Car Free in SLC!

As of this afternoon, I no longer own a car. The car that I got rid of was a black 2001 Honda Civic LX 4-door sedan. When I bought in 2005 for $12,000, it had a mere 49,445 miles on the odometer. Initially, I was making a 50-mile round trip commute to work every day, so I put over 22,000 miles on the car in 2006 alone. But things changed over time. Those who know me are well aware that I now get around almost exclusively by walking, biking, and riding transit. In 2016, I only drove my car a mere 1,355 miles.

Over the last couple months, I realized that I needed to make a decision about whether I would continue to be a car owner. My car now had 142,851 miles on the odometer, and after researching its value using, I knew that it just wasn’t worth much anymore. I also realized that maintaining the car in good working order was a ticking time bomb of expenses. When I last had my car serviced and the registration renewed in September, I was quoted $2,000 in recommended maintenance. (Yes, I am well aware that mechanics love to recommend maintenance, but what they were recommending wasn’t much of an exaggeration.) My car had reached the point that continued maintenance would cost more than it’s worth.

So, I had a decision to make, and it didn’t take long to come to a conclusion. Considering how seldom I drive these days, buying a new or newer car would be an insanely stupid decision. Continuing to maintain the car didn’t make much sense, as explained in the previous paragraph. Continuing to drive the car until it died seemed a bit irresponsible. In the end, selling it, while the car still had some value in it, won out.

But what about those times, when walking, biking, and riding transit can’t get me where I need to go? Well, I’ve been living this lifestyle long enough to know that those situations are few and far between. Plus, I have options like taxis, Uber, and Lyft available in case emergencies arise. If I want to drive myself, Enterprise Carshare is available at $12 per hour. If I need to go out of town, I can rent a car for a mere $30 a day. And last fall, I took four trips on Salt Lake Express in order to get to Idaho and back, and it worked great. Now, you may have the urge to point out that all of those options cost money. Well, let me remind you that I’ve just saved myself a bunch of money by dumping my car.

So, this afternoon I executed my plan. Since my car hadn’t been moved since Thanksgiving, the battery had discharged. Over the past couple winters, I have learned that dead batteries are a symptom of rarely driving your car, and it’s actually been something that has further discouraged me from driving. After jump starting my car and clearing off the snow, I drove it to Ken Garff Honda in downtown Salt Lake City, where I had already arranged a tentative quote pending a final inspection. I sold my black 2001 Honda Civic LX 4-door sedan for $1,250 and figure that recovering 10% of what I paid more than 11 years ago wasn’t half bad.

There was one last thing that I researched prior to finalizing my decision: auto insurance. I’ve had experiences in my life that have taught me the value of insurance, so I wanted to explore the option of keeping my coverage. I wanted to be safe in case of situations like borrowing someone’s car and, let’s say, they only have liability coverage and, let’s say, I crash the car and, let’s say, it turns out to be my fault. So, I contacted Progressive, who’s been covering me for four years now. I learned that switching to a “named operator” policy would be a feasible option. Just before I started writing this, I got off the phone after making the change with Progressive.



It’s time for a #TransitAdventure! I will soon embark on a trip to Washington, DC, to attend the 2015 Spring Council Meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. Since I have recently become addicted to NYC, I decided to fly into JFK, get my NYC fix for the year, and then enjoy the many transit systems and modes that connect NYC and DC. Below is my itinerary for Saturday, April 18, 2015, which is subject to change throughout my #TransitAdventure journey. Feel free to follow me live as I broadcast my travels on my Twitter account @MRC_SLC.

(And yes I know that I have unnecessary legs in my trip. 😉 If I were in a hurry, I would have replaced legs 3 through 14 with a 3-hour trip on Amtrak’s Acela Express.)

