Wednesday, June 11, 2008

UTA Pollutes. Now, More than Ever with FrontRunner

Give a cheer for those earnest, high polluting, folks over at UTA.

They claim to reduce dangerous pollution.

But, FrontRunner actually makes ozone and fine particulate worse.

UTA lied through their teeth in their environmental impact statements for both FrontRunner extensions by refusing to reveal the huge jumps in NOx they cause.

That is a NEPA requirement. NEPA is National Environmental Policy Act.

After full system developed, FrontRunner trains will likely burn over 4 million gallons of diesel a year.

They will dump an added 400 to 500 tons of NOx into our air each year, (beyond reductions from car/truck emissions and bus “economies”).

The big jump in FrontRunner pollution will wipe out many times over whatever small reductions in NOx that might come from new light rail lines.

A similar analysis for UTA Bus-caused NOx was uncovered by the recent legislative audit of UTA. They said that the small reductions in NOx from TRAX and Vanpools was wiped out by a large excess of NOx from buses. (Audit page 85)

"UTA is a net polluter of NOx,” the report said. 185 tons of net NOx emissions increase.

Now, thanks to FrontRunner, UTA is an even bigger net polluter of NOx than before, hundreds of tons worse.

There were two Alternatives to diesel-guzzling FrontRunner:

DMU cars. These have small diesel engines in each car and can be linked up into trains. This alternative was rejected while UTA was blinded by its own counting mistakes about the “fantastic” TRAX success. They went for really big capacity.

NOx pollution and diesel consumption 75% less than with locomotive-pulled trains. Over 50% cost savings.

Electric locomotives with electric catenaries (wires) above the tracks, like TRAX.

This was how our fine electric interurban trains on the same route were powered nearly a century ago: Bamberger and Orem Lines.

Costs a lot more in the short run, but saves in long run.

Saves burning over 200 million gallons of diesel fuel next 50 years.

Save diesel cost that will greatly exceed $1 billion!

Saves thousands of tons of NOx and pollution.

Saves tens of million$ for expensive diesel locomotive rebuilds and pollution control equipment

UTA got itself into this mess with its eyes wide shut!

Michael T. Packard

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Four fallacies of "transit-oriented development"

This Web only Speakout has not been edited.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

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As the Regional Transportation District has expanded its rail lines through Denver's southeast corridor and looks forward to "FasTracks" expansion along several other corridors westward, northward, and eastward, the planning mantra for development along these corridors has become "transit-oriented development" (TOD).

According to Denver's Office of Economic Development, some fifty-one of fifty-seven planned light rail stations "have TOD potential with eighteen of those sites containing ten acres or more."

In the TOD planners' vision of Denver's future, tens of thousands of people will flock to high-density housing to live, play, and shop near rail stations where they can leave their cars behind and join the happy world of carbonless commuters. To achieve this Nirvana, of course, many current homeowners and business people will have to be bought out, removed by eminent domain, or otherwise displaced to make room for the developers.

This developer's dream seems to have widespread, unquestioning support among elected officials at every level in Denver and Colorado. It's time to debunk a few of main tenets of TOD

Tenet #1 - TOD will encourage a return to the city and discourage suburban sprawl. This, of course, is utter nonsense. Historically, by making it easy to get in and out of the city center, transit lines have had the opposite effect. The development of rail lines and their relationship to suburban growth has been studied to death in Boston, New York, and Chicago. And, yes, even the Denver Tramway Company fed the growth of Englewood and Littleton, just as RTD will feed the continued growth of southeast Denver.

Tenet #2 - Ecologically sound, high-density TOD housing is the "wave of the future." Sorry planners, this is Colorado, not Washington DC or New York. What we have here is space and the desire for single-family home ownership. Relatively cheap land and housing lie outside the city. That has always been true in Colorado and will continue to be true. Those who buy into TOD housing will constitute no more than a drop in the population bucket of the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area.

Tenet #3 - TOD will get us out of our cars and cut pollution. Suppose by 2020 we're driving nonpolluting electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles. What then becomes of this argument? How important is it that we get out of our cars? Moreover, in this sprawling metropolitan area, RTD will never have the money or rolling stock necessary to adequately cover the area with dependable, frequent bus service feeding into rail lines. This is Denver, not Boston or New York. We'll still need our cars.

