Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Other Missing Middle

Here’s my March 31, 2017, presentation from the “pecha kucha” session of the Strong Towns Summit in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It can also be downloaded via Dropbox using this link:

The Other Missing Middle by CountingPantographs on Scribd

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! 😉


Do We Really Understand the Concept of Alternative Transportation?

A little over a year ago, I wrote the following post titled “Do We Really Understand the Concept of Alternative Transportation?” for SaltCycle:

One of Tom [Millar]’s comments from his post on yesterday’s streetcar groundbreaking has prompted me to let thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for a while spill onto the page.  Tom observed:

“Interestingly, only a mechanic from Bicycle Center, Jonathan Springmeyer from Salt Lake Transportation Advisory Board, and me rode bicycles to the event.  Perhaps a handful more took the train or the bus down to the site.  But more than 90% of the attendees drove, filling the dusty parking lot.”

I arrived at yesterday’s groundbreaking by taking TRAX to the Central Pointe station and walking the couple blocks there.  I’m pretty sure I was the only one from that particular Blue Line train that went to the groundbreaking.  I could have also taken the 21 or the 200 and gotten even closer to the event.

Now let’s rewind six weeks, when I attended the excellent 2012 North Temple Development Conference, which was held in the Grand Hall of the Utah Fairpark.  Since the Fairpark is just a relatively straight shot down the Jordan River Parkway Trail from my home, I walked there.  But as is typical of events held at the Fairpark, the only gate that was unlocked and open was on the east side off of 1000 West.  (This is the same entrance that you use to get to the State’s Driver License office.)  I was approaching from the west side and had the option of walking all the way around to 1000 West or just jumping the fence.  I jumped the fence.  At the conference, the speakers spoke about concepts like transit oriented development, walkability, complete streets, and livable neighborhoods.  It was inspiring to hear about the great potential that my neighborhood has.  But then after the conference, I watched everyone get in their cars and drive away!

This is a disturbing trend from my point of view.  It begs the question, “do we really understand the concept of alternative transportation?”  I feel like I get it, I know Tom [Millar] gets it, and I’m sure the majority of SaltCycle readers get it, but I’m worried that many of those who are involved in transportation planning (and planning in general) just don’t get it.  I’m worried that they may be spending too much time driving around in their cars rather than walking, biking, and/or riding transit and keeping themselves exposed to the reality of alternative transportation.  I’m worried that our ability to effectively plan for transportation alternatives may be suffering, because too many of the planners haven’t made transportation alternatives a part of their own lifestyles!

I have resolved that, if I am ever placed in a position of authority over planners charged with guiding the future of transportation, I will confiscate their driver licenses for a month (or maybe longer) in order to thrust them into the reality of alternative transportation!

Fortunately there is hope, and some leaders do know how to practice what they preach.  Mayor Ralph Becker is a great example.  I’ve seen him riding his bike and also riding TRAX and FrontRunner.  But we need to make sure our planners literally “walk the walk,” if we are ever going to arrive at the future described by State Representative and Chairman of the UTA Board of Directors Greg Hughes:

“If I took away my son’s cell phone and computer and just gave him a pencil to use all day at school and at home to do homework, it just wouldn’t work.  The technology is engrained in his life and in everything he does.  In just a few years, sitting in traffic with both hands on the steering wheel will be to riding trains and using active transportation as the pencil is to the computer and cell phones.  The car just won’t be a viable option anymore.”

I had an experience this morning that caused me to reflect on what I had written a year ago.  This morning I attended a press conference by the Utah Transportation Coalition, which is a new initiative of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, announcing the completion of a new study showing the benefits of increasing taxes in order to pay for an $11 billion shortfall in funding Utah’s transportation needs over the next 30 years.  The basic thesis of the study is that, for every $1.00 spent on transportation infrastructure, there is a return on investment of $1.94 into Utah’s economy.

I arrived by bus on route 21.  I think I could safely assume that I was the only one to arrive by bus.  One gentleman arrived by bike.  Everyone else came in cars.  Fortunately many carpooled.  I worry that many people will continue to drive until they have no other choice.