AirTrainLeg 1: AirTrain$5.00
From: JFK Terminal 4, Queens, NY
To: Howard Beach, Queens, NY
Depart: 6:22 – Arrive: 6:44
Duration: 0:22 – Frequency: 0:07
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:06

A-TrainLeg 2: NYCTA A$2.50
From: Howard Beach – JFK, Queens, NY
To: Fulton Street, Manhattan, NY
Depart: 6:50 – Arrive: 7:24
Duration: 0:34 – Frequency: 0:20
Click to view in Google Maps


Layover: 0:21

CitibikeLeg 3: Citibike$9.95
From: South End Ave & Liberty St, Manhattan, NY
To: 12 Ave & W 40 St, Manhattan, NY
Depart: 7:45 – Arrive: 8:30
Duration: 0:45 – Frequency: N/A
Click to view in Google Maps


Layover: 0:20

NY Waterway FerryLeg 4: NY Waterway Ferry$9.00
From: Midtown / W 39th Street, Manhattan, NY
To: Port Imperial / Weehawken, Weehawken, NJ
Depart: 8:50 – Arrive: 8:58
Duration: 0:08 – Frequency: 0:20
Click to view in Google Maps

Layover: 0:22

NJT Hudson-Bergen Light RailLeg 5: NJT Hudson-Bergen Light Rail$2.10
From: Port Imperial, Weehawken, NJ
To: Exchange Place, Jersey City, NJ
Depart: 9:20 – Arrive: 9:39
Duration: 0:19 – Frequency: 0:20
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:12

From: Exchange Place, Jersey City, NJ
To: Newark, Newark, NJ
Depart: 9:51 – Arrive: 10:09
Duration: 0:18 – Frequency: 0:20
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:23

NJT 7833 Northeast CorridorLeg 7: NJT 7833 Northeast Corridor$11.50
From: NWK, Newark, NJ
To: TRE, Trenton, NJ
Depart: 10:32 – Arrive: 11:45
Duration: 1:13 – Frequency: 1:00
Click to view in Google Maps


Layover: 0:29

NJT River LineLeg 8: NJT River Line$1.50
From: Trenton Transit Center, Trenton, NJ
To: Walter Rand Transit Center, Camden, NJ
Depart: 12:14 – Arrive: 13:13
Duration: 0:59 – Frequency: 0:30
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:32

PATCOLeg 9: PATCO$1.40
From: Broadway, Camden, NJ
To: 8th & Market St, Philadelphia, PA
Depart: 13:45 – Arrive: 13:52
Duration: 0:07 – Frequency: 0:30
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:41

SEPTA Market-Frankford LineLeg 10: SEPTA Market-Frankford Line $2.25
From: 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA
To: 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA
Depart: 14:33 – Arrive: 14:35
Duration: 0:02 – Frequency: 0:10
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:22

SEPTA Trolley 36Leg 11: SEPTA Trolley $2.25
From: 15th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA
To: 30th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA
Depart: 14:57 – Arrive: 15:01
Duration: 0:04 – Frequency: 0:07
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:37

SEPTA 221 Wilmington-Newark LineLeg 12: SEPTA 221 Wilmington/Newark Line$6.50
From: PHL, Philadelphia, PA
To: WIL, Wilmington, DE
Depart: 15:38 – Arrive: 16:21
Duration: 0:43 – Frequency: 2:00
Click to view in Google Maps


Layover: 0:34

Amtrak 71 Northeast RegionalLeg 13: Amtrak 71 Northeast Regional$31.00
From: WIL, Wilmington, DE
To: BAL, Baltimore, MD
Depart: 16:55 – Arrive: 17:46
Duration: 0:51 – Frequency: 1:00
Click to view in Google Maps


Layover: 0:34

MARC 495 Penn LineLeg 14: MARC 495 Penn Line$7.00
From: BAL, Baltimore, MD
To: WAS, Washington, DC
Depart: 18:20 – Arrive: 19:20
Duration: 1:00 – Frequency: 1:25
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:29

From: Union Station, Washington, DC
To: Silver Spring, Silver Spring, MD
Depart: 19:49 – Arrive: 20:03
Duration: 0:14 – Frequency: 0:08
Click to view in Google Maps



Layover: 0:10

Capital BikeshareLeg 16: Capital Bikeshare$7.00
From: Ripley & Bonifant St, Silver Spring, MD
To: 13th St & Eastern Ave, Silver Spring, MD
Depart: 20:13 – Arrive: 20:23
Duration: 0:10 – Frequency: N/A
Click to view in Google Maps





Russel Crowe said it best in Gladiator! 😉


Stuck on a Railroad Crossing? Call the Grade Crossing Hotline!