Tenet #4 - TOD will create great, walkable, liveable communities. High-density residences tend to be populated by people with weak ties to their surrounding neighborhood, while those living in low-density housing tend to take greater pride in their property, know their neighbors, and participate more in every aspect of neighborhood life. Of course, this is a broad generalization, but it is also an accurate generalization fully studied by urban sociologists.

One further observation: Wherever the lines between elected officials and developers intersect, one will find unsavory influence, favoritism, and, ultimately, corruption. Denver cannot escape this fact of political life. Let us tread warily toward a future filled with TOD.

Allan Ferguson, a resident of Denver, is a neighborhood activist leading opposition to a proposed high-rise development at University Light Rail Station.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Light Rail Doesn't Work

by Randal O'Toole

Randal O'Toole is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of Great Rail Disasters: The Impact of Rail Transit on Urban Livability.
Added to on September 11, 2007
This article appeared online at Ottawa Citizen on August 22, 2007.

I have always loved trains, and if light-rail transit worked, I would be the first to support it.

So it is with some dismay that I review the sorry record of transit in Canadian and U.S. cities that have built light-rail lines. For the most part, light rail has increased congestion, harmed transit riders, and wasted taxpayers' money.
Even so, there seems to be a consensus among politicians of all stripes in Ottawa that light rail is necessary, and the only debate left is how to implement it.
But let's look at what light rail can and cannot do.
1. Light rail can spend lots of tax dollars.
Rail construction is extremely costly, so it is a great way for politicians to reward favoured contractors. Siemens, the company that is suing Ottawa over the cancelled north-south light-rail line, is obviously more interested in getting lucrative contracts than in improving your transportation network. If you are a taxpayer, hold onto your wallet: between cost overruns, high maintenance costs, and endless proposals for new rail lines, your costs will never end.
2. Light rail cannot get a lot of people out of their cars.
Studies show that transit riders care more about frequencies and speeds than about whether the vehicle they ride has rubber tires or steel wheels. Light-rail lines may boost ridership because transit agencies run the trains more frequently and (because they stop fewer times per kilometre) faster than buses. But, as the U.S. General Accountability Office has shown, transit agencies can run bus services as fast and as frequent as any light-rail line at a fraction of the cost of light rail.
3. Light rail can inconvenience transit riders.
While rail may improve service in one corridor, it is so expensive that it leads transit agencies to neglect service in the rest of the region. Many U.S. cities that built light-rail lines have seen total transit ridership decline because rail costs forced transit agencies to raise fares and reduce bus services.
4. Light rail increases congestion.
Most light-rail lines operate on streets for at least part of their length, and transit planners time traffic signals to favour trains over automobiles. The delays that result greatly exceed the benefit of getting a handful of people out of their cars.
A new light-rail line in Minneapolis so disrupted traffic signals that people using a parallel highway found they were spending an added 20 minutes or more sitting in traffic. Internal documents revealed that the government knew this would happen, but the state says it can never be completely fixed because federal rules require that signals favour the light rail.
5. Light rail benefits downtown property owners at the expense of property owners elsewhere.
A study funded by the U.S. Federal Transit Administration found that "rail transit investments rarely 'create' new growth, but more typically redistribute growth that would have taken place without the investment." Such redistribution, the study found, was usually to downtowns from other parts of the city.
6. Light rail does not stimulate economic development.
Claims by some cities that rail transit stimulated new construction ignore the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies going to those new developments. Without the subsidies, rail lines generate little in the way of new development. In fact, street closures during construction and parking limits after light rail opens put many shops and restaurants out of business.
7. Light rail increases energy consumption and greenhouse gases.
Light rail uses less energy and generates less carbon dioxide, per passenger kilometre, than buses (though not necessarily less than autos). But light rail does not replace buses; instead, transit agencies typically reroute corridor buses to be feeder buses for the light-rail line.
Many people choose to drive to light-rail stations rather than wait for a bus and then transfer to a train, so feeder buses are much more lightly used than the previous corridor buses. When Salt Lake City opened its light-rail system, the average number of people riding its buses fell by nearly 50 per cent.
When taken as a whole, then, most transit systems with light rail use more energy and emit more greenhouse gases per passenger kilometre than they did when they operated only buses. Most also use more energy and emit more carbon dioxide, per passenger kilometre, than typical automobiles.
In the rare cases where light rail has reduced energy use, the energy cost of building it swamps any savings. If we want to save energy and reduce greenhouse gases, automotive improvements such as hybrid-electric cars can do far more at a far lower cost than even the best rail projects.
8. Light rail diverts tax dollars that could be used for truly productive transportation projects.
If you want to boost transit ridership, improve bus service. If you want to reduce congestion, improve highways -- particularly with toll roads, which both pay for themselves and can reduce congestion by varying the toll by time of day. If you want to punish people for driving cars, then take the money that could be used for buses or highways and spend it on light rail.
You can see who favours light-rail construction: Downtown property owners; rail contractors like Siemens; and people who hate automobiles.
If you are not in one of these groups -- if you are among the vast majority of Ottawa taxpayers who use automobiles for much of your travel -- then light rail will cost you far more than any benefits you will ever receive.
Also of interest book coverThe Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future
Reveals how government attempts to do long-range, comprehensive planning inevitably do more harm than good.

