Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dunning Reminder: UTA Open House Set For This Afternoon @ Ogden's Eccles Conference Center - UPDATED

A rare opportunity for the lumpencitizens to override Boss Godfrey's contrarian political influence

For those readers who may have failed to put it on their calenders, we'll issue a reminder of today's Utah Transit Authority open house, at which Ogden City residents will have the opportunity to provide direct input on their preferred east-west streetcar route:

March 24, 2009 - 4 to 7 p.m. - Ogden Eccles Conference Center

In this connection, we'll again direct your attention to Shalae Larsen's March 20 Standard-Examiner online op-ed piece, which makes an eloquent case for the 25th Street alignment. A slightly edited version also appears on today's Std-Ex editorial page.

As gentle reader George K. noted in a comment under one of our earlier articles, the importance of a robust citizen turnout for these open houses can't be over emphasized:

The reason UTA and other officials are favoring 30th St. (which UDOT will not approve because of the money spent on widening it a few years ago) and 36th St. is because Godfrey has influenced them. But regardless of what they are saying now, they have to listen to public input and it has as much if not more weight than the Mayor’s wishes on the route. That is why it is so important to attend the public open houses this coming Tuesday (at the Conference Center, 4 PM to 7 PM) and at the WSU Union Bldg. Thursday 12 Noon to 1 PM. Be sure to give your thoughts on where the route should be, whether you would support mass transit and what mode you would support. The outcome of the alternative analysis depends on public support.
As our knuckleheaded mayor continues to abuse his position and pushes for his two more southerly east-west streetcar corridors, the lumpencitizens have been furnished a rare opportunity to override his contrarian political influence. Let's not blow it.

Hopefully, steely-eyed Ogden City citizens will show up at today's open house event en masse, torches and pitchforks in hand.

And what say our gentle readers about all this?

Update 3/24/09 7:00 p.m.: Now that this afternoon's UTA public transit open house is in the "past tense," we'd like to invite comments from any readers who attended the event. Any information you can provide will be useful for those of us who intend to participate in Thursday's WSU open house. Gentle Curmudgeon has already headed off the discussion and posted his own impressions in the comments section below. We encourage you to follow suit, and likewise provide your own further comments and observations.

34 comments:

must be too early to read said...

I'm confused. Is the open house at the Union Station, or the Eccles Conference center?

RudiZink said...

Sorry mbte. I posted the title on the fly, and inadvertantly referenced the Union Station. Thaanks for pointing out the error.

Today's event will be held at the Eccles conference Center. The error in the title has now been corrected.

OgdenLover said...

The email I got from Smartgrowth Ogden gave the time for the Thursday WSU meeting as 11-1, not 12-1.

"Please try to attend one of two public "scoping" meetings for the Ogden-WSU transit corridor selection next week either Tuesday evening, March 24 from 4-7 pm at the downtown Eccles Conference Center or Thursday, March 26 from 11-1 pm in the WSU Union Building ballroom."

monotreme said...

Here's the original UTA press release.

George Garwood said...

Needless to say, I prefer the 36th Street alignment. If UTA is stupid neough to go with this alignment, it will be quite a boon for South Ogden City.

homer said...

I agree that the 25th and/or 26th Street route is a good way to go. Can anybody explain to me why the Mayor is so set on 30th or 36th Street? What are the motives here?

Curmudgeon said...

Homer:

Gotta save the downtown to WSU via 24th street route for the gondola, which Hizzonah keeps saying, when asked, that he has not given up on. I think it's dead as a doornail, but so long as Hizzonah does not, it seems he's going to try to protect his pipe dream's corridor up 24th to Harrison.

Godfrey is Nuts said...

Power to the People (Right On!)

Bill C. said...

Curm, I would agree that the mayor's gondola dream influences his routing, but the way he's making his case with UTA is somewhat different.
It's how you nuance the term, transit oriented development. The mayor is following the Wisconsin model where they built a streetcar line through an old rundown industrial area, to spur development figuring ridership will come as development progresses. You'll note that his routes focus on Washingto blvd. and don't necessarily go through a more densely populated area that would justify mass transit. His position is more a strickly TOD approach.
The 25/26th st. routing is different in that it has significantly higher rider potential along the route that justifies mass transit, and offers TOD as an added benefit. What the UTA folks need to answer is which way they're looking at this. If the mayors literal TOD approach is their focus, Washington Blvd. has much more room for redevelopment, but where are the riders going to come from? The other route seems more preferable as it better fits mass transit and offers development as well.

use common sense PLEEZ! said...

Godrey keeps smoking opium or some gaseous substance.