Recently there have been two passenger train derailments that could have been entirely avoided. Tuesday, February 24, 2015, a truck and trailer loaded with welding equipment became stuck at a grade crossing in Oxnard, California. The truck was struck by a Metrolink commuter train en route from East Ventura to Los Angeles, which derailed, injuring thirty passengers and killing the train’s engineer.

Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times

Don Kelsen/Los Angeles Times

Monday, March 10, 2015, an oversize load being hauled by a tractor-trailer and escorted by the highway patrol became stuck at a grade crossing in Halifax, North Carolina. The trailer was struck by the Amtrak Carolinian en route from Charlotte to New York City, which derailed, injuring more than fifty passengers.

AP Photo/WTVD-11

AP Photo/WTVD-11

The collision was caught on video by a passerby.

In both crashes there was plenty of time to warn the oncoming train, but apparently the drivers and even the North Carolina Highway Patrol were unaware of how to do so. If you become stuck at a grade crossing, do the following:

  1. Get everyone out of the vehicle and away from the tracks. DUH!
  2. CALL THE GRADE CROSSING HOTLINE! (More information below.)
  3. Call 911.
  4. If a train approaches, walk toward the train and away from the tracks at a 45-degree angle. If your vehicle is hit, debris will spread out from the tracks in the same direction the train is moving.

At every grade crossing, the railroad’s grade crossing hotline and the crossing number is posted. At crossings with signals, it is on the side of the shack that shelters the electronics for the lights:


Crossings without signals will have the information listed on the stop sign:


Once you’ve called the grade crossing hotline, the railroad dispatchers will contact any approaching trains and hopefully get them stopped in time. Following these simple instructions could not just save your car, but potentially save lives too!

Are Recent UTA Incidents Cause for Concern?

The Utah Transit Authority has suffered from a rash of collisions and derailments in the last 18 months. These incidents differ in nature from the more common incidents—collisions with vehicles and people at intersections and grade crossings, people trespassing on the right-of-way, individuals attempting suicide, etc.—in that they represent a possible failure of UTA’s equipment and/or safety protocols.


Photo: KSL TV

Photo: KSL TV

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Out of service Blue Line cars were northbound from Draper on their way back to the yard, when somehow the last car became uncoupled. Upon coming uncoupled the car’s brakes automatically engaged bringing the car to a stop as it approached the 8000 South grade crossing in Midvale. Assuming that it had been parked, the car’s controls shut off its exterior and interior lights.

A few minutes later, the next northbound Blue Line headed from Draper to Salt Lake Central approaches the stopped, unoccupied, dark car. Prior to encountering the car, the operator of the northbound Blue Line train first passes a yellow signal—warning that the next signal will be red—and then stops just before the red signal. The train’s operator radioed the dispatcher for permission to proceed past the red signal and was granted that permission. Moments later, the train’s operator spots the stopped car on the tracks ahead, activates the emergency brake, and collides with the stopped car at 31 mph. Two passengers are taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The operator and remaining passengers are examined at the scene. Despite the collision, neither the stopped car nor the two cars of the northbound train derail. The damage caused by the collision was report to the FRA as $3 million.

As reported by KSL, UTA issued a statement on November 13, which focuses on an investigation of the failure of the coupler. Absent is any attention paid to the procedures that allowed the northbound Blue Line train to proceed past the red signal, while assuming that the red signal was simply reporting a “false occupancy” of the tracks ahead. While it is disconcerting for a car to decouple from a train, it is irresponsible to override a safety mechanism based simply on the assumption of a glitch!