Friday, March 7, 2008

By Richard Anderson "Route 223 change sucks!"

Dear S.L. Tribune Et Al, I wrote UTA the following
response to their recent proposal to a Route 223
"Your proposal sucks. I do not approve of this
proposal. One of the U. of U. professors pulled a
whine and cheese act and UTA immediately jumped up to
accommodate her.
UTA would not return "nightride" to the southeast
section of Sugarhouse UTA took away. So, why should
the 100 (plus) of us who used the "nightride" give
approval to this bunk.
UTA did not have a public meeting on this proposal.
UTA did not notify the public when UTA added the 7:09
p.m. 223 bus to the outbound schedule.
She, the U. of U. professor, is not going to get to
arrive at work five minutes earlier.
The Sugarhouse area did not get the return of
"nightride" so why should she get the proposed change
she wants? Richard"
I wrote this response for the following reasons. I
did not send these reasons to UTA.
#1 The routes were cut last October because the UTA
managers wanted their bonuses. I was informed by
"insider information" that the managers had received
their bonuses when they made the route cuts. I was
also informed by the "insider" that UTA planned to cut
driver jobs. This is a violation of the contract UTA
and ATU(Amalgamated Transit Union) agreed to recently.
These managers make more money and bonuses then most
other transit managers. What a shame!
#2 UTA lied about the ridership increase. UTA "cooked"
the figures they claimed they had counted during their
recent UTA TRAX survey.
#3 I agreed with The Deseret(Morning) News article of
January 2007 and a BYU economics professors assessment
that the ridership would not increase or get people to
leave their cars and ride public transit.(verbatim
quotes) The Deseret News article stated that using
public tax money would also not get people out of
their cars. The TRAX spurs were a waste of taxpayer
#4 My, and other riders, time has increased. Every
rider I have a chance to talk to complains about this
sometimes vociferously. The riders also complain about
the numerous transfers they must make.
Instead of taking 40 minutes to get to the downtown
area it now takes me 60 to 90 minutes. If I decide to
ride mid-day it takes longer. IF, I say, IF I am lucky
and the bus/Trax is on time it takes me 66 minutes.
Every day I catch the 6:18 a.m. 223 Route(20th E. 27th
S.). If it is on time I get to the Stadium Trax
Station at 7:10 a.m. There is a 4 minute wait for trax
then another 10 minutes to ride downtown. So where is
my time decrease/speedier arrival as promised by UTA.
#5 UTA has threatened Davis County with cuts in
service for not allocating Davis County public tax
monies to UTA.
#6 The situation that pissed me off the most was
hearing from several of my insiders that this U. of U.
professor continues to pull her "whine with her cheese
act" and complain about one specific driver. This
driver does his/her best at the job. The driver read
several complaints that stated the driver was ten
minutes late on several occasions. This driver told me
that the supervisor checked the UTA GPS and found one
time the driver was late 1.5 seconds.
#7 I am not able to attend downtown nightlife
functions because UTA took away the Sugarhouse area
I have read several "Letters to the Editor"
lately critical of UTA. I agree with the complaints.
UTA had several meetings with Transit Riders Union
membes in my apartment area. All 4 UTA reps came in,
blew smoke in our collective ears,and did nothing.
So, my question to all of you is this,
Why is one U. of U. professor," with a whine with her
cheese act" getting what she wants and those of us who
use bus/trax because we need to get diddly squat?
Richard Anderson SLC UTAH 801-363-5631

