Category Archives: Transportation

Vacation Photos: Rail Trails and Bear Tracks


I spent this week camping with my dad at the Warm River Campground of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest about 9 miles northeast of Ashton, Idaho.  I’ve included some photos including a travelogue of two rail trails in the area and some bear tracks. Continue reading

My Frustration with the Term “Alternative Transportation”

(For the rest of the week, I will be on vacation and out of cell phone/internet range, so this will likely be my only post this week.)

traffic-cartoonI did a Google image search for “traffic” and found the above cartoon, which sets the stage for the point that I’m trying to make.

I’ve been criticized before for using the term “alternative transportation,” when referring to transit, biking, and walking as opposed to driving.   Well, I’m frustrated by using it.  I believe that walking, biking, and transit should be the norm, while driving should be considered alternative transportation!  In closing…

Bike-Car comparison

Station Park: When Transit-Oriented Development Isn’t

When the location for the Farmington FrontRunner station was chosen, the land next to it was vacant and ripe for development.  There was a lot of talk of using the land to create “transit-oriented development.”  It’s potential was even mentioned in a 2007 New York Times article.  Unfortunately, just as staying in the presidential suite at a hotel does not make you the President, building a development next to a train station does not make it transit-oriented.  I’m not exactly sure where the planning process went wrong in Farmington, but I am well-aware that what has been built there is not what the planners at UTA had envisioned.  I usually hop on FrontRunner and make a visit there once every couple months.  Walking from the station to the shops, restaurants, and theater requires traversing a vast parking lot with a high risk of being struck by a soccerparent (trying to be gender neutral) driving a minivan.  I made a visit there this afternoon and snapped a few photos.

IMAG0265Here’s a view of the Farmington FrontRunner station looking down from the station’s pedestrian bridge which crosses over the FrontRunner and Union Pacific tracks.  To the right lies Station Park. Continue reading

Best Practices for Rail Systems: Various Levels of Service

At times I’ve found it difficult explaining best practices for rail systems.  Germany is a great example, but it’s cost prohibitive to fly people over to Europe just to make my point.  One aspect that’s difficult for people to grasp are the various levels of service.  As a real-world example, let’s say we’re in the city of Köln (Cologne in English) and want to take a train to Hamburg around noon.

At 11:48, there’s an InterCityExpress (ICE) departing, which is Germany’s most expensive and most luxurious train.  At € 94 ($122), it’s pricey though.  Usually the ICE is the fastest train, but due to a transfer the 4 hour 17 minute trip is slightly longer than other options:

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Salt Lake City: A Conservative State Builds Progressive Transit

Salt Lake City: A Conservative State Builds Progressive Transit from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Another great video from Clarence Eckerson at Streetfilms.  I didn’t make it into this video, however one of my colleagues, Tom Millar of SaltCycle, plays a big role discussing the Sugar House Streetcar, which is set to begin operation in December.

Streetfilms Shortie – Checking out GreenBike in Salt Lake City from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

But I did make it into the above film (briefly at 1:02), which I originally reported in “Thoughts on CNU 21.”

Final Paper for Green Communities

The following is the final paper I wrote for my Green Communities class:

I would like to make sustainable transportation the focus of my career.  Growing up I was blessed to have lived in Germany twice.  The first trip was as an exchange student the summer between my junior and senior years of high school.  A couple years later, I returned to Germany as a missionary and lived there almost two years.  I was deeply impressed by the options offered by their transportation system.  They hadn’t put “all their eggs in one basket” as the US had in the second half of the 20th century, when we placed our priority on a auto-centric transportation system.  I was impressed by the presence of a Fußgängerzone (pedestrian zone) at the heart of every city, town, and village.  Additionally, these pedestrian zones were typically anchored by a train station (or at least a bus hub) along with civic and religious buildings.  I now realize the symbology of placing walking as the priority at the heart of a community.

My experiences in Germany left me with an affection for public transit, especially trains, and also walking and biking.  I saw the benefits of having transportation options and of living in higher-density, walkable communities.  I wondered why we couldn’t enjoy the same way of life in the US.  Considering how energy intensive our auto-centric system is, I now realize how critical it is that we diversify our transportation options.

Transportation improvements alone won’t create sustainable transportation.  I have come to learn that land use is inseparable from transportation.  Attempting to make one sustainable without the other is a futile pursuit.

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A Critique of UTA’s Map

UTA's TRAX and FrontRunner Map as of April 2013.

UTA’s TRAX and FrontRunner Map as of April 2013.

While browsing through past blog posts by BusNinja, I remembered that I’ve been meaning to discuss the quality (or lack thereof) of UTA‘s maps.  I find it comforting that I’m not the only one who has noticed how bad UTA’s maps are.

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Peak Car and The Ultimate Absurdity in Transportation

Any way you cut it, Americans have fewer cars than they used to. Image: Michael Sivak, UMTRI

Any way you cut it, Americans have fewer cars than they used to. Image: Michael Sivak, UMTRI

Last week Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog Capitol Hill posed the question “Has America Already Hit ‘Peak Car’?”  She cites evidence from a report from Michael Sivak titled “Has Motorization in the U.S. Peaked?”  While the question of whether “peak car” has been reached in America can still be debated — I tend to believe that it has — there is plenty of evidence to support the fact that Americans are driving less.  More importantly is the why.

Well, I have an idea of why.  I believe that many Americans have come to realize “The Ultimate Absurdity in Transportation” as explained back in January by Angie Schmitt also of Streetsblog Capitol Hill.  In Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, author Jeff Speck points out the absurdity by quoting from Ivan Illich‘s 1978 book Toward a History of Needs:

The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car.  He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling.  He parks it and searches for it.  He earns the money to put down to meeting the monthly installments.  He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets.  He spends four of his waking 16 hours on the road or gathering resources for it … The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour.  In countries deprived of transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only only 3 to 8 percent of their society’s budget to traffic instead of 28 percent.

When a Park is a Detriment!

I wrote the following this week as an assignment for my Introduction to New Urbanism class. The park that I refer to is Redwood Meadows Park located at 1768 W 400 N.

Balancing safety and security with accessibility and openness is critical to the revitalization of urban places.  The key to that balance is human presence.  Nothing deters crime like having pairs of eyes present to surveil the space.  Creating a space, which is easily surveilled by neighbors, patrons, or passersby, is also much cheaper than hiring security guards, putting up fences and gates, and installing security cameras.

A great example is a park, which abuts the townhomes where I live.  The park is owned by Salt Lake City and has a very odd shape—70 feet by 1,170 feet—due to the buried storm conduit that lies beneath it.  The park’s history is just as odd.  Over a third of it has been leased to my townhomes, so that the developer could add open space to the project and increase the number of townhomes.  Another third is leased to the HOA to the north for the same purpose.  The remaining third to the south is an actual public park maintained by the city.

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