Our economy cannot afford this monster plan. Unless of course, he plans to get his hands on the Federal handout to create jobs..they are all smoking something.

dan s. said...

There are good arguments for investing in better transit along Washington Blvd. But to do it right will require incorporating a longer stretch of Washington than this project can include. So that should be a later phase of the system.

On the other hand, there are no good reasons for putting a transit investment along 36th Street (very narrow with single family homes plus a cemetery), and even 30th Street is pretty weak in terms of density.

If we look at the whole alignment, I think 25th/26th to Harrison wins over Washington to 36th, and probably over Washington to 30th to Harrison.

Curmudgeon said...

Just back from the meeting downtown. With an hour to go, about 100 people had signed in. UTA person said they'd prepared for 300, were expecting maybe 200. They're not going to make what they were expecting and hoping for.

Saw Councilwoman Caitlin G. and Councilman Stephens there.

Hope those interested will make the next public input session at WSU. These are really walk in/walk out events. You arrive, there are boards explaining various options, maps, and various ways for you to record an opinion on routes, modes [trolley, BRT, etc]. They had forms to fill out, on which you could express an open-ended opinion on any aspect of the various proposals. There were people taking comments and recording them on big paper pads... the sort you see in brainstorming sessions. There were huge photo maps of the city with the alternate routes being considered marked out, and little sticky dots you could place on the maps at places where you thought it important to have access to improved transit [i.e. places you wanted to see "stops" established]. There were UTA consultants and a UTA suit or two wandering around, answering questions, engaging in conversations, soliciting opinions. I presume the WSU event will be run more or less the same way.

If you have a strong opinion about means of improved transit service for Ogden area [bus, BRT or streetcar] and about the routing of the service [whatever the mode] between downtown and WSU/McKay Dee [east central route up 24th, 25th or 26th Street from Washington to Harrison as opposed to routing up 30th Street or --- difficult to understand this one --- up 36th Street from Washington to Harrison], please show up and let UTA know what you think. What you like and what you don't.

As some have already noted, the 36th Street option [which entirely excludes access to the WC library, the Senior Center, Rodeo Market, and Ogden High, but which does provide service to a cemetery along the way] makes the least sense. It entirely avoids the high ridership/residential community that the current 603 bus route serves [via 25th Street between Harrison and Washington]. If UTA opts to put trolley or BRT in along 30th Street or 36th Street, that will all but certainly mean a reduction in frequency of service [now every fifteen minutes during the week] along the 603 route. So not only would the improved service avoid the highest-use transit corridor in the city, it would end up reducing service on that high use corridor in favor of establishing service elsewhere where there is relatively low transit use. [UTA bus already runs between Washington and Harrison on 30th street, once and hour. And UTA service runs on 36th Street as well, once every half hour I think. The transit riders are not there, on those routes. They are there, demonstrably, on the 25th St. route.]

Naturally, the 36th Street route is the route favored by Hizzonah, Mayor Godfrey. His ability to find wrong choices to make when right choices are staring him in the face is impressive. Appalling, but impressive in a bone-chilling sort of way. In the way watching a train wreck in slow motion might be.

althepal said...

Thanks for the report, Curm.

"They're not going to make what they were expecting and hoping for."

Looks like we'll have to pick up the slack on Thursday.

Monotreme said...

Maybe the Honorable Mr. Godfrey actually wants the route to go up 26th Street but made a typo and put "36th Street" instead.

Randy C. said...

Thanks for the post, Curm. I have a question though. Due to work commitments, there's no way I could attend either event. Is there a means for Ogden citizens to lodge their preferences without actually being there on Thursday?

Curmudgeon said...

Randy:

There was a sign board with ways for citizens to make their opinions known to UTA. I'm pretty sure it had a mail in address, or an email address. Since I was there, I didn't bother to note them down. I'll see what I can find in the lit I came home with.

WHOOPS said...

OFF TRACK, BUT ANOTHER ONE OF GADI THE CRIMINAL, HAD ANOTHER HOUSE BURN UP TODAY.

Al said...

I checked with UTA staff around 6:45 and they had logged around 150 guests. Councilwomen Jeske, Gochnour and Wicks were in attendance as well as a few Planning Commissioners. How much cost is Boy Mayor's asinine WSU 36th Street loop going to add to the project? Enough to sink it?

dan s. said...

I wasn't able to get to the UTA open house until around 6:00, but I stayed till well after 7 and talked to as many of the officials and consultants as I could. What I learned is very disturbing.

At present there are still three major route variations under consideration (roughly speaking, 26th, 30th, and 36th Streets). But that will probably change very soon, when they do their "coarse screening" to narrow the options for further analysis. In two months, when they have their next round of public meetings, the coarse screening will be essentially done.

