Monday, June 15, 2009

The Battle for Salt Lake

Previously we posted videos from the Charlotte effort against repeal. Here are some of the videos the Salt Lake City Chamber was kind enough to post up for us.

The first two I like a lot. Forcing cars on your children is a pretty powerful message. A stuffed up vascular system is a great metaphor as well.

The following are a bit more boring.


Winston said...

Here's a story about a light rail system that is about to shrink (a bit off topic, but your readers are likely to be interested):

Published Monday, June 15, 2009, by the San Jose Mercury News


A little rail line in jeopardy

By Scott Herhold
Mercury News Columnist

In Barbara Cooney's wonderful children's book, "The Year of the Perfect
Christmas Tree," a father returns to his Appalachian home from World War I
aboard the "Tweetsie Train," a short railroad line named for the tweet of its
engine whistle.

When my kids were small, we enjoyed our own "Tweetsie Train," the 1.1-mile
Almaden branch of Santa Clara County's light rail system. It had the great
virtue of stopping near two meccas for children: Oakridge Mall and Golfland
miniature golf course.

So when I read recently that several of the scenarios in a Valley Transportation
Authority light rail study call for ending the two-stop Almaden shuttle, I felt
a pang: It would abolish a small piece of my kids' childhood.

It would also have symbolic significance in transit circles. According to the
National Association of Railroad Passengers, it would be the first light-rail
line built in the modern era (post-1980) to be abandoned.

Which is not to say it should never happen. Even more than the light rail system
as a whole, the Almaden branch line has notoriously poor ridership, an average
of just more than 500 per day. With 67 round trips daily, that means the line
averages four passengers on each one-way run.

And you may have read that the VTA is planning on fare hikes and service
reductions to close a $10.1 million budget deficit that could get even worse
next year.

In this atmosphere, the Almaden shuttle, which takes four minutes to run between
the Ohlone-Chynoweth station in the north and the Almaden station in the south,
is like a toy railroad without the glitz of a Disneyland monorail.


The VTA people say it costs $505,000 a year to pay the drivers and provide power
for the Almaden line. But that's only part of the cost; it doesn't include
maintenance, security, insurance or depreciation.

To check out the situation, I spent a half-hour riding the shuttle one recent
afternoon. It was mostly empty, though we had a brief moment of excitement when
eight people -- two couples, three teens and an old man -- got on at Oakridge

The problem with the shuttle reflects the problems with light rail generally.
The VTA hoped it would help create "transit villages" -- like the apartments
near Lake Almaden -- but the route is too slow to get many people out of their

During last year's BART sales-tax campaign, opponents lambasted the VTA for
running the "least efficient" light rail system in the country. The farebox
recovery, the percentage of costs recouped by fares, is only around 13 percent.
San Jose doesn't have the central destinations or the transit-consciousness of
the more successful Portland and San Diego systems.

Weighing options

Michael Burns, chief of the transit agency, says any decision about the Almaden
shuttle will have to be weighed carefully. He points out the number 13 bus line
duplicates the run between the Almaden and Ohlone stations.

"I don't have strong feelings on the shuttle," he told me by e-mail. "But
requiring a transfer for a two-station shuttle, and the interference with the
Santa Teresa service (the main light rail line), are clearly not ideal."

Now, there are still options to save a piece of the shuttle. Kevin Connolly,
VTA's transportation planning manager, told me it might be possible to keep the
Almaden line operating on weekends for riders going to the mall.

(you'll have to see the rest of the story on the Mercury News' website)

Anonymous said...

Well the VTA has a strange way of doing things instead they could running stuff right to down town.

Though look at Boston that has blip of the Red line using PCC's.

njh said...

winston, I agree with the comment on that article saying that it should be downgraded to a streetcar and extended along the expressway. Easy, and cheap. The fact that they built a small housing estate right across the right of way indicates the complete lack of foresight in this country.

I've spoken to the VTA 'designer' several times, and he really does seem to lack any kind of vision or aim to succeed. The VTA appears to be happy to just maintain the bus network as is, and hope it will die out in 20 years.