Category Archives: Transportation

Dunkin’ Donuts Opens in Salt Lake City

The day many people have been waiting on finally arrived today.  Utah now has a Dunkin’ Donuts.  I shot the video above from the Library TRAX Station.  As shown in the video, cars were backed up to the end of the block, which made things difficult for cars trying to access driveways to the east.  For those not familiar with the location, it’s just north of the Salt Lake City Main Library and is a remodel of the building that formerly housed a Burger King.

Given that the parcel is zoned D-1 “Central Business District” and lies on a block corner, I’m disappointed that it will continue to be a single level building with a drive-through and surface parking lot.  It could have been a five-story (or higher) mixed-use building.  Dunkin’ Donuts could still be one of the retailers on the first floor with office space and/or apartments above.  This would have been the highest and best use given the immediate proximity of the TRAX station.

UTA in the News

The Utah Transit Authority has been in the news a lot in the last few weeks.  Some of the news has been negative, but most of it has been positive.

The first article that I’d like to highlight is “Salt Lake City: How a Remote Red-State City Became a Transit Leader” from Angie Schmitt at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.  She did a good job highlighting the positive side of UTA’s rail expansion, and I really like how she brought up the good things that have come out of Envision Utah.

City Weekly published a critique of UTA that was barely worth the paper that it was printed on.  Katharine Biele wrote an article entitled “Money Train,” which was a huge disappointment considering the recent increase in the quality of City Weekly‘s articles.  I wrote “City Weekly’s Attack on UTA” in response.  The sad thing is that the article did highlight some of the questionable things that UTA has done lately, for example, the land deals involving the Draper FrontRunner Station.  However, the sources cited by the author in her critique of UTA causes the article to loose any credibility that it might have had.

Just this week, there was some reporting on UTA’s ridership.  Lee Davidson at the Salt Lake Tribune wrote “Despite UTA’s big expansion, ridership drops.”  (He also got my name wrong in an article last summer.) The Tribune, like many other news outlets, has a habit of publishing sensational headlines to attract readers when the news is on the slow side.  Unfortunately UTA is often a target when the news is slow.  It’s sad that the Tribune chooses to do that, since it causes Utah’s best newspaper to loose a lot of credibility.  UTA countered the Tribune article by publishing “Ridership on UTA is healthy, but changing as new rail lines open” on their blog.

Finally, I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to wake up to an article on the New York Timestransit blog about Salt Lake City.  In “New Ways to Get Around Salt Lake City” not only was the new TRAX line linking the airport highlighted but also our bike share, GreenBikeSLC!  They also made mention of our new streetcar line opening later this year.

Ecological Subsidies: Why do we shit in our clean water?


Today was the last day of class in my Green Communities class. A fellow student mentioned that the average American household uses nearly 200 gallons of water per day, while the average African household uses a mere 5 gallons of water per day. Our professor followed that up by showing us the meme shown above.

In the developed world, it’s pretty much a given that culinary water is used to flush toilets, and we’ve been doing it for so long that few dare question why. The reality is that there’s really no reason to use culinary water to flush toilets. Rainwater collected from roofs would do just fine as would graywater–the wastewater from our showers and from our washing machines.

So, why do we shit in our clean water???

Subsidies — typically economic subsidies — are a concept familiar to most. Society decides that something worthwhile–something typically not economically viable on its own–needs some encouragement, which usually comes in the form of economic support from the general tax fund. Prior to taking the Green Communities class, I had never considered applying the concept of subsidies to an ecological system. Hence, an ecological subsidy occurs when a resource is imported in order to support human civilization, where it wouldn’t otherwise be viable. Ecological subsidies aren’t anything new. The human race has been engaging in them for millennia. However, it becomes a crisis, when the ecological subsidies become extreme, such as can be observed with water and energy in the developed world. Los Angeles’ thirst for water is the perfect example. Years ago this thirst drove them to rape the Owens Valley in their quest of obtaining new sources of water. The irony is that much of the thirst could have been quenched using conservation techniques, such as reusing graywater.

Another downside of extreme ecological subsidies is that the price we typically pay for consuming them rarely includes the overall cost borne by the whole. Since the consumer is unaware of the true cost, there is no incentive for conservation. If the consumer were paying the true cost, far fewer people would be using culinary water to flush their toilets. Strong Towns, which is run by Charles Marohn (whom I met at CNU 21), makes a compelling argument that one source of our national debt is from borrowing money in order to support our addiction to ecological subsidies.

Unfortunately, I have no clue how much water my household consumes. I own a townhome in a 92-unit development, where it was cheaper for the developer to install one commercial water meter than 92 residential meters. Water, along with sewer and trash collection, is paid for as part of the homeowners association dues, which doesn’t give much of an incentive for water conservation. In fact, it’s been a decade, since the last time I lived in a single-family home, where the household’s water was metered. Ensuring that future construction includes individual water meters for each household would be a great step towards encouraging water conservation.