The question I kept asking was this: What analysis will go into the coarse screening? Will they run models to predict ridership for the three major options? Will they estimate the relative costs? Will they calculate the amount of right-of-way that would need to be purchased, or the travel time, or quantify the impact on auto traffic? Will they even document the various allegations about why it simply "can't" go in certain places? The answer in all cases appears to be no.

Instead, the consultants intend to just close their eyes and pick one of the options. Or something like that. I'm not exactly sure.

I heard the head consultant say that due to federal regulations on historic preservation, the 26th Street alignment may be impossible and at the very least would entail an additional 5-year delay. So it's clear that his mind is already made up.

Still, federal law requires a rigorous analysis of all reasonable alternatives. So what the consultants need to hear right now, I think, is that the public expects a rigorous analysis and that there will be loud complaints (loud enough to get the feds' attention) if they don't do a rigorous analysis at this stage.

monotreme said...

Dan:

I am going tomorrow.

In your opinion, which of the following two (bad) options is "least bad"?

1) Up 30th or 36th Street or

2) Up 23rd/24th/25th/26th but with a 5-year delay?

I'm certainly not an expert on historic preservation, not having attended historic preservation conferences over the last 35 years, but it seems to me that the same historic preservation arguments can be made along any of the proposed routes.

dan s. said...

monotreme,

I'm sure there are more historic buildings along the more northerly routes than along the more southerly routes. However, I very much doubt that this is as big a problem as the consultant implied. In fact, it could be an advantage, if we can make the case that the presence of transit and new transit-oriented developments will enhance the historic setting of these buildings more than cars and strip-malls.

But if it really came down to it, I think I would argue for getting the alignment right even if that meant a 5-year delay. We should be looking 25 to 50 years in the future as we plan this project.

janee said...

Dan S.
You are right, this is a project we shouldn't be shortsighted about. 25 to 50 years is correct; this is about good city and regional planning and thinking forward to future generations.

I went to the meeting last night and I still cannot understand, even after asking questions, why 36th Street would be a preferred alternative. I heard some of the same bogus excuses as above. It does not make a lick of sense. Also and fortunately, from what I saw and heard last night, almost everybody in attendance seemed to favor a 25th or 26th Street Streetcar route. How objective are UTA and their consultants? Are they working solely for the Mayor?

OgdenLover said...

If I read correctly, the southern end of the proposed transit line would end near the Dee Events Center.

MO, it should turn right and travel into the McKay-Dee property. Not everyone traveling for medical care is in good health and able to trek from Harrison, past the strip shopping and across the fairly large parking lots.

Curmudgeon said...

OL:
Most of the proposed routes I saw had a stop at the hospital [not on Harrison near it]. There was one route the looped way above WSU to the east and came back down around Dee. I asked one of the consultants about that. He said every proposed route that had been submitted by a "stakeholder" [city, UDOT, the Mayor, others] went on those maps, unevaluated, so a route appearing on the maps at the meeting [there were many] is no indication it will be in the final mix to be considered. It just means somebody they talked to suggested it.

There were alternate suggestions about how the trolley/bus coming S. on Harrison would reach McKay Dee [via Country Hills, via the main hospital access road of Harrison, or some other configuration] but I think all the routes envision reaching the hospital at some point, not just coming close.

George K. said...

Scott Schwebke’s article in today’s Standard Examiner was pretty good, but he missed one point that would have completed his article, but then maybe he couldn’t report the corridor for which the public voted at the open house. We’ll give him the benefit of doubt that he wasn’t just pushing Godfrey’s preferred route.

The corridor preferred by the majority for going over to Union Station and east on 25th Street with about ten stops and points for economic development between Union Station and Harrison (only a few voted for other corridors). The preferred corridor then turned south on Harrison Blvd. with stops and more economic development between 25th Street and the McKay-Dee Hospital. Some indicated a stop at the Dee Event Center and going as far south as Highway 89 with several more stops.

Four members of the City Council attended along with several City Administrators. Chair Wicks and Co-chair Gochnour attended along with members Doug Stephens and Dorrene Jeske attending. The Mayor attended for a short time, but Greg Montgomery and George Benford were there answering questions for about the entire evening. New Community and Economic Development Director, Scott Waterfall, was conspicuously absent. Of all the directors, you would have thought that Mr. Waterfall would have been there. Also none of his managers or staff members were there except for Mr. Montgomery. Was Mr. Waterfall performing his judge responsibilities to South Ogden? He is seldom seen at Council meetings or work meetings. What a disappoint he is turning out to be. Where does his allegiance lie? At a salary of over $120,000. you’d think it would be Ogden not South Ogden!