Sources: Deseret NewsFox 13KSLFRA Report


Photo: Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

Photo: Michelle Tessier, Deseret News

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A northbound Blue Line train headed to Salt Lake Central had just left Arena Station and headed towards the junction near the intersection of 400 West and South Temple, where Blue Line trains head to Salt Lake Central while Green Line trains head to the Airport. As the two-car train proceeded through the switch, somehow the switch changed directions just after the first set of wheels of the first car passed over it. This literally created a situation, where part of the first car was headed to Salt Lake Central and part of it was headed to the Airport. Both cars remained coupled, and the first car became derailed, while the second car remained on the tracks. One passenger was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. It is still unclear what caused the switch to malfunction while the train was passing through it. Since the derailment occurred in a street right-of-way rather than a traditional railroad right-of-way, no FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) accident report was required to be filed.

Sources: Deseret News4 UtahFox 13


Photo: Jay Dortzbach/KSL TV

Photo: Jay Dortzbach/KSL TV

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Just south of Central Pointe Station, two trains collided at the junction, where the Green Line converges with the Red and Blue Lines. A northbound Blue Line train headed to Salt Lake Central collided with a Green Line train headed to the Airport. Photos appear to show that the Green Line train was one car ahead of the Blue Line train, which caused the second car of the Green Line train to derail. There are two possible causes of the collision: 1. Human error—the operator of one of the trains passed a red signal and continued through the junction. 2. A failure of the interlocking system, which gave both trains a signal to proceed through the junction. This collision will require that an accident report be filed with the FRA.

Sources: Deseret NewsKSLFox 13


Despite these recent incidents, traveling by public transportation is still considerably safer than driving. However, the nature of these incidents question whether UTA needs to perform an evaluation of its systems and protocols.

Five Things I Hope to Hear Less Often in 2015

“High speed rail won’t work in the US, because our density is too low.”
Density definitely matters when deciding which transit mode is appropriate (40-foot bus on an hourly headway vs. a ten-car subway train on 5-minute headways), especially for local trips. However, the longer the journey, the less density surrounding the stations will ridership levels. If this density fallacy were true, only the people living around airports would fly!7S5_Hangars

“Spending taxpayer funds to support transit is a wasteful luxury, because we already have a system of cars and highways.”
This is one of the typical arguments put forth by Randal O’Toole and others at the Cato Institute. It makes several false assumptions. Chief among them are that the system of cars and highways: 1. works well, 2. pays for itself, 3. exerts no negative externalities on society, 4. is accessible to all, and 5. is what people want.BYf4J7CCUAAM0Wg

“People are too in love with their cars.”
We are? Really???lead_large

“People don’t want to walk and ride bikes.”
Every year people pay a lot of money to visit highly walkable places like Disneyland. These places tend to be visited more by those Americans living in the less walkable suburbs. When it comes to biking, all I have are two words: Amsterdam and Copenhagen.Disneyland_Main_Street

“If transit comes to my neighborhood, crime will increase.”
This one especially bothers me, since I’ve seen transit proposals die because of it. It shows how wild people will allow their imaginations to run, while at the same time denying themselves the benefits that should be blatantly obvious to them. Somehow I just can’t imagine someone breaking in to a home, stealing a TV, and then riding away on a train!doggie-door

So I was in a sour mood when I wrote this.  It was originally titled “Bullshit,” but I changed the title, since I didn’t want to scare away potential readers.  I figured that I should start 2015 off right and do some ranting. 😉 LOL


Streetcars and Salt Lake City’s S-Line

Just as the debate over whether Pluto qualifies as a planet continues to rage, so rages the debate over whether Salt Lake City’s S-Line qualifies as a streetcar or as light rail.  Yesterday Matt Johnson of Greater Greater Washington published an article titled “See America’s streetcar systems at the same scale” which featured the following beautiful diagram.

Noticeably missing from the list is Salt Lake City.  Matt was nice enough to include the following explanation for its absence.

The Sugar House “Streetcar” in Salt Lake City is really a light rail service, though it’s branded as a streetcar by the agency. Since it runs in an exclusive right-of-way and uses the same vehicles as the rest of Salt Lake’s light rail system, I did not include it in the map.

Well, I still wanted to see how the S-Line compares to the other systems, so I made the following “slight” modification to Matt’s diagram. 😉


Less than an hour after I published this post, Matt tweeted the following:

So here’s what the updated diagram looks like:


Thanks Matt. 🙂