My Daily Commute

With the recent addition of GreenBikeSLC and the opening of the Airport TRAX line, I have an interesting and enjoyable way of making my commute.  From my home to the University of Utah is about six miles:

Walk: I start off walking from home to the Power TRAX Station.  I allow myself 15 minutes, but I can make it in a bit less.

TRAX Green Line:  I ride the Green Line from Power Station to Arena Station.  The ride takes 11 minutes.

Walk:  It is about a half block walk from the Arena TRAX Station to the GreenBikeSLC Fidelity Station @ The Gateway.  The walk takes about 3 minutes.

GreenBikeSLC:  I ride the GreenBike from the Fidelity Station @ The Gateway to the Tour of Utah Station.  The ride takes about 11 minutes.

Walk:  It is about a half block walk from the GreenBikeSLC Tour of Utah Station to the Library TRAX Station.  The walk takes about 3 minutes.

TRAX Red Line:  I ride the Red Line from Library Station to Stadium Station.  The ride takes 8 minutes.

Walk:  I finish up by walking from the Stadium TRAX Station to campus.  It usually takes about 8 minutes to reach the Marriott Library.

It’s usually a hour from the time I walk out my door at home until I walk through the doors of the library.  Of course I could drive, which only takes about 20 minutes (when there’s no traffic), but that doesn’t include the time I would spend trying to locate a parking spot once I got to the U.  It also doesn’t include the exercise I get from walking and biking and doesn’t include the time spent “people watching” on TRAX.

Also, it’s worth noting that due to the 10-minute wait transferring from the Green Line to the Red Line at the Courthouse Station, my ride on the GreenBike doesn’t add any additional time to my commute as opposed to riding TRAX the entire way!

The Streetcar of the Future, Including a Mini Physics Lesson

sanderson-rail-1_525Last week, I discovered an interesting article on Design Observer, which discusses the importance that the streetcar will have in America’s future. The article explains in depth the physics that underlies the efficiency of streetcars.

And for anyone who may not understand the difference between a streetcar and a typical light rail vehicle, I have included a video that I shot in Portland two years ago showing Portland’s MAX light rail and the Portland Streetcar.


Farmers Market, Instawalk, Granary Row, and the Harlem Shake

This morning I stopped by the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers Market at Pioneer Park.

I was on my way to Instawalk SLC, where I had the opportunity to take a 45-minute walking tour of the neighborhood of the portion of downtown Salt Lake City just north of Pioneer Park.  The highlight of the tour was getting to see the private garden on the south side of Art Space on Pierpont Avenue.

This evening I went to the opening of Granary Row.  There was a good number of people there, and even more arriving as I left.

And I also edited yesterday’s Salt Lake Bike Party video into a true Harlem Shake clip.


Sugarmont Plaza, Road Respect Tour, and Salt Lake Bike Party

This was a busy evening for me and my bike.  Tonight was the opening night for Sugarmont Plaza.  This “tactical urbanism” project will run all summer.  The location is the parking lot of the former Deseret Industries building at 2230 S Highland Dr in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.  I was there right at the start, but I heard there was a pretty good turn out later in the evening.

Then I headed over to the Road Respect Tour, which is sponsored by UDOT.

UTA was also on hand showing off the new triple bike racks, which will be installed on all future buses.  Shown here is a triple bike rack mounted on the back of one of UTA’s vans rather than on the front of a bus.

UTA Triple Bike Rack

Then, for the highlight of my evening, I joined in on the Salt Lake Bike Party.

I apologize for the crude videos shot using my Android smart phone.  Maybe one day I will have the equipment and skills to produce videos like Clarence Eckerson.

When Urban Agriculture Is at Odds with Sustainability

Today I discovered an interesting post from Zane Selvans at Flat Iron Bike that was quoted by Streetsblog.  The post discusses the downside of a proposal in Boulder, Colorado, to set aside 25 downtown acres for urban agriculture.

On its face, setting aside land downtown for urban agriculture might sound like a great proposal, but there are a couple of problems.  The site is located adjacent to a high frequency transit corridor and would be much better suited as a transit-oriented development, allowing both residential and commercial uses to benefit from the high proximity to transit.  A second aspect is the almost $5 million cost of the agricultural easement for a mere 25 acres, when the funds could be used to preserve much larger areas near the city’s periphery, a good example of which are 243 acres that were preserved by Boulder in 1993 for the bargain price of $1 million.

I agree with Zane.  The money could be better spent for preservation elsewhere, and the site could make a great transit-oriented development.  It’s also possible to develop the land in such a way that integrates urban agriculture into the design.