Monotreme said...

Dan,

I agree. That's what I was planning to push tomorrow, but I just wanted to hear your take on it.

dan s. said...

Regarding the alignment at the south end of the corridor: This is a tricky issue.

On one side of Harrison are the Dee Events Center, Ice Sheet, and WSU student housing; on the other side is the hospital. To lay tracks right up to the door of each of these would be pretty expensive. And even more importantly, it would lengthen the route and lengthen the travel time for many riders.

The other extreme would be to keep all the stations on Harrison. This would save a lot in construction cost and shorten the travel time for many riders. The downside is that virtually everyone would have to walk a block or two between the station and their destination, or perhaps transfer to a shuttle van. But is that really such a downside? Dumping a bunch of pedestrians on Harrison would encourage (over the long term) some pedestrian-friendly development to replace the strip malls and other auto-oriented development in this area.

I honestly doubt that many hospital patients are going to ride transit, even if it does go right up to the hospital door. Most of the hospital-bound riders will be employees.

Dorrene Jeske said...

I attended the Rail-Volution last October in San Francisco which was centered on transit-oriented development. We took several on-site workshops and the mixed-use development was amazing when the TOD was well-planned in advance and not left to developers whims. If we are smart, we will learn from the public what they want in their neighborhoods and make plans for what will be accepted and developed.

Dan S., as I understand the purpose of the alternative analysis is to take into account what all the stake holders prefer and will support including the residents of Ogden who are a BIG stake holder. If the public does not support the plan adopted, then the program fails. The consultants, UTA and the Wasatch Front Council are all aware of this and will consider that when they make their decision and recommendation to the City, WSU and McKay-Dee.

Historically Inaccurate said...

At last night’s meeting UTA transit representatives mentioned a streetcar rail system having a potential negative impact to historic neighborhoods. They seemed to indicate that could possibly make 25th or 26th Streets less viable routes. I appreciate the time invested into presenting different routes to the public and the open dialog they encouraged. Staff were very open to public comments, and based on the meeting I decided to do a little research.

I’ve been looking for information on streetcars and other light rail systems on transportation and historic preservation websites today and have only found support for running both types of systems along historic routes. There are dozens of cities that are prime examples of light rail and street car systems mixing with historic structures and neighborhoods. San Francisco, Washington DC, or locally Salt Lake City where TRAX runs up to the U and through dozens of our state’s most historic neighborhoods.

The following is a segment of the testimony Elizabeth Merritt, Deputy General Counsel of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, gave to Congress this summer:

“As Congress declared in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, preservation is essential to the American identity—our historical and cultural foundations orient our people and reflect the spirit and direction of our nation. Few institutions have been more influential in shaping the American identity than the nation’s railroads. More than mere crossroads of commerce, the corridors and associated properties of American railroads have literally and figuratively determined where we as a nation are going and how we got there.”

Ms. Merritt went on to describe the significant impact rail lines have had and specifically references Utah. You can read the full testimony at: http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/transportation/additional-resources/ESM_testimony_NRsubcte_RR-HP_06_05_08.pdf.

Removing more traffic and creating pedestrian traffic creates the same type of street-based activity that made historic building locations profitable when they were initially constructed and trolleys ran along Ogden’s streets. There’s not a lot of street parking (we had a tough time finding a spot on 25th Street Tuesday night after the meeting when we stopped by Rooster’s). They need lots of people to be able to easily access shops and restaurants without everyone driving to their location in a separate vehicle (like we do to malls). Staff mentioned using an alternative route might further encourage economic development in another area of the city. Unfortunately almost the entire Junction complex is still empty. There is very little parking, and Washington Blvd. in that area is full of vacant buildings. In order for businesses to be profitable at those locations, they need foot traffic.

At the following URL http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/smart-growth/additional-resources/toolkit_transportation.pdf the National Trust has developed a transportation toolkit. The toolkit references http://www.planning.org/. There are several interesting articles on streetcars and how they positively impact neighborhoods including this one:

http://www.planning.org/thenewplanner/2008/win/future.htm. Here are a few lines from the article:

“At the turn of the 19th century, Colfax was a prominent residential address for the wealthy, lined with luxurious mansions on large lots. Over time, the gateway to the Rockies gave way to seedy motels, x-rated shops, bars, and liquor stores that attracted criminals, junkies, and prostitutes. As modern folklore has it, Playboy magazine once called Colfax ‘the longest, wickedest street in America.’ The subject of ongoing revitalization efforts, the Colfax corridor now houses an eclectic mix of funky lounges, trendy restaurants, locally owned retail shops, and concert venues. Chamberlin Heights, the first residential project on Colfax in 80 years, brought 56 condominiums and town houses to the street in 2006.”