Peace,Love,and Gods`Light for all Gods` Children TLNXTTM

Thursday, January 31, 2008



On Wednesday, January 30, representatives from five community organizations asked the Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees to investigate issues uncovered in a legislative audit that was released on Friday in the following letter. This audit raises several serious questions about the management of UTA and the compensation paid to top UTA employees. The audit also suggests that legislators consider altering the way that UTA is governed so that UTA is more accountable to the public. The signers of the letter are asking the Board of Trustees to take action on these concerns to prove that the Board members are capable of fulfilling their responsibilities as caretakers of hundreds of millions of dollars in public money.

January 30, 2008

Board of Trustees

Utah Transit Authority

3600 South 700 West

Salt Lake City, UT 84119

re: legislative audit

Dear Members of the Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees:

On Friday, January 25, the Office of the Legislative Auditor General released an audit of the Utah Transit Authority that raises serious issues that need to be addressed by the Board of Trustees. Low income people rely on public transportation to be able to get to work and other appointments. It is essential that money taxpayers have set aside for public transportation is used wisely. Therefore we would like to ask you to do the following:

1) Investigate whether performance bonuses were awarded to staff improperly: The audit highlights serious flaws with the methods UTA has used to count passengers in recent years and asserts that TRAX ridership may have been overestimated by twenty percent. The audit also highlights the fact that increased ridership was a significant factor in determining whether top level UTA employees would receive large performance bonuses. If ridership truly did not go up in recent years there is a very real possibility staff members were awarded tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses inappropriately. As trustees for the public's money, you have a responsibility to investigate that possibility and establish procedures to prevent inappropriate awards to staff in the future.

2) Investigate allegations the public relations department has misled the public: The audit asserts that on several occasions UTA's public relations staff released statements that were inaccurate. It is imperative that an agency that receives hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money every year provides honest information to the public. If staff have consistently misled the public in the past then the Board of Trustees has a responsibility to put procedures in place to ensure truthful communication in the future.

3) Develop a serious plan for increasing bus ridership: The audit is full of several statistics about the negative impact declining bus ridership has on UTA's revenue and the quality of the air we all breathe. The audit also shows that bus riders pay 50 percent more for each ride than do TRAX riders and so increasing bus ridership is the fastest way to increase UTA's fare box revenue. UTA's staff has complacently watched bus ridership decline during the past decade and so the Board of Trustees needs to take a leading role in developing plans for increasing bus ridership. Community organizations would be very happy to help develop and promote such a plan.

The audit is lengthy and contains numerous concerns that are not mentioned in this letter. We would strongly encourage you to read the entire document. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We look forward to work with you in the coming year to ensure that our public transportation system works better for the people of the different communities served by the Utah Transit Authority.

Glenn Bailey, Executive Director
Crossroads Urban Center
Jerry Costley, Executive Director
Disabled Rights Action Committee
Laine Gardinier, Board Co-Chair
Anti-Hunger Action Committee
Linda Hilton, Director
Coalition of Religious Communities
Linda Parsons, Executive Director
Utah Jobs With Justice

Thursday, December 27, 2007

One of the Road Blocks to Transportation Freedom

We all know that the biggest block to Transportation Freedom for many disabled and Transit Dependent people is UTA's canceled routes and the rise in bus fares but here is one of the difficulties that people at Preston Place face every time they need to get to the recently relocated Bus stop. The bus stop used to be right in front of their building but was changed to further down the street. You can see a video on Google (Here). With the snowfall this winter the problem gets worse. Here's some pics of the big snow pile which forces the residents of Preston Place to walk into the street.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Route Change Jumble

This picture was taken by our friend Jason which shows the confusion that occured when UTA first instituted its route changes. Its hard to believe people had a easy time deciphering what bus changed to what.....

Friday, December 21, 2007



The next meeting with UTA will be TODAY Friday December 21 at 6:00pm-8:00pm at Preston Place (2673 S. Preston St).

The Demands are:

  • Restore Bus Stop to Original Location on 2200 East.
  • Restore Night Ride
  • Get a date for the restorations
Be ready to discuss further actions. Bring your ideas!!