduce pollution or congestion. But some insiders will get rich on the taxpayers' backs"...
    Who gets rich when UTA builds a new TRAX Station?

    UTA managers don't get paid more. No UTA employee gets paid more if they expand TRAX. They hire some new drivers, but they don't get rich, they get paid what the existing drivers get paid.

    This sounds mostly like paranoia.

    But is it true?

    The people who get paid to build a TRAX station are the contractors UTA pays to build it and their employees who do the work.

    What's so dreadful about that?

    Indeed (Job site) says UTA managers are paid less than Managers in other cities. They don't get paid by the number of TRAX stations they install. So building new ones doesn't make them rich.


    RE: "Stop encouraging new businesses to locate along Wasatch Front"...
    So... where are your kids going to work?

    Where will your kids live?

    Where will your next job be?

    Even if people don't move here, we need job growth.

    It's short-sighted and self-centered to say "don't encourage new companies to locate here".

    Even if nobody moves here we need job growth.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 9:34 a.m.

    @What in Tucket "It costs about $1.20 per passenger mile on Trax. About $0.75 for buses, and $0.40 per mile for cars. That is why we see less public transportation. "

    First, public transit use is at a 30 year high. As for costs, costs to whom? And what is included in your cost figures? Your figures likely do not include costs of environmental degradation occasioned by commuting with cars. Also your TRAX figure likely includes debt amortization as light rail is expensive to build. And of course costs of car accidents including the cost of life lost is not included in your data.

    I wish I had more time right now to research this. Could you tell me now what is included in your figures and where you got them?

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 8:50 a.m.

    UTA is one solution. It's not the only solution.

    We can also car-pool (if you live in an area not well served by UTA). We can also make other adjustments in our life. But I don't know how a Legislature can fix air pollution, even if we elected a Democrat majority.

    I ride UTA every weekday (TRAX and Bus). It works for me. Doesn't mean it works for everybody.

    And I have no illusions that buses don't burn fossil fuels. The do. They burn a LOT of fuel (way more than your car or the biggest SUV). But they also carry more people than your car/SUV. That's why they are better.

    Same with FrontRunner. It burns diesel fuel. A LOT of it.

    Some assume TRAX doesn't run on fossil fuel or pollute the air because they use electricity. Well that's a false assumption. Currently the electricity it uses is generated by burning gas or coal (in traditional power plants).

    But it's still better than everybody driving their own car to work. Especially downtown SLC (where the daily working population is huge). Without mass transit SLC would be unlivable by now.

    So... we are doing what we can. But we need to do more.

    TRAX, Bus, FrontRunner... They all pollute. But pollute less.

  • at long last. . . Kirksville , MO
    Dec. 15, 2017 7:47 a.m.

    Of course Bell is right that UTA could be a significant part of solving the pollution problem. However, it will never happen because of the growth of population in the valley and the desirability of having a car for mobility purposes. Also, personal vehicles are very economically efficient compared to UTA. A better and more realistic answer is to reduce pollution from individual vehicles.

    The best answer is to change the mindset of Utahns and their government that growth in everything is the right model to follow. We should be more concerned with the valley quality of life, rather than economic growth. We have sufficient business opportunities and ample population in the SL valley to sustain a great life here - if we change the mindset on the 'growth' model.

  • What in Tucket Provo, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 7:04 a.m.

    It costs about $1.20 per passenger mile on Trax. About $0.75 for buses, and $0.40 per mile for cars. That is why we see less public transportation. When I was a boy in Chicago before and during WWII Chicago had the longest railroad in the world. 50% of people rode the street cars.
    Trump has put us into a much lower unemployment rate, wages are going up, the stock market is out of sight. This means fewer riders on public transportation. Since those who do not use public transportation pay 80-90% of the cost of public transportation, a lot of us are skeptical of Government officials claims.
    To reduce pollution I would suggest converting govt vehicles to natural gas.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 12:53 a.m.

    And anyone who reads my comments regularly would know that I very much think global warming is a significant problem, as is the local air quality issues during inversion events. I don't make my last post to suggest we should scrap public transit, but rather to express that we aren't where we need to be to make it work anywhere nearly as well as it does in many other cities in the world. If it were convenient people would be willing to use it. Right now it's convenient for some scenarios, but not for many others.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 12:49 a.m.

    I don't have a vehicle so when I would take the bus/train to get to my job it would take about 12 minutes to walk to the train (including being there a couple minutes early so that I don't have to wait an extra 15 for missing it), about 20 minutes on TRAX, a 5 minute wait for the bus, and then about 15 minutes on the bus. 52 minutes. Throwing that same commute into google maps gives 20 minutes. About a 2.5x multiplier. On the plus side I got a lot of reading done the last few months. But that's about it.

    Taking the bus to the university, well that's a straight shot, walk a block to the stop and then take the bus up there directly. Not much time lost there. When it's direct it's great but otherwise it's definitely a time drain.