Does any of that sound familiar? Ogden was once a booming railroad town and one of the most influential cities in the West. I think it was the owners of the Windsor Hotel that dubbed the building a “Den of Iniquity” and they were right. There was a lot of seedy activity occurring in the building and even more of it continuing to occur along that corridor of Ogden. Two prostitutes were murdered at the apartment building just off of 25th Street about a block above Washington recently and Ogden’s East Central area continues to have one of the highest crime rates in the city.

You rarely see successful busy businesses or areas of town with high foot traffic being vandalized with graffiti or as a target for criminals. Why? Because criminals call foot traffic “witnesses”.

There’s also a pretty lengthy National Trust publication on transportation at the following URL: http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/transportation/additional-resources/returning-city-1.pdf
Here’s what it says about a Dallas streetcar system that runs through a historic and once dilapidated part of town:

“The redevelopment of McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas in the early 1980s included restoration of its brick pavement. During the work, the double tracks of an old streetcar line were unearthed. Volunteers from the retail and business community donated funds to determine the feasibility of reinstating the trolley in the neighborhood. The McKinney Avenue Transit Authority was created in 1983, and four vintage streetcars were purchased and carefully restored. In 1989, for the first time in 33 years, a streetcar ran under its own power on 2.8 miles of newly restored racks on McKinney Avenue. The big news for devotees of historic trolleys as well as transportation choice advocates is that the McKinney Avenue Trolley is now linked at its northern end to DART’s light rail system at the Cityplace station. DART patrons can transfer to the streetcar to tour McKinney Avenue restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and the new West Village—a transit village that combines condominium residences with upscale shopping and dining. MATA expects to construct another expansion in the near future, southward to link up with the West End Historic District. The Texas Department of Transportation has allocated a total of $6.4 million of its federal transportation enhancements funds to help the non-profit organization that owns and operates the trolley.”

If anyone wants to see how easily historic tracks in Ogden can be uncovered, just head down to Jefferson Ave. by the Eccles Art Center. Those tracks were recently uncovered to add to the ambience of that historic district.

dan s. said...

Thanks, H.A., for the documentation on rail projects in historic districts. It's hardly surprising, but we seem to be dealing with people who need the obvious pointed out to them.

G'n'R lives said...

Are people actually going to ride these streetcar's? This sounds like a total waste of tax money if you ask me.. No wonder my taxes are so high... UTA is wasting tax dollars on street cars that will be empty because people would rather drive a car. What a dumb idea.. regardless of which route it travels. Just my opinion

dan s. said...

G'n'R: Do you have any idea how many people already ride UTA buses and FrontRunner? When your opinion completely inconsistent with known facts, it doesn't count for much.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan S:

In re: your doubts that many patients at McKay Dee will use street car to get there. I think you are wrong. I've ridden the #603 to and from McKay Dee many times. It drops off and picks up a lot of people there, many clearly patients. You may forget that there is also at McKay Dee a very large medical offices complex. Many many doctors of all varieties. People ride the bus, with their children [often in strollers or baby carriers] to the hospital and to the medical offices complex. So, by the way, do family members visiting people in the hospital. So, Dan, I think you're underestimating the number of patients and families who use public transit to get to the hospital now.

By the way, calling the distance from Harrison to the Hospital entrance "a block" is pushing the definition of "block" a bit beyond its normal limits. And in bad weather... we do live in Utah after all... it can be a difficult slog. Just in terms of serving the riding public that exists now, omitting a stop at the Hospital would be, I think, a serious mistake.

I used to have [but have since lost] the hospital's report on how many discrete "visits" it receives each year [that would be patients, staff and visiting family]. It was a very large number.

dan s. said...

Curm: I hope you're right about hospital patients taking transit. Still, that doesn't mean that a streetcar has to go right up to the hospital door. Many patients can walk, even in bad weather. The hospital can run shuttle vans for the rest. With such a large complex they probably need shuttle vans anyway.

If we run a streetcar right up to the hospital door, then we have to decide whether it goes there before or after whatever stop(s) service the Dee Events Center and student housing. If the southbound streetcar goes to the hospital first, it lengthens the ride for the other passengers. If it goes to the hospital last, then the other stop (wherever it is) lengthens the ride for those going to the hospital. And if the streetcar makes a loop in this area, everyone's ride is lengthened going one way or the other (though not both).

Of course, none of this would be horrible. But where do we draw the line on adding stops and loops onto the streetcar route? The more stops we add, the slower the thing gets and the more people will be tempted to just drive.

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