  • DontTR3@DonM3 Tooele, UT
    Dec. 15, 2017 12:33 a.m.

    I find myself in a rare agreement with Impartial here as well.

    Trax was only useful to me when I was a student at the U. But living in Tooele and working in West Jordan from 8 - 5 leaves much to be desired from a public transit standpoint.

    Driving myself, my commute is about 34 miles/45 minutes. Mapping it on the UTA website increases my commute to 103 minutes and takes me through downtown, with 4 transfers. That's just for the morning commute, not including the 1.5 miles I'd have to walk from my last stop to my place of employment.

    Not worth it.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 11:54 p.m.

    @No One of Consequence "I rode UTA for an extended period. My house is on a UTA route, as was my office. It was a horrible waste of time to spend that much more time commuting so I wrote an 80,000 word novel while riding, with revisions."

    Way to go! Now, say you were commuting during rush hours. Could you have written that novel while crawling up or down I-15? I've done that and it is a nightmare. And how about the time you waste crawling along during those rush hours? Speaking for myself I will do just about anything to avoid the experience. TRAX/bus is the realistic alternative for me.

    Do you remember the late PSC commissioner Sam Taylor? He said we have a problem making rational transport decisions because we will not, refuse to, include loss of life and limb due to traffic accidents. Nor do we calculate risk of same. As I get older driving gets riskier and riskier. I'm more than glad for the UTA alternative.

  • No One Of Consequence West Jordan, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 10:16 p.m.

    @marxist "Those.who.dismiss TRAX must never ride it. It is fast efficient frequent transportation."

    I rode UTA for an extended period. My house is on a UTA route, as was my office. It was a horrible waste of time to spend that much more time commuting so I wrote an 80,000 word novel while riding, with revisions.

    But then UTA opened the Utah County extension of FrontRunner and decided that bus riders didn't need to get home if they left their place of employment after 5:00 PM, so they reduced service at night, especially on the west side of Salt Lake County. Suddenly I could only use UTA if I drove to the station, increasing the cost of the commute.

    The problem with public transit is that it is not run for the benefit of the public. It does not serve most of the public who pay taxes to support it but it does serve select developers, schools and businesses. It reminds me of the story of the old farmer who was asked for directions. He shook his head and replied, "You can't get there from here."

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 8:45 p.m.

    Those.who.dismiss TRAX must never ride it. It is fast efficient frequent transportation. I ride.it 4.times.per.week.

  • No One Of Consequence West Jordan, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 7:02 p.m.

    UTA decimated the almost-adequate bus system to build rail, which is dedicated to raising property values for "walkable communities". Now they have a system that gives good service to a few, poor service to a few and no service to the rest, but all must pay taxes to support it.

    It's time to rethink the whole system.

    Rail is so 90's (that's 1890s). It is a terrible waste of time to force multiple transfers on people in a hurry. Sell the hobbby-railroad to the developers of the "walkable communities" and concentrate on flexible modes of transportation.

    Big buses are not practical either when your competition includes digitally-dispatched ride-sharing drivers in hybrids. Think point-to-point, no-transfer van-share, powered by natural gas.

    Public transit has many problems, including the dangers presented by waiting for buses and trains. There is a better way.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 6:36 p.m.

    I'm with Impartial on this. My time is no less valuable to me than Mr. Bell's is to him, or the UTA board's is to them. In fact, my time may be more valuable to me since I lack the financial ability to hire people to do a bunch of my menial chores for me. So an hour a day wasted on UTA is an hour lost. Fortunately, I no longer have to deal with Wasatch Front traffic on a daily basis.

    But, more importantly, UTA does not reduce either congestion or pollution. Utah carries no more than 3% of commuter trips daily. Let's say it carries even 5%. That is a negligible reduction in automobile trips, especially for the $1,000 Million ($1Billion) plus that has been poured into fixed rail.

    Want to improve air quality?

    Spend $1.5 billion on converting cars to compressed natural gas. That will cover 500,000 cars.

    Stop encouraging new businesses to locate along the Wasatch Front. Even just along I-15, it is a big empty State between Cedar City and Nephi. A lot of that area is not subject to inversions. Spread out a little.

    Another $B in mass transit won't materially reduce pollution or congestion. But some insiders will get rich on the taxpayers' backs. Do something different.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    Dec. 14, 2017 5:20 p.m.

    Make you a deal, Greg. YOU ride UTA to work and around for 60 days (most UTA board members say "it's not convenient for them") and get back to us. My commute, from Draper to SLC is 17 miles and about 30 minutes. Taking a UTA bus to TRAX and another UTA bus to the office takes 1.6 hours and costs much more than my gallon of gas. When you have a usable system, regular commuters will flock to it. Until then, please stop spending time and money on promotion (we all know it's here) and fix the system to make it commuter friendly.